RANDALL THARP: What's Different and the Same About Fall Florida Fishing - Major League Fishing

RANDALL THARP: What’s Different and the Same About Fall Florida Fishing

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Randall Tharp explains how he catches Florida bass during the fall in his home state. Photo by Garrick Dixon
October 4, 2021 • Randall Tharp • Angler Columns

It’s fall fishing time for most of the country, but where I live in Florida, the temperatures are still pretty warm. While guys fishing in the lakes north of Florida are starting to focus on baitfish and shallow water in the backs of creeks, we don’t really have a lot of creeks at our lakes down here. So, what I like to focus on is the vegetation, and let me tell you, this is the prime time to fish vegetation in my home state.

There’s more matted vegetation, milfoil, hydrilla and lily pads around our lakes than any other time of the year. The cover is as thick as it’s going to get, and that’s what I love to fish the most. I still believe to this day that the biggest fish a lake has to offer is around the thickest cover available to them.

Now, I will say that I don’t think this is the best time of the year to fish down in Florida, but October does have its perks. The lakes have way less pressure than they normally do in the spring and summer, and that gives you the opportunity to go out there and have some fun fishing how I love to fish.

My favorite thing to do is to tie on a really big weight and go punching in that deep or shallow matted grass. Sometimes those fish may be suspended up in the water column or maybe near the bottom, it just changes daily as the conditions change. Still, those big fish are going to be around the healthiest grass whether it’s deep or shallow.

One thing to remember is that the grass is going to start dying off soon after this time where the grass is matting up on top of the water. All that matted grass cuts off sunlight to the hydrilla and other vegetation underneath the mat, so it really hollows out beneath those mats. That’s great for fish because it’s still hot outside and they’re looking for a spot to cool off. You can find some good fish hanging out under those mats because of that cool canopy over their head. That’s the perfect time to do some flipping and frogging in, over and around that mat.

I don’t really have a set depth that I like to fish those mats of grass because it changes with the fishery. I consider Lake Seminole my home lake, and the grass can start to get matted up in more than 20 feet of water. Other places, you won’t really see any mats deeper than about 5 to 6 feet of water.

The key for a lot of the lakes north of Florida this time of the year has to do with finding the baitfish, and I would say that line of thinking still holds true down here. You won’t see a bluegill or a shiner for five miles and won’t get a bite, but as soon as you start seeing the bait swimming around again, that’s when the bass start biting. Those bass are going to live where it’s convenient for them in terms of cover and getting a meal, so if you aren’t seeing bait, you probably won’t see a bass either.

It can be tough down here in the fall, but it can also be a rewarding experience. You don’t get many opportunities to fish lakes of this caliber with limited pressure. Some of my best and most memorable days of fishing have come from catching Florida largemouth in the fall in the grass. I highly recommend you give it a try if you’re able.