To say Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit pro Tim Frederick loves fishing in Florida would be an understatement. The Leesburg local and fifth-year Pro Circuit veteran calls the Harris Chain of Lakes home, and his only FLW win came just a bit farther south on Okeechobee in 2018. After a 22nd-place finish in the Toyota Series Southern Division opener on the St. Johns River last week, Frederick has fully turned his attention to his home bodies of water.
This week is all about redemption for Frederick, who took 14th in the Pro Circuit event on the Harris Chain in 2017, but then bombed with a 158th-place showing just a year later.
This time around, he’s focused on erasing that 2018 event from his memory and making up for it at the Pro Circuit’s second stop of the season.
Frederick was gracious enough to let me ride along with him on his final day of practice to see how he’s preparing.
Frederick puts in at Hickory Point, right at the midpoint between Lake Harris and Little Lake Harris. It’s an incredibly foggy morning, and Frederick spends a few minutes wiping down his gunwales and tidying up before dumping the boat in the water. He’s recently had a new wrap installed, so he’s doing his best to keep it looking nice, and there’s no rush with fog expected to cover the lake until around 9:30.
Once he’s in the water, Frederick decides to poke around the 19 Bridge while he waits for safe conditions to run into Little Lake Harris. As it turns out, he isn’t just killing time. Frederick lands a small fish on a square-bill about 20 minutes into fishing. It doesn’t tell him much, but it’s a decent start to the final day of practice.
Frederick has already covered a ton of water this week – and there’s a ton to cover. He’s spent most of his time in Griffin, though he’s poked around in Eustis, Dora as well as Harris and Little Harris. Today is all about eliminating water and finding some new areas he likes.
“I’m getting bit, but they’re not giants,” he says of his practice so far. “I only had a few bites yesterday, but I’m mostly shaking them off. I caught an 8-pounder yesterday. That was one of the fish I set the hook on.”
The conversation quickly turns to redemption and Frederick’s last major tournament on the Harris Chain. It’s been weighing him down, but also giving him added focus this week.
“I’ve got to get this monkey off my back,” he admits. “I want redemption here. If I don’t let myself get spun out, I should do pretty well.”
The Harris Chain is so familiar to Frederick that it’s a double-edged sword of sorts. On one hand, he can fish some history. On the other, he’s not about to take time off to clear his head and reset when he knows what all is out there on the chain’s many lakes.
Frederick makes a short run to a new spot, running slow due to the fog. When he sets down, he sees Jon Canada nearby and says hello.
“Why’s it been so tough,” Canada asks.
Frederick tells him he thinks most of the big females have pulled off, and he’s still searching for wherever they decided to go.
Soon Canada leaves, and Frederick immediately hooks into a decent one. With that, he has enough confidence in his spot to pick up and go elsewhere.
At 7:50, Frederick makes a short run to another cluster of lily pads mixed with Kissimmee grass. That’s what he likes fishing most, which is no surprise considering how much there is of both in Florida.
“I love fishing pads,” he says. “Pads and slop. Junk-fishing 101.”
On his first cast, Frederick hooks into a pretty decent buck bass.
“If this bite gets good, I can win,” he says. “It’s a big ‘if,’ but if it does …”
He lets his thought trail off, flipping more pads with a Texas-rigged Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Ocho in black and blue.
Frederick says he’s working even harder than normal this week.
“If I’m fishing in a tournament out of state, if I get spun out, I’ll go get something to eat and think about it,” he says. “Here, I’m putting in every waking hour on the water.”
Flipping pads is a slow way to fish, but Frederick says he doesn’t mind it. If all else fails this week, he thinks he’s found one particular dock where he can catch some kickers. He’s also dialed in a limit-filler bait he likes.
At 8 o’clock, he pulls out a Smithwick Devil’s Horse, which he used quite a bit at the St. Johns last week. Frederick makes some special modifications to his favorite prop bait, including removing the front prop and turning the back one around to give him the sound he wants when he twitches and pops it.
Within minutes, Frederick loses one on the Devil’s Horse and then misses one – probably the same fish. Shortly thereafter, he hooks into one that he gets in the boat.
“It’s a good bait to catch fry-guarders,” he says of the prop bait. ‘”When the fry goes to this stuff, I know I can catch them.”
The Harris Chain is known for housing giants, and Frederick is looking for some. He just doesn’t quite know where they are right now.
“Honest to God, I’ve probably caught 100 8- to 10-pounders here,” he says of his home waters.
Around 9 o’clock, Frederick picks up and makes another short run into a canal he’s familiar with. He wants to get a look at some beds and see if any fish are still holding to them. Unfortunately, all the beds are empty, and Frederick turns around and rolls back into the main lake.
After a quick chat with Darrell Davis, who also knows about that canal and appears to be heading into it, the fog is starting to lift on Little Harris, so Frederick decides to run back under the 19 Bridge and into the big lake, where he stops on some more lily pads to probe around.
In just a few minutes, Frederick has one on – a small buck.
With a cold front headed toward Leesburg during the tournament, Frederick knows conditions are going to make catching big females a lot harder, and those bucks might end up coming in handy.
“If there are any big ones pulled up, I think it’ll pull them off,” he says of the forecast cold front. “I think I have to find some bigger bucks.”
Frederick is alternating between the stick worm, prop bait and a lipless crankbait, for the most part. A couple casts with one, then a couple with another, probing around the lily pad fields for some indication of an area with a concentrated population of big fish.
He’s mostly just looking for some wind-protected areas, knowing the front will be complete with wind that could blow up into the 25-mph range.
At about 9:45, Frederick finally digs into the rod locker. He started the day with 10 rods on the deck – five a side – and hasn’t really touched most of them. His selection is a Stanley Ribbit frog.
After just a couple casts, Frederick misses a small fish on the frog, though he didn’t really set the hook on it. A couple more casts and it’s back to his other offerings.
Frederick takes a minute to apply some sunscreen and have a quick snack while he idles into another canal he knows pretty well. It typically has some beds in it, and there used to be lily pads as well, though they appear to be gone this year.
“I’m trying to throw where the pads used to be to see if there’s anything left,” he says of the lipless crankbait he’s slinging around the canal.
Working his way back out toward the lake, Frederick parallels the seawalls with his lipless crankbait, hooking a small fish that comes off. A couple casts later, he finally lands one.
At 10:30, Frederick cranks up and runs toward another canal he knows of. He’s in the business of bed-hunting right now, though most of them appear to have been abandoned.
“We’re just in between phases right now,” he says of the spawn. “We just hit it a little bit off.”
Frederick alternates between the Devil’s Horse and Ribbit as he works along the canal, offering up his opinion on what it will take to win the tournament.
“I’m going to say mid-70s,” he postulates. “It’s hard to have sight fish for four days.”
Not long ago, Frederick thought it would take about 80 pounds, but a couple tough days of practice tends to temper expectations.
He’s not done looking, though, and plans to make a long run south in the afternoon.
“I’m going to keep them honest and run to the south end to see if there’s any sight fish,” he explains. “I always wait until the last day to do that – as late as I possibly can.”
At 10:45, Frederick is back out of the canal and headed toward another stretch of lily pads on Lake Harris. The fog is completely gone, and the sun is starting to really warm things up.
“This bite is going away,” Frederick says after a few casts in the pad field.
It’s true that he hasn’t had a bite flipping pads in a while, but he also hasn’t been around the kind of pads he really likes. These have some grass beneath them, and Frederick is looking for pad fields with a hard bottom where it’s easier for fish to fan a bed below.
After 15 minutes, it’s time to hit another pad field farther up the lake.
Within minutes of arriving at his new location, Frederick shakes off what he thinks is a good fish – twice. Just a minute or two later, another fish starts swimming off with his Ocho, though he isn’t able to shake this one off.
“I didn’t do a very good job burying the hook,” he says.
It’s an encouraging sign for Frederick, who is still just eliminating water and trying to find some areas he’s ultra-confident in.
“You get two bites that quick, you know there’s fish in here,” he says.
Frederick again picks up his prop bait and starts casting around, mostly as something to do while he peers around for more beds. Eventually, he sets the rod down and turns all his attention to looking for beds.
At 11:30, Frederick spots a lighter patch of bottom that actually has a dark spot on it. He says it’s a “12-incher,” and although it’s not going to help during the tournament, he decides to have a little fun and try to catch it.
Frederick first tries his Ocho, but it’s too large for the fish in question. He switches to a wacky rig on a spinning setup, but he can’t get the bait down to where he wants it. Finally, he adds a small creature bait to his Texas-rig rod and hooks up.
“All I saw was a dark shadow,” Frederick says when he lands the fish – a decent crappie. “That’s a first for me.”
He goes back to trolling through the pad field for beds, eventually spotting a pair of quality bass he intends to come back to during the tournament. It’s only been about 20 minutes of looking, but Frederick is encouraged.
“I may not run down south today after all,” he says.
It’s already noon, and Frederick knows he only has so much daylight at his disposal. Whether he decides to head down south or look for more beds in Harris, it’s time to drop off his reporter back at Hickory Point.
Frederick may not have found everything he’s been looking for this week, but he’s getting bit and finding some productive areas. He’s more concerned with finding something sustainable, from hour to hour, over four days. As it stands right now, he’s got a bit of a milk run on the agenda.
Still, he knows the Harris Chain as well as anyone in the tournament field, and he’s armed with both local knowledge and a desire to make up for his last showing on his home lakes. That’s a pretty potent combination. If he manages to find something special in his final half-day of practice, he might just be the man to beat come Championship Sunday.