Should we fish Fall or Winter patterns next?
Most Florida Anglers would agree our bass fishing is not conventional like the rest of the Country. Florida doesn’t have color change or much of a fall turnover of the lakes. With the ever changing weather patterns our fishing seamlessly transitions from summer to winter for most Anglers. One noticeable change in Central Florida lakes is the movement of bait. The cooler water temperatures will move the shad and shiners to the shallower water, when this happen it could be considered our short Fall season which seamlessly shifted entirely to a winter fishing pattern.
Winter fishing can be certainly the most challenging, but at the same time by far the most rewarding fishing of the year. Bass feed more during the cooler months, the cold weather slows down their metabolism and their active feeding levels lead to them to adding on weight. In Florida we do not see the consistent day after day cold weather like the rest of the United States; it is the warm days that make winter fishing in Florida so, so good.
Understandings of the transitions of fishing seasons are critical. As water temperatures drop to the low 50's head for the deeper lakes for great success. In the Central Florida area the Butler Chain, Conway Chain, John's lake are some of the best, but any lake with depths of 20 feet will work. The bass will drop off into the deep water, not only for warmer water but mainly to follow the food. The bait are more sensitive to the weather change then bass, the shad and other bait will move into the deeper water to seek the correct water temperatures and in doing so they will school into large pods (groups). This defensive move is to protect the masses, knowing that these baitfish will sacrifice many as they will be ambushed in the open water. The way to catch these bass are to concentrate on the schools of bait and this is done best with Jiggin spoons, lipless crankbaits or swimbaits worked along the drops in 15 to 20 feet of water. A couple of main ingredients to this style of fishing are locating the bait, matching the lure size and choosing the correct color. The most important component is your speed and death control of your lure retrieve…this will yield you the best quality and quantity of bass.
During the warmer days following a cool front; the first and second day after the weather passes are the most difficult. The offshore bass we discussed above will transition shallower with the schools of bait; this is when you may notice the bass chasing bait to the surface or what most refer to as “bass schooling the surface.” Again, locate the bait first or this could end up as only a nice boat ride.
When fishing for bass in the shallower lakes of Central Florida, like retention ponds, community lakes, City parks and even on bigger lakes like East & West Lake Toho with an average depth of less than 10 feet the pattern changes. The cooling and warming cycles of more than 15 degrees in water temperatures will cause the bass to transition to shallow water looking for spawning grounds. The magic water temperature is generally in the low 60's, once bass move shallow to spawning grounds they seldom move all the way back to the deep water. But, as cold fronts come and go they will move back to the first break in depth change.
What’s critical to know when fishing for these bass and picking baits?The biggest difference is that they change their diet. During these early months what some may call Fall fishing the bass are focused on shad. The cooler water brings the Florida wild shiner in shallow, making it the new food of choice. With this major change it is important for the angler to change as well. Shiners are faster than shad, so a faster retrieve will work. Shiners are bigger and shaped different then shad so use bigger and longer baits to imitate them. Lastly the colors are different; use more natural colors with a tint of gold, brown, green or tan versus chrome and shiny colors like a shad.
Swimbaits, Spinnerbaits and Swim Jigs are some of the most productive for big fish, anything that looks like a shiner works well. The bass that are in real shallow will look for thick mats of grass and cover that will collect heat from the bright sun. Flipping, pitching or casting around these grass mats with a big baits, like Craws & Creature baits or heavy jigs will be your best bet for a great day of cold water bassn'.
Another thing to remember that is different from the rest of the United States, Florida bass DO NOT all spawn at the same time. Bass will spawn as early as December and will continue spawning every month that the water temperature is in the mid 60's thru as late as June. Take this in to consideration as you venture out.
After your plan comes together and you execute be sure to get rewarded by entering in the new “Trophy Catch” program for a reward and recognition of your catch!
See you on the water!
For more information on Capt. John Leech & Capt. Todd Kersey check out www.bassonline.com!