Targeting Bass In The East Central Region With Capt. Jim Ross

Florida is a unique state when it comes to bass fishing, because our lakes for the most part are shaped like a shallow bowl, with very few having super deep holes and ledges. The exception in my region are the lakes in the Harris Chain of Lakes, which have freshwater springs that are deep and push in water at a constant temperature of 72 degrees, making them a gathering point for fish in the cooler winter periods.

The largest lakes in my region include Lake Tohopekaliga and Lake Kissimmee, which lock together to form one large, shallow body of water. In these lakes, the grass and other vegetation rule, and are gathering and ambush points for bass, particularly early in the day. As the water heats up, the fish move to the deeper pockets of the lake, and often stage over shell bars in the areas of the lake that hold mussels.

Targeting fish in the grass is easy. If the weather is warm, you want to work your baits on the top of the grass, looking for those explosive bites. That’s where a soft-bodied frog or a topwater plug does really well, and in a pinch, even a spinnerbait. In the middle of the day and during cold weather, the fish will park under the hydrilla beds, and you can flip or punch the weeds with creature baits or six inch worms and do really well.

Any time you’re worm fishing in Florida, there are two standard colors, your choice based on the water clarity. If the water is clean and clear, then the Junebug (black grape/green glitter) colored worms perform best. When the water is tannic stained or stirred up and dirty, then green pumpkin with red glitter is the angler’s choice.

On the very southeast end of my region lies the Stick Marsh/Farm 13/Garcia Reservoir complex, a chain of small man-made reservoirs just off the St. Johns River and linked by canals that hold some of the best bass fishing in the state. There’s large areas of stumps, floating grass and tree-lined shorelines, so plenty of places to find fish. As a rule, you want to look for moving water, so places like the Water Control Structure at the back of Farm 13 is a good place to start.

These lakes were once citrus groves before they were flooded, so there’s all sorts of structure in the lakes, from submerged trees to fences and roads. The lakes have abundant shad and bluegill populations, so a chrome with blue black lipless crankbait works really well in the open water areas, while a white spinnerbait or shad colored swimbaits like a Bass Assassin Elite Shiner or Die Dapper will produce a lot of fish from the pockets in the grass or around the stumps.

When bass fishing in my region during September, you want to be on the water before the sun comes up, so you can take advantage of the schooling fish chasing shad at first light, and also target the larger fish when they’re most active. September resembles summer more than fall, with temperatures still in the 90’s, so there’s a great dawn bite for active fish. This is also the time to fish the grass with frogs and topwater plugs. Around 7:30-8:00, that bite slows and it switches to the deeper water bite.

Another good spot to fish in my region is the St. John’s River, which works its way north from Fellsmere to Jacksonville. It’s a winding river with lots of shallow bars and undercut shorelines, and because the water is flowing, it’s cooler and the fish often more active. It’s also one of the most scenic rivers in Florida, so at the same time you’re chasing world class bass, you’re fishing this beautiful waterway with Spanish moss in the trees and an abundance of wildlife.

In the St. Johns, you can target the fish with pretty much the same baits, topwater plugs, lipless crankbaits and rubber worms. There are some deep holes in the river that you can fish by Carolina Rigging your worms and crawling them on the bottom and up the ledges.

While there are all these historic big bass lakes and classic fishing areas, the nice thing about bass fishing In my area is that you can literally go to almost any lake, canal or retention pond and catch the bass of a lifetime. Some of our best fishing is on the golf course ponds and in the ponds and lakes around developments. The same lures will work in there areas as well.

If you’re looking for big fish and big numbers of fish, the way to go is to fish live shiners, either wild or domestic, and put them out on a float near the edges of the grass where the bass will easily find them. Our bass tend to hold in certain areas, so if you’re not catching fish, move along until you do, then once you get action, stay in that area, and you’ll get more.

Florida has one of the best bass fisheries in the country, and the East Central Region is right in the middle of ground zero for trophy bass. So if you’re coming to the area, be sure to dedicate at least a little of your time to chasing the only species you can catch in every state in the U.S.

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