The Morning After

It was great while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end. Bedding season and the spring bonanza has ended here in Central Florida and it’s like someone turned the lights off with a quick flick of the switch. Only a few weeks back it seemed like you could do no wrong, with lunker largemouth and outstanding catches the norm. Right now bass are on the move as they were in the fall when they ventured away from their summertime haunts to move closer to their wintertime pre-spawning grounds. In addition, the early spawners have already hunkered down in their summer locations due to an early spawning season. Catching these post spawn bass can be difficult, so scoring during the coming months is all about knowing where to look.


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Photo: John N. Felsher

In Central Florida female bass were loaded with roe in January and started bedding during mid-February. This is one month earlier than normal spawning rituals, which generally happen from early to mid-March. So by April, depending on where you live in Florida, spawning season had already pretty much come to an end.

Once I’ve located a promising area, I’ll start my search with a 7-inch worm rigged weedless with a 1/16 oz. bullet weight.

While post spawn fishing can be frustrating, this is not the time to get discouraged because as water temperatures continue to rise, sweet water anglers can expect the largemouth bass bite to kick into high gear.

During the late spring and early summer bass must consume twice as much prey as they did during the winter months. So where do you start? Year after year, I have caught some of my biggest fish around the full and new moons of June. As a full-time guide I need to know where the biggest bass are at all times and during the summer this means I have to be on the move looking for areas between spawning sites and deeper staging points. I have a pattern that works, but depending on your location around the state the water temperature in May and June may still not be at its peak. Keeping this in mind, you should explore water that is around five feet in depth. Be sure to focus on stretches with plenty of underwater structure, as well as top cover like lily pads, hyacinths, coon tails, eel grass, timber or better yet, any combination of the above.

More importantly, the location you choose needs to have a vertical drop-off adjacent to the structure. While highly dependent on the body of water you’re fishing, this drop-off may be anywhere from 2 to 15 feet. Now this might not seem like much, but when it comes to targeting trophy largemouth bass a two foot contour isn’t minor at all. This is because the average depth of many of Florida’s lakes and rivers is less than eight feet. Giving anglers a glimpse of what lies below, technologically advanced fish finder and sonar units produce crystal clear images that enable anglers to hone in on key structure.

Afforded a safe haven with a nearby temperature change and drop-off, find a honey hole like this and you’ve struck lunker gold. You need to locate areas like this on all portions of your targeted waters. Look on the north, south, east, and west sides of the lakes you’re fishing and don’t forget to investigate the center of the lake as well, as an area the size of a small car can feature all the above properties for success. The reason you need to scout the entire area is because the prevailing weather conditions will determine where and when you will focus your efforts. If the wind is blowing out of the south, it will be in your best interest to fish the northern spots.

Once I’ve located a promising area, I’ll start my search with a 7-inch worm rigged weedless with a 1/16 oz. bullet weight. I prefer a 7-foot light-to-medium action rod with 10 lb. test braded line. This setup is good for covering a lot of territory, and most of all the weedless worm is great at probing the structure and identifying the type of bottom. The most ideal bottom makeup consists of sand or gravel. I try to avoid a muddy bottom and regularly check the weight on my worm to see what’s on the bottom. Remember that sand and gravel are not just ideal during bedding season, but all year long. This is where largemouth bass start their life as hatchlings. Locate all these factors together and you’ll locate where the fish are holding.

If you are fishing in a river you can apply the same rules, but you also need to consider the facets that aren’t present in calmer basins. You want to avoid high current areas and look for eddies, backwashes or large structures that break the current. You should also note that the current will be the weakest along area shorelines. Bass aren’t marathon swimmers like trout. Largemouth aren’t designed to fight the current, rather they lay in ambush behind structure and allow the current to bring food to them. While this also plays into the way you present your offerings, locating fish is 90% of the battle.

While everybody has their favorite baits and tactics, I have only a few tools in my arsenal that I use at this point. My favorite for an early morning or late afternoon is a 6-inch Rapala topwater or shallow diving plug. I prefer lures that are long and narrow which perfectly mimic wild Florida shiners. I avoid bulky, shorter baits that look like bluegill because a bass will take a shiner over a bluegill any day of the week. Subsurface lures produce more fish, but in general bass fooled on topwaters are much larger.

Spinner baits are also great options during this time of the year. On sunny days I like to throw bright colors and on cloudy days I’ll go with darker patterns. Last but definitely not least is a 7- to 9-inch lizard. Similar to spinner baits, I like to fish bright colors on sunny days and darker colors on cloudy days. Whatever you decide to use, don’t be afraid to fish big baits this time of the year.

In my opinion there’s no better time to score trophy largemouth bass. Timing is critical and your location around the state and body of water will determine where exactly you focus your efforts. Just after their spawn largemouth bass are still shallow protecting their fry, but soon after they will be on the move. The biggest challenge is determining where they will go when they leave their spawning sites. You may find them in one spot one day and then they will be nowhere to be found the next. Their moods and aggressiveness can also change on a daily basis. A wide variety of lures will work during this time of the year so when you finally connect with a lunker, think about what you did to initiate the strike but don’t over analyze it. It’s better to simply enjoy it. See you on the lake.