Just a few weeks ago I was staring at ice covering the surface of Richland Creek on Lake Chickamauga day dreaming about Florida bass fishing, and warmer temperatures. Today I'm driving to the Kissimmee Chain to start practice for the B.A.S.S. Eastern Open, fresh off a 13th place finish on Lake Okeechobee at the FLW Tour season opener.
Without a doubt Florida is one of my favorite states to fish in. Not only has it been good to me throughout my career, but I can normally fish in shorts and a Bass T-shirt the majority of the time. Not to mention on any cast you might catch a double-digit monster that you can brag about for years to come.
As glorious as all of this may sound Florida bass fishing doesn't come without its own set of challenges. During the Lake Okeechobee event I was reminded of some lessons I've learned in the past and enlightened on some new pieces of information that will help me in the future. The first lesson I was quickly reminded of is that Florida strain Largemouth do not like dirty water in the least bit. It is almost essential to find the cleanest water available on a fishery in Florida, and in a tournament scenario that usually means fishing in a crowd.
Fishing in a crowd is not the easiest thing to get used to for me, and I usually avoid it at all costs. Unfortunately, Florida is often a place that you cannot run away from the crowd, or you may be running away from the fish. With that being said fishing elbow to elbow with other anglers last week taught me an important lesson. This being that there are often more fish in an area than we could ever imagine. We are programmed as anglers to think if we catch a fish or two in a given area that we've caught them all, or the area is getting too much pressure if we are sharing it with other anglers. In my opinion that couldn't be farther from the truth. Being forced to fish a small area all three days of the event at Okeechobee opened my eyes to how many fish can live in a relatively small spot. It's a lesson that has boosted my confidence about fishing in a crowd, and hopefully will pay off down the road.
The final lesson I learned in Florida had to do with vegetation, and where different types grow. All of my fish came off of a specific type of vegetation that I call buggy whips, or pencil reeds. I fished acres of grass throughout the week, but the fish were relating to the buggy whips. What made the difference in the type of grass that was holding bass, and which ones weren't? In my opinion it was the bottom composition. What I mean by that is that the bottom was harder where the buggy whips grew, versus the areas where the other grass was growing. The importance of the harder bottom has to do with a Bass's preference to spawn on hard bottom areas. Figuring this intricate detail out early in my practice allowed me to target the high percentage areas throughout the tournament and find success.
I hope sharing these lessons I've learned in Florida can help you have a more productive 2018 on the water, whether it's in sunny Florida, icy Tennessee, or anywhere in between!