Bass anglers enjoying area waters

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 9:22 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 9:22 a.m.

In North Central Florida, fishing success through the coming spring season will require lots of folks to try unfamiliar waters.

Drought might have taken some of our top lakes out of the fishing picture, but necessity can lead to rewarding discoveries and new favorite spots. I expect lots of locals unable to access familiar, home waters will branch out successfully.

Serious bass anglers are already buzzing about some of the area waters that are still accessible.

Santa Fe Lake produced several fetching bassing tales this week and last, and most of the happy Santa Fe casters scored with soft plastics rigged weedless and fished on — or just off — the west shore.

Suwannee River anglers suddenly have a distinct twinkle in their eyes, put there by spawning bass and redbellies. For a couple of weeks now, the folks working creeks and canals throughout the lower Suwannee with worms, crankbaits, Beetle Spins and Snagless Sallies have had more to brag about than their trout and redfish-seeking counterparts working near the salty river mouth.

And then there’s the still-lowered Rodman Reservoir that is again part of the freshwater fishing buzz following a few weeks of slower action and waning angler interest.

Bass, speckled perch and bream all have seemingly ramped up their feed just ahead of the lake’s month-long refill cycle. Especially bass. Two weekends ago, Bob and Chris Heron cast various soft plastic baits to release more than 50 largemouths — and that’s not even the impressive part.

On the Herons’ digital scale, the largest of the 50-odd fish weighed an amazing 13 pounds. Last Friday, Bob returned to the Reservoir alone. In the same areas where he and his son had found hungry fish, the accomplished Gainesville angler caught 70 more, with the best three bass each more than eight pounds.

Rodman is not the only part of the St. Johns River system offering red-hot bass fishing.

Saturday, Thomas Jones and his 10-year-old son, Taj, fished out of Palatka. The primary objective was to locate fish for an upcoming Fishing for Real tournament. While they certainly accomplished that, the Gainesville father and son also enjoyed a day that neither will soon forget. Casting a lightly weighted Zoom craw, Thomas hooked and wrestled in a huge bass. Once the fish was netted and in the boat, they pulled out their new Rapala digital scale and weighed the giant at 13 pounds, eight ounces.

Lots of bass tournaments are slated to be held at various sites along the big river over the coming weeks — ranging from little club contests to an Elite Bassmaster event that will bring in the sport’s finest talents. (Rodman, by the way, has been declared “off limits” to the Elite group). Every contestant will likely hear of the monster fish taken by the Herons and Joneses. Florida is known for producing huge largemouth bass, but in reality, few fish of this caliber are caught annually in any state — even ours.

Competing or not, an army of bass fans looking to fish the many miles of river, creek, canal and lake along the St. Johns will be excited at the possibility of tying into fish like the whoppers Bob and Chris Heron and Thomas and Taj Jones recently caught and released.

The warming gulf flats are also slowly drawing in favorite targets of fishers, like speckled trout. Scattered impressive trout catches have been pulled from the shallows off Steinhatchee, Suwannee, Cedar Key and Waccasassa, but only on the Big Bend’s southernmost grass flats out of Homosassa has the trout fishing been consistently good. To boot, Spanish mackerel have arrived early on the deeper Homosassa flats. Captains Todd Cornielle and Don Chancy and their parties have harvested nice numbers of both trout and mackerel when the weather has allowed.

Wind and rain held gulf anglers down through last weekend, but by Tuesday several boats loaded with anxious anglers were able to run out of Steinhatchee to the reefs where spawning sheepshead gather in March. Aboard his “Nevamiss”, Capt. Gene Frazier and his friends were among the groups that docked with proof the toothy brawlers have arrived. Late that day at Sea Hag Marina, they showed off a cooler full of hefty fish up to six pounds.

Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary’s Tackle Box at L & S Trim.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top