Big bass season has arrived
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 12:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 12:05 p.m.
Nearly every year a warmer period arriving during January or early February changes the area fishing scene. The winter warmth triggers bass in local lakes to make their initial move into shallow cover. The bigmouths are drawn by the spawning instinct, and they often show up aggressive and territorial.
It seems that last weekend ushered in that number one big-bass-catching period of the year.
I'm sure we heard about only a few of the big bass taken by local anglers … and still, it's a pretty impressive list. Saturday brought one of the month's obligatory super-windy cold fronts, so most fishers took the day off. When Sunday dawned considerably nicer, the whopper parade commenced.
Fishing with fiancée, Megan Ouellette, Ryan Sullivan was flipping a creature lure on a smaller local lake when he hooked and eventually boated his personal-best bass. The young couple photographed and weighed the beauty at 8.5-pounds before releasing it.
David Webb's 7-pound Lake Santa Fe whopper came Sunday. Bill Rossi's 8-pounder and Tommy Studstill's 6.5-pounder were both boated, admired and released Monday. Wally Grant cast a Bass Assassin worm Sunday on Rodman Reservoir to fool a 7.5-pounder. The Rapala DT10 crankbait that Len Young bumped over the bottom of a small lake north of Gainesville Monday produced an 8-pound beauty. Stephen Gray and Mark Ruble took a longer drive Saturday to Lake Dexter, part of The St. Johns River system near Astor. Ruble's best fish, taken with a lipless crankbait, was a nice 5-pounder. Later, Gray's spinnerbait drew a strike from a huge largemouth that weighed 10-pounds, 14 ounces. After releasing the lunker, Gray resumed his casting. The next Dexter bass that nailed the lure was a fine 7-pounder.
Yeah, I'd say big bass season has arrived.
At the same time, the speckled perch spawn continues on some nearby lakes. On Newnan's in particular, the crappie catching is every bit as impressive as our regional bass action.
Over three days — Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday — neither Ren Gallon nor any of his fishing partners failed to fill a speck limit while casting crappie jigs and minnows around Newnan's shallow brush.
“We're seeing more and more female fish with roe,” the Gainesville angler said.
Thomas and Taj Jones fished Saturday on Newnan's, employing the same technique. They discovered one different detail, that the larger fish seemed to prefer bigger speck jigs. And that observation helped Thomas fool one of the largest single specks taken in this area in years.
After pulling in a big male fish pushing the two-pound mark, he cast back to the same spot. Another fish grabbed the fatter chartreuse grub, and, it was a really big one. Later at home, Thomas and Taj weighed the whopping speck on a Berkley digital scale at more than three pounds.
Mickey Belle was one of the successful speck fishers Monday on Newnan's. The Gainesville fisherman's 25-speck limit was anchored by a two-pound-plus slab. Belle cast curly-tailed grubs with minnows added to make his good haul.
Recently stocked by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission into Lake Santa Fe, sunshine bass of harvestable size are already being caught. Monday, Mark Dougherty and Chris Gagnon were drifting minnows out in water 17-feet deep for specks when they started hooking the hybrid stripers instead. The Gainesville fishermen used ultralight spinning tackle to take seven of the sporty scrappers ranging in length from 12-to-14 inches. The men caught only one speck that day, but it was a big one, weighing one pound, 11 ounces.
As red grouper season winds down toward a two-month closure beginning Feb. 1, offshore fishers are trying to squeeze in final trips. Last Wednesday, Gary Lowell and crew anchored over several spots off Cedar Key from 45 to 65 feet deep. By the end of the day, they had nine nice red grouper on ice and had released several good sized out-of-season gags.
Although saltwater stories were scarcer this week, one unusual tale did come out of Suwannee. Ralph Sheffield and his daughter, Kimberly, fished Saturday near the river mouth. Their best catch of the day was a 26.5-inch redfish. That's a noteworthy fish on its own, but the most interesting part came later, when they filleted it. In the fish's gullet they found four quarter-ounce jigheads. The red had apparently broken some lines (and possibly some hearts), but it met its match when the Sheffields came casting.
Gary Simpson, a veteran tournament angler, operates Gary's Tackle Box at L & S Auto Trim.
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