Polk County Bassin'
September 30, 2010
This mid-Florida county has a large number of lakes that support great bass fishing. Listen as a local expert explains how to fool the area's largemouths. (December 2005)
Photo by Tom Evans
Now wait just a minute. Here I was, standing side by side with Dave Glenn and youngster Logan. Both of them were pulling in 15- to 18-inch spring largemouths like clockwork.
I was using the same lure, same color line, same type and size of rod and reel. How come I only had one fish?
"Just watch, Mr. Glenn," Logan looked at me pityingly and said. "I cast and retrieve the same way he does, and it works."
Smart Alec was my first thought! Imagine an 11-year-old kid giving advice to an old experienced angler like me.
When Logan turned away, I studied Dave Glenn out of the corner of my eye. Glenn was a demon caster, landing his lure exactly in the middle of tiny holes in the Kissimmee grass. His retrieval was to drop his worm into a hole, let it sit, pull in a bit, let it sit, then crank it in and cast again.
Of course, I was not about to exactly copy Glenn. Instead, I just kind of casually turned so I was facing him, and subconsciously began to pull when he pulled, and let my lure rest when he did.
His retrievals did have a nice rhythm to them. I was so busy watching him that I jumped when my own rod tip suddenly jerked.
The largemouth I pulled in was 16 inches long, which means it wasn't in the lunker category a bit. But it put up a heck of a fight -- give it another year or two, and it would be a whopper. With wet hands, Glenn measured it and quickly popped it back in the water.
We were in a fishing tournament on Lake Pierce near Haines City, and just offshore from the Future Farmers of America conference center on the east shore. Dave Glenn was one of the local anglers who had volunteered to take our group out for a morning of fishing.
There are some real advantages to being the guest of a tournament-winning fisherman who also owns his own bait and tackle shop. Glenn treated us like he treats his own customers. He gave us very specific advice on exactly what lures and techniques to use.
Pretty soon, I caught another, then another. I did not even have to watch my new mentor after awhile.
We were using 6-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy worm rods matched with baitcasting reels spooled with 12-pound-test, light green line. The plastic worms were 7 inches and blueberry was the color that was working. We fished them on Texas rigs, but local folks around Haines City refer to it as a Florida rig.
Glenn's boat was ideal for the task as well. A 20-foot single-center dual console with a walk-around deck, it provided plenty of room for all three of us to fish. The rig was powered by a big 225-horsepower engine for hauling us across the water fast. Once in the grass line, his 109-pound thrust trolling motor then worked quietly and efficiently.
By the end of the trip, David Glenn had pulled in six bass, and even whippersnapper Logan caught five. And I was not skunked, so I could hold my head up as well.
David Glenn owns R&D Bait & Tackle shop in Lakeland and has lived in the Lakeland-Auburndale area all his life. He is not a professional guide, but rather an avid fisherman himself.
During the day, his other identity is a 32-year employee with Polk County Parks Department. But most afternoons when the quitting bell sounds, he launches his boat and goes fishing.
Glenn has not counted how many bass he has caught in his life, but it has to be in the thousands.
"My biggest bass were 11 pounds and 10 pounds," he noted. "But wouldn't you know it, I caught both of them on the same day while I was pre-fishing for a tournament near Auburndale."
Glenn belongs to two bass-fishing clubs. The Winter Haven Lunker Lovers meet at the Nautical Club on Lake May. Also, on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, he heads for the Red Barn restaurant in Lakeland for the Lakeland Bass Masters.
"It's the largest B.A.S.S. federation affiliated club in the world," he pointed out.
David Glenn has also lost count of how many local tournaments he has won.
"The biggest prizes I ever got were two Chevrolet pickup trucks," he conceded. "I got both of them during team tournaments on the Clermont chain of lakes."
GLENN'S ANGLING TACTICS
"What we are doing is fishing isolated clumps of Kissimmee grass," he explained, while waving at the placid waters of Lake Pierce that were around us. "The reason I like to fish that is you have a better chance to put your lure closer to the fish. They'll usually be in that little isolated patch.
"We are also inside the main grass line, which gives us more isolated clumps. You pick a clump and cast to it. Then you dead stick your worm."
No bass master myself, my blank look prompted him to elaborate.
"That means you let the worm lay there for 10 to 15 seconds. If a fish doesn't get it there, you pick it up and make another cast to the other side of the clump."
When it comes to December angling, Glenn had some tips on targeting Christmas bass as well. I already knew that the water would be colder then. Bass prefer water temperatures from 65 to 85 degrees, and they usually hang out in water that is less than 20 feet deep.
Glenn said that in December, most central Florida bass are in their pre-spawn stage. That means that they are eating well to store up fat for energy-sapping spawning. That can occur from December through May, but most spawning in this part of the state takes place in January and February. Water temperatures of 58 to 65 degrees spark the bedding, and it continues as water heats up into the 70s.
Most of all, I wanted to know which were David Glenn's favorite lakes for December fishing.
Not surprisingly, his five choices were in the central Florida regions where some monster bass have been pulled out of the water. In fact, year after year, this is probably the most productive bass water in the world.
Lake Walk-in-Water was the first lake Glenn mentioned. On the maps, this
is officially called Lake Weohyakapka and is situated in Frostproof, 10 miles east of Lake Wales in Polk County.
This 7,548-acre lake is noted for its clear water. It has a lot of vegetation around the edges, in scattered lines and clumps that form irresistible habitat for bass. Most of the vegetation is cattails, bulrush (what Glenn calls buggy whips), Kissimmee grass and hydrilla.
The lake has two main feeders. Weohyakapka Creek comes in from the north side, and Tiger Creek flows in from the southwest. It is a shallow lake, with a maximum depth of 12 feet.
Use your depthfinder to spot the deeper holes out in the open, if you do not find the bass in the inshore grass. This is most likely to occur during cool snaps in December. Either way, this lake holds some big, hungry bass.
"I'd advise you to fish shiners along the shoreline plants -- we call them buggy whips -- or move out and fish the hydrilla," Glenn advised with regard to how to catch those largemouths this month. "Artificial baits that work well are the Bomber Long A in 15A gold prism, and Rat-L-Trap in chrome blue."
A big housing development called Indian Lake Estates is on the east side of the lake, with the bulk of the shoreline development. But the two boat ramps on Walk-In-Water are on the west side.
From Frostproof, head east on State Route 630 roughly three miles. Turn north on Lake Walk-in-Water Road. For the first ramp, turn east on Boat Landing Road. Or you can keep going north to either Oakwood or Pinetree Drive to get the other ramp.
Lake Haines was Glenn's second choice. This relatively small lake --only 430 acres -- is on the east side of the town of Lake Alfred. It has lightly stained, clear water.
On this lake, Glenn advised following the pre-spawn pattern for the bass.
"Fish parallel to the Kissimmee grass lines with a spinnerbait," he offered, "I like chartreuse/white with nickel blades early in the day. Later, pitch a Redneck Craw, in the smoke and salt and pepper colors. Fish it slow, or as we say around here, 'dead stick it.' "
Here is how to get to the only boat ramp on Lake Haines. At the intersection of County Road 557 and U.S. Highway 17/92 in the town of Lake Alfred, follow CR 557 east as it become Haines Boulevard. At almost a mile, you reach the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ramp. The parking lot holds only eight cars, so arrive early.
Lake Eloise is next on Glenn's hot five destinations. It is part of the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes. You are actually in a high part of the state here, at 131 feet above sea level. This chain comprises 6,000 acres, and has nine lakes. Lake Eloise is on the south end of the chain. It covers 1,160 acres and is the lake the water skiers at Cypress Gardens used for years for their antics.
"Again, remember you're fishing the pre-spawn pattern for these bass," Glenn reminded. "Head for the mouth of the canals while you're in Lake Eloise. Look for eel grass, and work a Carolina rig or a Rat-L-Trap."
Canals of different widths lead to the other lakes in the chain, and the mouths of these canals are where the lunkers hang out.
There is no public boat ramp on Lake Eloise. You need to put your boat in at tiny Lake Summit, which is on the north end of Lake Eloise. Once launched, head south down the little canal and you come out on Lake Eloise. Linger at this spot for a while. You may see fish feeding beyond the long rocky breakwater at the mouth of the canal.
To get to the ramp, head west out of Cypress Gardens on Cypress Gardens Road. Turn south onto Lake Eloise Driver, and continue on to the ramp at Lake Summit.
Lake Shipp is another good fishing hole on the Winter Haven Chain, according to Dave Glenn. He has pulled in some good-sized bass from its 283 acres of lightly stained waters.
The traditional method of fishing this lake is to flip a dark plastic worm under docks and around maidencane. But for December bass, Glenn had some other advice.
"Remember, the fish are in pre-spawn pattern," Glenn stated. "I'd fish a spinnerbait with white and nickel blades over eel grass and around the reeds. A chrome and blue 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Trap works well, too. You can also move out 5 to 8 feet in open water and use a 6A Bomber crankbait. I like the firetiger pattern."
There are two boat ramps on this tiny lake. The east shore ramp is on Seventh Street in Winter Haven. The southern ramp is at Lake Shipp Park on Lake Shipp Drive, also in Winter Haven.
Lake Kissimmee near Lake Wales is by far the biggest of Glenn's picks at 34,948 acres and the one about which he gets most excited.
"This lake is in both Polk and Osceola counties and is probably my favorite lake," Glenn attested. "In December, the fish are in pre-spawn condition, and are feeding up.
"When you're fishing, look for secondary Kissimmee grass lines," he continued. "This is where you have an open cut behind the main grass lines, then the Kissimmee grass starts again. Mix these lines of grass with some sparse isolated grass pads, and you have hog heaven."
With regard to lure choices, Glenn suggested tossing a buzzbait for some exploding action. Once he locates the bass, however, he switches to an 8-inch worm in blueberry, or a Kissimmee blue worm with 3/16-ounce weight.
There are three public ramps on Lake Kissimmee. Lake Kissimmee State Park, on the northwest side of the lake, has a boat ramp and a marina.
Another ramp is on the northeast side at the end of Joe Overstreet Road, which is off Canoe Creek Road.
On the south side, start at the State Route 60 bridge where the lake drains into the Kissimmee River. Just short of a mile west, turn north on Grape Hammock Road, then onto Shady Oak Drive.