February 22, 2012
March weather can be tempestuous, but with bass flocking to the shallows for their annual spawn it can also be the hottest fishing month of the year. Here's a look at six lakes scattered around the state that should offer some of the best bassin' this month!
One of the best off shore structure lakes in Florida, Talquin's abundant crop of largemouths will spend most of the year holding on the maze of deeper channel edges and submerged humps, making only occasional forays to shoreline points and flats.
All that changes this month.
The peak of the spawn on Talquin normally occurs in April, and like many lakes in the northern portion of the state, the spawn occurs in a compressed time period that may only lasts two months. Unlike the more southerly lakes, Talquin lacks extensive vegetated spawning cover.
The key spawning sites on Talquin are the creek arm coves and small bays. Without extensive grass flats bass will move in and spawn right on the shoreline. The bass' migration to those shallow coves and creek arms doesn't happen overnight, and is not random. Migration routes will be along channel edges leading to the outer points on the creek cove bays, and then into the bays themselves. The largemouths stage for days, or even a week, while they await favorable weather. When finished spawning, they reverse that movement.
The main-lake tapering points leading to the creek arm coves are a key pre-spawn structures this month. Early in the month look for bass to be making periodic foray to them from deeper water. Under warm weather conditions they may move all the way up to the shoreline early and late in the day.
(RELATED: Tips, Tactics and More on the Game & Fish Bass Page!)
Gaudy, large-bladed spinnerbaits and Texas-rigged plastic worms in green pumpkin, June bug, or black-and-blue can be very effective when worked along shoreline wood. Aggressive topwater plugs, such as the Zara Spook or Devil's Horse, can sometimes be effective, if the bass are right on the top of the point.
"During the midday hours the fish will be holding somewhere farther down the point, " said veteran guide Mike Mercuri. "A Carolina rig with a 3- to 4-foot leader is a great tool for covering the entire point to determine the depth they are holding. Another option is a countdown crankbait.
"I like to put the boat on the shallow end of the point, cast to the deep end, and walk the lure up the point; much like fishing a jig," he concluded.
Contact Mike Mercuri at Whipporwill Sportsman's Lodge by calling 1-850-876-2605, or 1-850-566-2221.
SANTA FE LAKE
Moving south, we come to the lake-rich Gainesville area, which, unfortunately, is suffering low water woes. Orange, Lochloosa and Newnans lakes recently have been too low to access with a bass boat, and Rodman reservoir is likely still low from its 2011 drawdown.
That leaves Santa Fe Lake, and while it is slightly low, that's not bad. Low water on this lake is a boon to bassers, especially during the spawning season.
With a narrow littoral zone comprised primarily of maidencane and cypress trees, this lake has an extensive amount of water of more than 14 feet deep, and a lot deeper than 20 feet. Adding offshore shell bars and a maze of man-made brush piles to that, and you have a lake where bass spend a great deal of time offshore. At least, they do until the spawn arrives, but March is the peak of the spawn on this lake.
"Santa Fe is a wonderful lake in March," said veteran angler Gary Simpson, who runs Gary's Tackle Box in Gaineville. "If I could only fish this lake one month of the year, March would be it. All those deep water fish have to come to the 'hill' to spawn and they get a lot easier to find."
There are two key locations this month — the outer edge of the maidencane that rings the lake, and the large stands of cypress trees on the south end of the lake. The maidencane edges will hold pre and post spawn bass, while open pockets inside will hold fish that are actually bedding.
Santa Fe is pretty much a worm and crankbait lake, and savvy anglers will parallel the outer maidencane edge with countdown crankbaits — like a Rat-L-Trap — jerkbaits, or lightly-weighted Texas-rigged 6-inch worms in June bug or green pumpkin over the edge. Open pockets inside the grass line are best handled with worms or Fluke-type soft plastics.
On the south end, running a high speed countdown crankbait is a quick way to find concentrations of bass that can then be more thoroughly fished with worms, Flukes, or Bomber Long A-type jerkbaits.
For more detail contact Gary Simpson at Gary's Tackle Box in Gainesville by calling (352) 372-1791.
Moving a bit to the east we come to the 78-square-mile wide, and windswept, section of the St. Johns River known as Lake George. Throughout Florida there are lakes that are going through an up cycle or a down cycle. Lake George is definitely one on the up cycle!
"I've seen more bass in the 8- to 12-pound range during the last two years than I've seen in the last half dozen years," says longtime guide, Capt. Don Weaver. "I think the 2012 spawning season could be the best we've seen in a long time."
March is the peak of the spawning season on this lake and it all centers around the eelgrass beds that ring the lake. After a number of years of minimal eelgrass, Weaver noted that the plant is back in abundance. This provides preferred spawning cover anywhere it's found, and it can now be found in many places.
The key is to find the areas of eelgrass that the bass are using, and the wind plays a major role. A strong wind from the west will muddy up the east shoreline and move the bass back to deeper water. The same applies to a hard wind from the north, south or east. If March winds have been pounding a shoreline for a few days it is not worth looking at. Pick a sheltered shoreline.
A strong clue that bass are bedding, and inhabiting an area, is the presence of fresh, bright green, eelgrass floating in mats on the surface. Bass uproot the plant when they fan beds, and it floats to the surface to form mats.
Once bass are found, anglers can sight-fish beds with whatever compact weedless soft plastics they prefer. But, if the bass aren't visible on the beds, savvy anglers will work the nearby eelgrass with white-skirted spinnerbaits, swimming worms, soft plastic jerkbaits or quick moving Horny Toad-type baits. Don't neglect flipping floating eelgrass mats. They sometimes hold the big spawning females at midday.
During the morning hours, a subtle Rapala-type surface lure worked along the inside edge of the eelgrass beds, or open pockets within it, can produce some monster bass!
To book a day of guided angling on Lake George, contact Capt. Don Weaver (386) 467-2526.
Moving into the Big Bend, Lake Rousseau offers topnotch bassin', and since the March to April period is the peak of the spawn, it's the best bet this month. Finding those bedding bass, however, can take some looking.
"The key areas on Rousseau right now will be any hard sand bottom area in 2 to 4 feet of water that has either eelgrass or wood on it," said Capt. Jimbo Keith. "Those are the actual spawning areas and there are a lot of them on this lake. Some of the best are in the main pool itself, and those humps and stump fields laying right next to a channel are really productive."
Bass also spawn in the upper portion of the lake, and key areas there are lily pad beds next to a channel edge. This area has a bit more silt, and the bass will just fan a clean spot on the root base for their bed.
Two of the better areas are the bars around the Peaceful Acres boat ramp, and the hard bottom areas near the Bluegrass RV Park on the north end of the lake. Regardless of where Keith is fishing, however, his basic pattern is simple.
"Find the areas where there are signs of bedding activity," he said. "Once I find bedding signs I know I'm in a hot area. If the bass aren't holding the beds I'll drop back to the nearest channel edge with vegetation and fish a 7-inch Bass Assassin worm in June bug or black with a blue tail — and flip any matted cover I find on the edge.
"Early and late, a gold with black back Bomber Long A can be deadly along the edge. If they're not on the beds, that's where they'll be."
Another option is "burning a Trap" on the stump flats. A high-speed countdown Rat-L-Trap covers a lot of water and triggers a lot of strikes. Scattered bass looking to bed on the stumps and lay downs find a speeding chrome with blue back 3/4-ounce Rat-L-Trap hard to resist.
Call Capt. Jimbo Keith to book a day of fishing at (352) 535-5083.
Located west of Frostproof, Crooked Lake is actually comprised of three lakes connected by channels and each has different characteristics. Lake 1 is accessed from the County Road 630 boat ramp, is shallow and heavily vegetated. Lake 2 offers a lot of deep water, with a massive shallow vegetation flat along the west side. Lake 3 is deeper water, with a narrow littoral zone.
The vast amounts of deep water in Lakes 2 and 3 create a perfect hiding place for bass most of the year. But, with the March being the peak of the spawn, they have to come to the shore, and veteran guide Reno Alley (Memory Makin' Guides, 800-749-2278) knows exactly where most of them will be heading.
"The west side of Lake 2, along U.S. Highway 27, is a massive vegetation flat that offers miles and miles of prime spawning cover," he said. "It will draw bass from lakes 2 and 3, and they can really stack up there."
The flat is a riot of eelgrass, peppergrass, maidencane and various types of lily pads. Locating bedding bass requires a weed-free trolling motor, fully charged batteries, a good set of polarized sunglasses and some time. Given the staggering numbers of bass flocking to that flat this month, the rewards can be well worth the effort.
If water levels have remained lower than normal many spawning fish will concentrate a little closer to the outer edge than in years past. That reduces the amount of water that has to be covered to locate them. Ally, however, has a different game plan.
"The outer edge of that flat is a maidencane and bulrush mix that drops straight off into the deeper water," he stated. "That edge will be stacked up with pre-spawn bass and those fish that have already spawned."
The "bread and butter" technique for many guides is slow-trolling live shiners under a float along the edge, with another free-lined with a light weight on the outside.
Those who prefer artificial baits will find medium diving crankbaits and jerkbaits top choices early and late in the day. Savvy anglers move their boat tight to the weed line and fish parallel to it.
During the midday hours, experienced anglers seek out bulrush patches along the edge and work them slowly with Texas-rigged worms, or lightly weighted Fluke-type soft plastics. They also take the time to flip any areas of surface matted vegetation in the bulrush.
To book a day of guided bass fishing on Crooked Lake with Reno Alley, call Memory Makin' Guides at 1-800-749-2278.
One can't ignore this bass producing lake, and although the spawn normally winds down by mid-March that doesn't discourage Reno Alley.
"You have some fish still spawning this month," Alley said, "but most will be in post spawn and that makes them easier to find. The outer edge of the maidencane line is going to hold a lot of them."
Alley's preferred pattern is to hit maidencane points early, and work their outer edges with countdown crankbaits and jerkbaits. A lot of these post spawn bass will roam the edges and feed early and late in the day, and may stay there all day under heavy cloud cover. Seven-inch Texas-rigged worms in June bug or black-and-blue worked tight to the edge can also be effective.
When the midday hours arrive the action on the edge can slow, but the bass won't have moved far.
"Flipping compact craws several feet inside the edge of the maidencane can produce some huge bass right in the middle of the day," Alley noted. "Those bass aren't ready to move to open water just yet, and they'll just slip a few feet back into the grass during the middle of the day."
Although any maidencane point can be good, Alley seeks those that form a point with a bed of lily pads just inside them. This multiple cover situation is gold!
"If you find fish on that point," he said, "don't neglect running a frog over those inner pads, or fishing them with a worm. If any mats of floating vegetation are in among them, take the time to flip them. Big bass love that cover."
SUMMING IT UP
While there are a number of lakes in Florida that can offer topnotch bassin' this month, anglers won't be disappointed with these six.