FLORIDA'S HOT WEATHER BASS
I really like to have people ask me, "When is bass fishing at its best in Florida?"
My answer is always, "Bass fishing, and for most other species as well, gets better as it gets hotter. The hotter the weather, the better the fishing."
I like that question because it always generates some strange looks and interesting discussions. My answer, though, is quite true. And, it really does not apply only to Florida, but to all locations. But, I fully agree that it does seem to be somewhat different from the mainstream thinking.
There is a common mindset that hot weather makes fish go deep to escape the heat. That is one of the 'old wives tales' of fishing that has survived over many years. It is just not so. If it were true, we would not continue to catch fish in the shallow zones during the summer. We would not find cold water 6-7 feet down when we dive off a dock. We would find a lot of dead fish in all the shallow lakes and streams in the warmer months.
No, the mindset of hot weather doldrums is NOT a function of the fish - it is a function of the anglers, themselves. Here are the two primary reasons:
I know from where I speak because I was no different for a long time. For years, I always had the summer slow-down, too. Finally, after enough years of experience, I began to see the 'whys' associated with it. Then, I made some simple adjustments which improved my hot weather fishing greatly.
- Having just come out of the spring months when the fish were shallow for spawning, the fishermen have become complacent. Spring fishing is easy fishing.
- The angler simply has trouble adjusting to the discomfort of fishing in 90+ degree heat. He does not apply himself fully to the task at hand. He fishes too fast, knowing full well that his time on the water will be short. His mind, as well as his body, are really thinking that summer fishing is more of a punishment than a pleasure.
All this was much easier planned than accomplished. It still took a bit of time and some serious self-discipline to make it work. But, eventually, I developed a set of hot weather fishing habits that serve me well.
- The first thing I had to do was accept the fact that I was fishing more from 'habit' than from 'desire'. I was out there fishing because that's 'what I always did'.
- The second thing I did was to come up with a game plan, an approach which would assure I applied my limited fishing time in the most effective and efficient manner. The key to this was to slow down and fish only locations with a high probability of success.
The number one 'truth' of fishing is: They are easy to catch, but hard to find. Summer bass are no exception. In order to formulate that game plan we spoke of, we need to have a pretty good understanding of where we should expect to find them.
- Fish during the cooler periods; never fish when it is like punishment.
- Dress comfortably and drink a LOT of water.
- Plan the amount of time you will be on the water and stick to that plan.
- Plan the exact locations you will fish and how you will fish them; limit them to only a few; concentrate your efforts deliberately and efficiently on those few areas for your planned period of time.
- Deviate from your game plan ONLY when a sure opportunity presents itself.
Summer bass stay near their food supply. That is another of those fishing 'truths'. Determine the primary forage in a body of water, identify where that forage is located, and the bass will ALWAYS be nearby.
By the summer months, the forage and small fishes from the spring spawns will be of sufficient size to become prey for the bass. The spring spawns are still small in bodily size, but there numbers are great. Therefore, they will be in large schools for protection. The larger the school, the more relative protection (or odds) from not being one of those eaten. This is readily evident to anglers who fish locations where there is a lot of surface schooling activity during the warm months. Surface feeding bass are chasing those schools of bait fish. We want to look for surface activity. If we know locations where there is a lot of surface feeding during the warm months, we can plan our trip accordingly. We will have a major piece of our game plan. Unexpected surface feeding activity would be one of those 'opportunities' which might present itself, too.
If there is not dependable surface activity on your body of water, that is usually a sign that it is relatively shallow and has cover (grass mostly) over a large percentage of its area. Grass, as well as any thick aquatic growth, provides forage fishes with a food source (plankton and other small life that grown on/among the grasses) and the ability to hide and elude the predator fish. So, if your waters have a preponderance of grass, your fishing game plan should probably be related to that.
Heavy cover, that borders on a drop-off or deep water, is always the best cover location, no matter the season. I would key to this type location, or to any well-defined 'outer edge' of that cover area. Bass will move about inside the grass clumps, but seem to prefer to cruise the edges looking for available prey.
From the time I fished my first shallow Florida lake, I have an approach that has always worked on a new location. It employs both the edges of the grass and the theory of the deeper water. I use a topographical map and go to the deepest part of the lake ('deep' is a relative term in Florida). Then, I turn and look for the nearest shoreline. That should, then, be the direction of the steepest slope of the bottom, from deep to shallow. I turn on my depth finder, watch it like a hawk, and slowly move towards that nearest shoreline. I am looking intently for the very FIRST sign of submerged vegetation growing on the bottom. When I spot that first growth, I toss a marker out and that is where I fish. Chances are good that, since it is hidden cover, it has never been fished. I use a small worm and a crank plug that will run just above the top of the vegetation. It works. It works very well.
So, don't let the dog-days of summer end your fishing success. Like all other fishing, success is determined by the angler, not the fish.
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