You Should Have Been Here Yesterday!
January through March is the traditional spawning season for Florida bass and also the time when you have your best chance of catching a giant. Coincidentally, it’s also the time when our population swells with seasonal visitors and part time residents.
Most visitors expect the fishing to be at its peak this time of year and are disappointed to find out otherwise. The problem with early spring bass fishing in Lake County is two-fold. First, there is the problem of cold water. When we have a cold blast of air from the north and the air temperature is in the forties, the lake temperature can drop into the fifties or even lower. The optimal temperature for Florida bass is near the mid to high seventies or even higher. When the water is colder than 70 degrees, Florida bass go into slow motion. They don’t feed except in small bursts and hold deep or close to cover. The best spring fishing is when there are three or more days of warm stable weather with the water temperature in the high sixties. This is usually right before another cold front comes through. This leads to the famous “You should have been here yesterday” story.
The second problem we have during the first three months of the year is tournament pressure. The Harris Chain has always been known as a place where you can catch a monster bass. Monster bass are most accessible during the spawning season and bass fisherman like to catch big fish, so we have one major tournament after another for the first three months of the year. During the first two days of the Citgo Bassmaster Tournament in January, anglers caught and released 2,946 pounds of bass. This weekend the BFL Tournament comes to the Harris Chain bringing another 200 anglers. Tournament anglers don’t just fish for a day or two, they practice weeks ahead, so by this time Harris Chain bass have really been hit hard and can be extremely tough to catch.
The truly best time to bass fish in Florida starts in mid to late March and continues into June when it starts getting hot. The bass are off the beds and active. In April, you can catch all the bass you want in the Harris Chain with a spinnerbait or a Rattle Trap. My favorite way to fish in late spring is top water. The clarity of the water has cleared considerably this year and I can’t wait to get my Devil’s Horse working.