lakes and fresh water bodies of water have observable
characteristics that indicate which bass fishing tactics will be
successful. When approaching a new fishing area, recognizing
and correctly analyzing water color to dictate your choice of
technique is key to your success.
The Harris Chain
contains a very wide and diverse range of water colors. Until
recently, the water color in main lake areas of the Harris Chain
was stained and prone to algae blooms in the summer months.
Restoration efforts and time have begun to clear the water causing
eel, pepper grass and hydrilla to proliferate. Budgetary
problems and urgings from anglers and fisheries biologists have
for now reduced the level and potency of chemical treatments.
Only time will tell if the Harris Chain bass fishery will have a
chance to realize it's true potential or the Water Authority will
return to their old methods of weed control. No one wants the
Harris Chain to totally top out with Hydrilla mats, but in our
opinion a zero tolerance policy makes no economic or environmental
Best Stained Water Tactics
Our definition of
stained water is water where you can not see a light colored lure
deeper than 18 inches. Many areas of the Harris Chain still
meet this definition. This actually makes bass easier to locate and
catch as bass in these areas are shallow and hold close to cover.
Noisy lures are effective and multiple presentations to the same
spot are required to get the fish's attention. These tactics
are also effective in fishing bass in heavy cover even when the
water is clear. Here are three tactics you can use to
catch bass in stained water.
works better at finding stained water bass than a noisy crankbait.
You need three basic colors; a chrome pattern, a shad pattern and
a chartreuse pattern. Remember to keep the lure as
close to cover as you can and make multiple casts to the same
spot. Run them through or along the side of grass beds, lily
pads, stickups and boat docks. Deflecting your lure off
cover is very effective as it can trigger an inactive bass to
strike. Giving the lure some action by stopping or jerking
your rod occasionally mimics a deflection. If you're worried
about getting snagged, use heavier line. This will make your lure
run shallower and allow you to pull the lure out instead of moving
in to retrieve your lure. In recent years, the lakes have cleared
considerably making offshore cranking a viable option.
Trolling or casting the deep offshore ditch in front of Yalaha is
especially productive in Summer. Keep moving and make note of the
characteristics of where you catch each fish. If you're observant
and use your head you can catch a pattern and run the lakes for a
the colder months and well into spring, a spinnerbait is the go-to
bait on the Harris Chain. Fish slowly around
pads, grass points, boat docks and along canal ledges, keeping
your lure as close to cover as possible. Many of these bass
will be over 5 pounds, so you want to use heavier tackle.
The most important thing to remember when fishing these lakes is
to slow down and fish everything at least twice. The
standard colors of white and chartreuse work well. On overcast
days, try black and chartreuse. Both gold and silver blades
catch bass in Florida, but you need to experiment to find out what
they want on a given day. Bait size is sometimes critical. I
carry an assortment of spinnerbaits from 1/4 to 3/4 oz. Some
days, a change in blade size can make a big difference. If
there is a lot of tournament pressure, downsizing your blades is a
good way to finesse these baits and attract more strikes.
For some reason, I have never had a lot of success "bulging" a
spinner bait in the Harris Chain. Our bass seem to prefer
slower presentations, at least in my boat. These baits are deadly
on bedding bass and they catch quality fish. My favorite
tactic in the winter is to "run and gun" the lakes with a
spinnerbait. Done right, you can pick up a nice limit in a
day of fishing and you might catch a giant.
Flipping & Pitching
bass are relating to heavy cover, the flipping and pitching
technique is very effective on Harris Chain bass. It is also
the best way to specifically target larger bass. Any soft
plastic can be used to flip cover. The most popular Harris
Chain colors are grape, junebug, and black with a blue tail.
This tactic is primarily used in shallow water cover from 3 to 6
feet in depth. I use 25 pound Trilene Big Game mono for flipping,
a bait casting reel and a 7 1/2 foot heavy action rod. The
reel doesn't matter much as long as the spool revolves freely and
the reel does not break down. I will drop down to lighter line if
the water is extremely clear. It pays to experiment with lure size
and sinker weight. Some days the fish want big lures and
heavy weights and other days they want a 4" worm and a light
weight. So far, we don't have heavy mats to punch through, so
flipping weights are usually in the 1/8 to 3/8 oz. range. It
is best to peg your weight to the worm by using a screw-in weight,
toothpick or rubber bands. It takes practice and patience to flip
for bass, but the rewards are worth the effort. If you have
never done this type of fishing before, it is best to ride with a
good flipper and observe how it's done. This will also bring
up your confidence level and keep you in the game. When I
first started flipping I left all my other tackle as home so I
wouldn't be tempted to give up and try something else. The
majority of my Harris Chain bass over 10 pounds have been caught
using the flipping technique and yours can be too.
Best Clear Water Tactics
Many of the residential
canals in the Harris Chain contain clear water. Bass in clear
water rely more on their eyes to find food, which means good top
water action. Bedding bass are especially susceptible to top
water lures. As a rule of thumb, minimum water temperatures in the
mid to high sixties are necessary for good top water fishing.
As the lakes have cleared, Harris Chain top water fishing has
greatly improved. The following are my favorite techniques for
bass fishing in clear water Florida lakes.
Top Water Plugs
water tactics work great in Florida's clearer lakes and backwater
areas such as the Harris Chain residential canals. The most
popular Florida top water baits are the Devil's Horse, the Rapala
Minnow, the Pop-R and the many other variations on these great
baits. Because of the relatively warm water in
Florida, it is best to work them slightly faster than you might in
the north part of the country. Generally, bass caught on a
top water lure will be larger than those caught using other
techniques. The key is to get the bait as close to the fish
as possible, which means very accurate casting. The best top
water action is generally on warmer days. An approaching cold
front or just before or following a summer thunderstorm can also
trigger a top water bite. Anyone looking into my tackle box
will notice a top tray full of Devil's Horse baits. I love this
bait and have a collection of out-of-production lures that still
catch an amazing number of quality bass. The production
colors work just as well, but I enjoy going "old school" more than
most younger anglers.
The Wacky Worm
wacky worm is a clear water technique so deadly that many Florida
tournament anglers kept it to themselves for a long time.
The wacky rig is a straight tailed worm fished on a light spinning
outfit with no weight or only a swivel above the bait for weight.
The best time for wacky worm fishing is spring but you can catch
bass on it year round in Florida. This rig works
because it falls very slow and natural. Also, the worm
doesn't dig in and stir up mucky bottom debris. Cast the worm
along the sides of lily pads or next to steep canal banks and let
it fall slowly under it's own weight. Hits will generally be
light or your worm will just start to move off slowly. This
rig is deadly on bedding bass. Sometimes this technique will
catch bass when nothing else works. I use Zoom trick worms
for this technique, but any straight tailed worm will work.
I have fished with Tournament Pros who fish a Senko wacky style
with great results. More tournaments have been won in
Florida using this technique than anyone imagines.
All Water Clarities - Carolina Rig
Carolina rig is an old tactic, but it works so well in Florida I
included it in it's own section. The rig is made with an egg
sinker, a swivel, a 18"-36" leader and a worm hook. The
lure can be any soft plastic but generally it's a finesse worm, a
lizard or a small craw. The rig hugs the bottom and telegraphs
the bottom composition and contour to the angler perfectly.
This rig works especially well in finding offshore rock piles and
shell beds. If you cast out this rig and on the retrieve
you feel the bump bump of the sinker against rocks or any hard
cover, you are about to get bit. This is also a great
technique to use in fishing deep grass beds, just adjust the sinker
weight to compensate for the weeds. This is a technique that will
work anywhere in Florida where the bottom is hard enough to fish it.
Many times you can locate bass with a Carolina rig that the majority
of the fisherman don't even know exist.
If you would like to
suggest other techniques, have comments or questions, please don't
hesitate to contact me.