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Bass anglers hit the water as spawning season begins

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | Jan 13, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

Big bass anglers in this part of Florida are starting to or already are fishing the early bass spawning period, looking for that magic 10-pound class bucket mouth bedding in the shallows.

When you talk largemouth fishing on Lake Okeechobee why not go to the source? Scott Martin, a big bucks pro tournament angler and son of Hall of Fame angling legend Roland Martin on spawning times on his home waters.

“We actually have a spawn on Lake Okeechobee in October,” Martin said in published reports. “You can’t necessarily depend on it, but you can definitely find fish spawning in October. November is better, December is almost full and on into January, February and March.

“Lake O has the longest spawn in the country.”

While bed fishing is on in South Florida, the other famous and, in my opinion, better trophy bass factories further north in central Florida like Lake Toho, will still have cooler water and obviously later spawning times. Even further north like in the Jacksonville area many bass will spawn in late February, March and beyond

If planning a bass trip to Lake O, first consult with your favorite weather guru and hope they don’t mention the word cold front! Nothing shuts off a heat-loving, lazy, Florida bucketmouth like a cold snap. Your other big Lake O weather enemy is the wind. Wide open Lake O muddies quickly with wind events and makes sight fishing tough, as well as turning off the fish. On days where the water has gotten muddy or a cold front is passing slowing fishing to a crawl, most Lake O anglers will be armed with flipping rods to make short but deadly accurate casts around heavy cover with an assortment of half, to 1 1/2-ounce flipping jigs, loaded with a wide variety of their favorite plastic creature baits.

Look around for clear, 2 to 3-foot deep water over hard sand bottoms, which are ideal for bedding bass. Not really looking for heavy vegetation, instead clearer, hard bottom areas with some grasses present would be ideal.

Fly rodders with strong sticks can get in on the action as well. Gently drop a big hair bug over a nest and just let it sit. Slightly move it a quarter inch at a time and hang on for a violent hit as the big fish tries to kill or eat it. An 8-weight will cast these bugs but around the lake’s heavy vegetation I’ll pack a 10-weight rod.

Most bass anglers already know the 22.4-pound world record for largemouth was caught (and eaten) by George Perry in Georgia back in 1934 using a Creek Chub Fin Tail Shiner lure, the one and only lure he owned, but now, the world record is actually a tie. In 2009 a lucky angler caught a bigger bass, a 22.5-pound fish in Japan beating Perry’s long-standing world record by one ounce. Since record rules state it takes two ounces over the current record to become top dog, Manabu Kurita’s slightly bigger bass is still considered a tie.

Even though these bass are huge, bigger bass have been caught by both male and female angler alike, weighed, photographed, then released but not recognized as records due to improper documentation. A weighed and photographed definite new world record California 25+ pounder was not counted because the anglers jig got hooked to the outside, not inside of the fishes lip. This rule prevents snag fishing bedding bass for records especially in the clear California lakes and impoundments that grow, sorry Florida, the biggest bass in the U.S. These guys grow huge on state stocked rainbow trout.

This year try catching a beautiful peacock bass that move further north each year and now even guided trips have become available in Naples and Fort Myers.

Best bet this week — sheepshead on shrimp or clams, and trout over dark grass flats.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or via email at captgeorget3@aol.com.