• Rob Baker

Bass love me

I like fishing as much when I don't catch anything as when I do. -Matt Lauer (editorial note: We've just recently discovered that quoting Matt Lauer ain't so popular. I'll leave it in there with nausea.)

Bass love me. How do I know this? Because I can't catch them, and they know that too. Every bass in Florida, through some kind of bass communication network, is keenly aware of my orange kayak and knows full well not to bite anything I throw at them.

On Halloween I fished my usual Lake Sheen. It was a cooler day, particularly in the morning, with a little mist on the water. The water was glassy calm. I used topwater in the AM, and switched to a sinking pumpkin frog when things warmed up. In fact, at one point later near noon the frogs became active and started hopping on the water. I was fishing frogs with live frogs. I had one little nibble all day.

Then I switched to number 4 on the top ten best bass lakes in Florida (unofficially according to an Al Gore/Google search, and I don't think that list was particularly good), which was Lake Monroe along the St. Johns River. My visit there happened because the St. Johns was pretty much closed to boat traffic with flood water stages lingering well after Irma, and I wanted to stay near the Sanford Zoo where my daughter was volunteering. Debris in the channel was a problem. Lake access was permitted on a small ramp on the north side of Lake Monroe in Deltona, so I went out there. I fished the lily pads and weed lines of that lake while watching bass come to the surface and feed. Sometimes their "slurp" as they sucked in their prey would suck air and make a loud noise. I fished with weedless topwater frogs, sinking frogs and senkos and DOA shrimp. No bites.

Then I took my sinking pumpkin frogs (highly recommended by distinguished Bass Pro expert) to a bass-in-a-barrel kind of lake recommended by a less distinguished and younger Bass Pro dude. Lake Jackson in the Prairie Lakes Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a catch and release only bass mecca. It's a small shallow lake pretty much covered in weeds.

Lots and lots of bass abound, feeding in a frenzy all morning long to get ready for their long suffering 72 degree South Florida winter. I used my trusty pumpkin frog, my topwater frog, my senko, my Pop-R, my DOA shrimp, my bobber and shrimp, and a few other things with treble hooks that just got caught in the weeds (note that even if the surface is weed free, the middle and the bottom are not).

At one point I really thought I had one. My cast was perfect. He came up to the surface, swam around my stuff in an annoyed and unconcerned way, ate something else and then went deep again, never to be seen again. That's when I new for sure that they were aware of me, personally. The old guys in their smelly loud runabout started catching fish with a hearty high-ho "got one" on ten minute cycles without even casting, while I in my stealthy yak and technical skills got nary a bite.

So I exposed my incompetence to a kayak bass fishing group on Facebook, with a question geared toward types of lures to use to try and figure out what the dang fish were eating. I thought perhaps they were eating the large flies that the birds were feeding on... Turns out the bass were probably eating the small bait fish that were eating the flies. The Facebook exchange is in the images below, and was so helpful (like, immediately) that we decided to ask them where we should buy health insurance for next year. No answers yet from the bass oracle on that one.

I did a small amount of research, and went out and bought almost everything recommended to me by this group. Whew! Positive vibes! Good solid advice from experienced guys and gals that post pictures of bass daily on the FB feed.

So I took all this new knowledge and promise to a canal that connects Lake Apopka to Lake Beauclair in Central Florida. There's a nice little county park and boat ramp there, and it was close to a job I had to do first thing in the morning. I fished the canal with determination, with bass making strikes along the shoreline all day long. I used the time and opportunity to try out almost all of the new lures. The treble hooks caught weeds 100% of the time. Weedless in Florida is pretty much a must.

I had no bites nor nibbles of any kind all day, and I fished there till about 5pm. As I was paddling back to the ramp, I chatted with a bass boater that I knew was catching a lot of fish. I asked and he answered: "pumpkin frog" and he caught "20". I watched for a while, and there was literally nothing about his technique or strategy, position or patience or haste that was in a any way superior or even different from my own careful presentation. Maybe the difference was he stuck with one lure and worked the canal till he found a spot where they were biting. I had worked that same spot earlier in the day, but not with my frog.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt in my mind that I may never again catch a bass in Florida. One and done, that's me. They can see me coming, and they know who I am. My wife says to get over it, and enjoy myself like Matt Lauer. (Edit on that since the revelations regarding how Matt likes to enjoy himself. Let's say that my habits are a bit different.)

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