Fishing for Largemouth Bass on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida

The wintertime in Florida is one of the best times to get on the water and go fishing. I think that is one reason why so many people from up north have houses down here in Florida, or a lot of anglers take vacations to the southern states. The winter months really have proven to become the best fishing in the United States down in the south. Along about mid-December into early January, the bass start cruising up shallow thinking about the spawn. Make sure to read to the bottom to see How Revital Outdoors Premium CBD Products will help anglers on the Harris Chain of Lakes.

As crazy as it sounds, I have caught many bedding fish the week of Christmas. But one thing that a lot of anglers don’t realize down here in Florida, is that our lakes are incredibly shallow. Yes, there’s rivers and canals it’ll drop off in a 20 to 30 feet, but in all actuality 6 feet in Florida is deep. I think that’s why so many fish get caught throughout the entire year, is the fish don’t have many options on areas to go. The lakes are really shallow, and are full of grass, which during the winter act as a magnet to holding large groups of largemouth bass. One of my favorite lakes by far for bass fishing in Florida is the Harris Chain of lakes.  

Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida is comprising of Little Lake Harris, Lake Eustis, Lake Griffin, Lake Apopka, Lake Dora, Lake Carlton, Lake Yale, and Lake Beauclair. The best results every year seem to come out of Lake Griffin and Eustis. During the winter months, I really like to slow down and fish the thickest grass I can. Once you figure out that “sweet” pattern, finding more bites and bigger fish becomes a little bit easier.

The first thing I’ll do is try to find the thickest grass I can that is related to current. The lakes associated with the Harris Chain have canals or a connected river systems so there’s a constant flow of current throughout all the lights. The next thing I try to find is the clearest water. All of the water in Florida has that tantric, almost coffee look to it. However, if you’ve ever looked at a pot of coffee it’s pretty clear with the exception of that dark color.

That’s the kind of water I’m looking for down here in Florida, try to avoid the mud as much as you can. To me, I have found that fish do not care for muddy water. Unless you’re fishing at lake that has experienced a lot of rainfall and the water has been muddy in all parts of the lake for some time. Muddy water I think makes the fish sluggish and sick, which decreases their feeding behavior.  

Bait selection is very critical, but not as complicated as anglers may think it is. In the winter months, it’s all about the Bluegill and the Golden Shiners. Shiners in Florida are like the Wagyu steak for largemouth bass. The biggest largemouth in the lake cannot resist a shiner for meal. That is why it is important to throw baits that have some sort of golden/ chrome shine to them. This could be lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, and swimbaits. 

I usually will relate to a bluegill pattern or darker colors to mimic the dark forage the fish are feeding on. For plastics, colors like black and blue, junebug, green pumpkin, and straight black are staple colors down in Florida in the winter months because they resemble both color patterns of the shiners and bluegill forage. For types of plastics, anglers are having the best luck throwing the tried-and-true senko style worms, and big 10 to 12 inch curly tail worms. If fish are actively chasing bait, it’s hard to put down a swimming style worm.  

A common question I get asked a lot is what rod and reel set up to use down in Florida, what size line to bring, and what size weights to use. Personally, I have I had the best luck getting away with the heaviest rod I can without compromising bait action or feeling the bait. As for reels, I always tend to use higher gear ratio reels and just force myself to slow down when reeling a bait along. But when it comes to line and weight size, I want to get away with the lightest I possibly can.

Many anglers believe when you come to Florida and are fishing the Harris Chain of Lakes, they are going to be using nothing but braid. That is true when you’re fishing topwater lures or flipping a big weight into vegetation. But I only have three or four rods with straight braid on them. Even with braid I want to get away with the lightest pound test I can.

In the past, I was one of those anglers that believed you had to use 65lb test on everything. While working in the industry and learning more about saltwater fishing, I learned that 65lb braid is what captains used to catch big yellowfin tuna up to 150 to 200 pounds. Even with all the strain a bass fishing angler will put on braid trying to get fish through rough laydowns or grass, they still won’t come close to the pure strength of a tuna or an offshore fish that big. I started using nothing but 40lb test braid for everything in 2019 and have never looked back. The thinner line diameter allows anglers to cast more accurately, further, and reduces the amount of wind sound going through the braid. Everything else I am use 14-25lb fluorocarbon, especially when it comes to throwing soft plastic baits.  

One final thought I will share about fishing the Harris Chain of Lakes, is always be around bait. With how shallow the water is, it’s easy for largemouth bass to chase down large groups of bait and keep them in a certain area. It’s very easy to find the bait on the Harris Chain of Lakes because you will always see action on the surface.  

Be safe out in the outdoors and good luck to all of the anglers out there! 

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