1. BOAT SELECTION: What boat you use for fishing in Florida is largely based on what you can afford. For Bass fishing, the boat can be very simple and costs a few thousand dollars, or the boat can cost $60k and be a tournament rigged professional bass boat. The essentials are:
a. A trolling motor.
b. A live well.
c. Flat space upon which you can stand to cast.
For Bass fishing, they normally break the boats into a Bass boat, a Flats boat and a Bay boat. A Bass boat is meant to be used in fresh water only. A flats boat can be used in fresh or salt water and a Bay boat can be used in fresh or salt water. They must have a trolling motor so that you can move the boat while you cast.
2. WATER SELECTION: In Florida, most of the lakes are shallow. We normally fish from 2 to 8 feet, although there some lakes have a little deeper water. For the purposes of our bass fishing, you’re looking for water that is clear and 2 to 8 feet deep. When I say clear, it needs to be at least a 2 foot visibility. If the visibility is greater than 2 feet, that is a plus. Clear water allows you to fish a variety of baits.
You are also looking for water that has cover. When I say cover I mean lilly pads and grass, although wood is another issue depending on where you are fishing. Grass can be the grass under the water or grass that can be visibly seen sticking out of the water. All is good for bass fishing.
Submerged grass, meaning grass that is under the water, can also be good if there is 3 or 4 feet of clear water above the grass. Sometimes the grass will break the surface but there are pockets in it and those are all good spaces also.
3. TACKLE: When I say tackle I mean rod, reel and rigging. The rods are broken into two types, spinning rods and bait casting rods. A bait casting rod is more difficult to throw. Spinning rods are used by a lot of people. Classic bass fishing involves the use of a bait caster. Spinning rods, select a 6.5 or 7 foot rod and a bait casting rod 6 feet to 6.5 feet long. All rods should be medium heavy, which will be marked on the rod by MH. The medium heavy rod is needed for hookset. In bass fishing you have to get a hook past the barb on the hookset, if you don’t, you run the chance of losing the fish. Most of the fish that are lost are lost because the hook is not set hard enough on the fish and is not past the barbs so the fish can throw the bait.
Every rod I have is rigged with braided line. To do this, you put a small amount of monofilament on the reel. The reason to use monofilament is that it stretches as you put it on and therefore it will not slide around the center of the reel. Once you have a small amount of monofilament on then you add the braid. The braid is added with a double uni knot to the monofilament. You fill the spool relatively full with the braid. Use only black or green braid. At the end of the braid, you will add a 2 foot fluorocarbon leader with a double uni knot.
4. REELS: as for reels, go with a major manufacturer such as Shimano. There are lots of great reels. For bass fishing there are lots of bait castors and most of them are quite good. For spinning rods, you want the reel in the following series, 2500, 3000 and 4000 series. Price determines a lot of the purchase. If you get a reel for $70, that will be great and you can get a reel $700. My suggestion is not to spend a lot of money on reels until you decide what you like. The more ball bearings the reel has, usually the smoother it is.
5. KNOTS: I only use two knots in tying everything. A double uni knot is used to tie line to line. I have a diagram of that knot. Any time you are tying fluorocarbon, wet the fluorocarbon with saliva. This makes it slide easily. Fluorocarbon can generate heat if you do not wet and slide it. That weakens the knot. For tying fluorocarbon to a lure or a split ring, I use a trilene knot. A trilene knot is almost 100% strength and is easy to tie. Always wet the fluorocarbon when you are tying the trilene knot.
6. BAITS: Baits I break down into several categories.
a. TOPWATER BAITS: Chug Bug, 3 ¼ inch. Chug Bug should be in silver, white, speckled trout or Tennessee shad. Add a split ring to the Chug Bug and I always change out the hooks. I put Owner Needle Point #4 hooks on.
Booyah poppin frog. I also throw a Booyah poppin frog. I add the stinger hook which is made by Lake Fork Tackle. The stinger hooks are sold at Bass Pro. Put the larger stinger hook on the frog. It is a bait that is very difficult to hook fish on but it draws huge strikes. I like to throw it in the standard frog colors as greens and white with no yellow on the frog.
b. RAPPALA: I use one Rappala only in fresh water, it is a number 13 and on the box it will say F13, F standing for floating. Get silver with the black back. Don’t use any other color. Silver out fishes all other colors 4 to 1. Put a split ring on the front of the Rappala and sharpen the hooks.
c. SPINNER BAIT: I only throw one spinner bait and that is a #3 willow leaf blade with a white head. Always put a stinger hook on the back of the spinner bait. At Bass Pro Shops they will explain what a stinger hook is, but it is a hook that is added with a small piece of rubber that sticks out behind the bait in an up position. Many times the bass will strike short and if they do, they will hook up on the stinger hook.
d. SOFT PLASTICS: soft plastics consist of lots of different things. Many people throw worms in the State of Florida. For worms I only throw a handful of colors. I throw white in a trickworm. Zoom makes a white trickworm and that’s one of the ones that I throw. It’s a floating worm but when you put a hook and a weight on it, its not. It also can be fished like a fluke or a soft plastic. The other colors are purple, june bug, and green with gold flakes. Fluke: with a fluke, I only throw a green with gold flakes and sometimes white.
e. FLAPPIN SHAD: In a Flappin shad, I only throw a handful of colors. Silver, white, and green. White is best usually.
f. JERKBAIT: In jerkbaits, I only throw a handful as I have experimented with so many. My top 3 are
i. Pointer 100 in the ghost shad color. Any color that is silver will probably work.
ii. KVD 300. The color to get on this is white or silver.
iii. Rattlin Rogue. Get silver with a black back or no color on the back and white belly. Sometimes you cannot find them with a white belly and if you buy them with the yellow you can use finger nail polish and cover the yellow with white.
g. To sum up, never throw a yellow lure in fresh water for bass. Always stick with the best colors. Silver, white, and green in fresh water. Always put a split ring on all hard baits.
7. EQUIPMENT: For equipment you just need a handful of things.
a. Net: Get a net with approximately a 3-4 foot long handle so that you can reach out from the boat and land the fish. Nets are a function of money. A net can cost $20 or $100. If you can afford it, get a net that is a higher quality and rubberized. The rubberized nets usually do not tangle the hooks in the net when you land a fish.
b. Fish Grabber: Fish grabbers are $15. They are a plastic fish grabbing unit and you can buy them at Bass Pro Shops. These allow you to get the bass out of the net without hanging your hand with treble hooks as the fish can jerk side to side. The fish grabber allows you to grab the fish inside the lip and it immobilizes the fish.
c. Long Needle Nose Pliers: This allows you to pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth without injuring the fish.
d. Sharpening Stone: Some sort of sharpening stone is necessary. I like the simple ones that are just a few dollars, they have a V in them. You can get them at Bitters Bait and Tackle on 17-92 in Longwood. They are the easiest to use. You want to make certain that every time you fish, your hooks are needle sharp so that they stick on a thumbnail.