What Makes Florida Special
Florida bass fishing can be very different from bass fishing found in other regions of the country. Florida’s lakes are typically natural, shallow sink holes formed thousands of years ago in the limestone bedrock found throughout the state. And these waters often have few natural offshore bottom structures. Florida largemouth bass lakes and rivers also frequently have limited visibility of a few feet or less. Different types of fishing lures and techniques are often required depending upon conditions and where an angler spends a day on the water in Florida.
Bass will often use any cover they can find to lay in wait for prey, including small clumps of grass, boat docks, submerged tree stumps, or culvert pipes. Find the cover and you can find the bass. Water clarity varies greatly in Florida bass waters, so different lures and techniques are required depending upon conditions.
1. Plastic Worms, Craws and Lizards
It seems like more bass are caught in Florida on soft plastic baits than any other lure type. What makes these lures so effective is their versatility. They can be fished weightless, Texas style with a bullet weight, Carolina style behind a sinker or flipped in heavy cover like a jig. You can swim them, bump them on the bottom or drop them next to inactive fish. They mimic actual bass forage and will fool bass of all sizes. The first plastic worms were imitations of large nightcrawlers. Later, ribbon tail worms were introduced and quickly gained popularity. Paddle tail worms add vibration and flash. Multi-colored and scent induced worms further enhanced their effectiveness.
Today’s plastic baits can be amazingly natural or look nothing like anything found in nature. The most popular soft plastic bass bait colors in Florida are black and dark purple. Adding colored flakes to a plastic bait can enhance its fish catching appeal. Soft plastic bass lures come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. The most common worm and lizard size in Florida is 6 inches. Plastic lizards mimic small aquatic amphibians and are especially effective when bass are on the beds. If you only have one bass lure to fish in Florida, make it a soft plastic bait.
Flukes are small minnow shaped soft plastic swim baits. They are available in several sizes from the tiny 3" fluke to the 7" magnum super fluke. Flukes are deadly bass baits, especially in the spring when bass are shallow chasing fry. Most anglers rig them weedless with the point of a wide gap hook laying on top of the bait. Being somewhat heavier than worms, they are easy to cast with little or no weight. Like other plastic baits, they come in a wide assortment of colors with watermelon being very popular. Flukes put out little vibration, so they work best in clearer water thrown on a light line.
Some lures catch larger Florida bass than others. The spinnerbait is one of those lures. Spinnerbaits mimic the Florida bass’ most favorite foods, golden shiners and large shad. They come in all sizes from 1/8 ounce finesse baits to large 3/4 ounce thumpers. The average Florida spinnerbait is the 3/8 ounce size. It pays to buy quality in these baits. High quality blades give more flash and high quality hardware gives off more vibration. You will need two basic spinnerbait colors in Florida, chartreuse with gold blades and white with silver blades.
The key to catching Florida bass on a spinnerbait is fishing them close to cover. A few inches can make a big difference. Spinnerbaits work exceptionally well in and around pads. Pads are a major fish holding structure in Florida. Cast back in or beyond pads and bring your lure under the pads as close as possible. Fish slow and deliberate, targeting isolated cover from a number of directions. Larger Florida bass often respond better to a slow moving spinnerbait than one bulging the water on the surface. Most spinning reels are too fast for spinnerbait fishing. A 5/1 baitcasting reel is perfect for throwing these baits. Learn more about spinning reels and baitcasting reels by checking out the buying guides from Baitstick.
4. Lipless, Rattling Crankbaits
Lipless, rattling crankbaits have been around since the late 1950s and are still among the most effective bass baits for fishing in Florida. The baits come in many different sizes and colors. Most Florida bass are caught on the 1/2 ounce chrome with a green or blue back or gold with a black back being popular. These baits are what are generally called “Search Baits." They cover water quickly and are excellent bass locators. Lipless, rattling crankbaits bites are reaction strikes. It is best to retrieve these lures fast with a 7/1 or faster reel. There is something about fast moving erratic lipless, rattling crankbaits that causes bass to hunt them down. Even in the dead of winter, few bass can pass up one of these lures fished in the strike zone. It takes stamina to fish these lures all day, but the results can be worth the effort.
5. Top Water Lures
Most bass fishermen find top water fishing to be the most exciting of all bass fishing techniques. Nothing equals the fun of watching a large bass inhale a top water lure. The key to using this bait is to throw it where others won’t. Accurate casting is a must as you should cast it far back into cover. Fish it with a short jerk and pause routine. Pay attention to the surface behind the lure as bass will often track this lure for some time before hitting it. Strikes range from vicious explosions to subtle or silent strikes.
In cold front conditions, top water lures with rear spinners can also be effective. Fished on a light mono line, this lure can often help catch fish when nothing else seems to work. Do not use heavy line with this lure or you will diminish its effectiveness. Be prepared to catch a lot of smaller bass. If you need to get a bite in tough conditions, this is the bait to use. Color is not as important with this lure as others, though black back is often a popular choice.
6. Swim Jigs
Florida is famous for its unique fisheries. Most of the top Florida lakes are quite shallow compared to what anglers may find elsewhere in the country. Lake Okeechobee is one of the most popular lakes for recreational anglers in Florida and a frequent stop on pro fishing tours. Though the lake’s surface area is nearly 730 square miles, its maximum depth is only twelve feet. While it does not take a lot to go deep for bass in Florida when an angler needs to go well below the surface, it helps to have the right gear. One of the most effective lures for reaching fish at deeper levels of lakes and rivers in Florida is the swim jig. Pro anglers use them and so do weekend anglers of nearly all levels, and all for good reason.
The weighted head of the swim jig helps get the lure to fall quickly to the bottom and enables anglers to probe for bass lying low in the water. The weed guard on a swim jig also helps anglers to get into the grasses and pad stems that are common throughout Florida and to get bait into weedy areas that a spinnerbait would not be able to go. The skirts of the swim jig help attract fish on their own but can be paired with a plastic worm, craw, or chunk to make the swim jig even more appetizing for hungry bass.
7. Floating Minnows
Another great surface lure for Florida bass fishing is the floating minnow. Fished on a light spinning outfit, it’s hard to match its ability to produce great numbers of bass. Floating minnow lures are generally fished on the surface with a twitch and pause cadence. They can also be fished under the surface as a jerk bait. These lures are great lures for beginners or anglers looking to get back into fishing. It’s nearly impossible to throw a 4" minnow for any extended period of time in Florida without catching a bass. Gold and silver are the popular colors for this lure in Florida. Avoid using snaps, leaders or swivels with this lure. Tie the line directly to the lure using a loop knot.
8. Plastic Frogs and Toads
Big bass love eating frogs. Plastic frog fishing in Florida has always been effective. And plastic frogs and toads can be fished in places where no other lure can be worked. Rigged almost totally weedless, they can be fished in the heaviest cover. Because of this, plastic frogs are often best fished on heavy braided line. They can be tricky to use as bass often miss the hooks when the angler sets the hook too quickly. It’s best to wait until the bass has the lure fully in its mouth. This can be easier said than done for the new and even experienced angler from time to time. Be observant when fishing these lures as a bass will often track behind them for some distance before the strike. If this is observed, drop the bait as soon as open water is reached and the fish will often take the lure. In Florida, pads are the home of larger bass looking for a meal. Plastic toads are often fished as buzz baits with kicking legs replacing spinners.
9. Diving Crank Baits
Typically made of wood or plastic with a front-mounted diving bill, diving crank baits are meant to mimic injured shiners, shad and bait fish. While it is rare to fish bass in Florida deeper than 15 feet, some of these lures can dive to as much as 30 feet when trolled or on a long cast. Smaller lures will work in shallow water with many anglers preferring square bills for fishing around downed trees and wood. Tuning these lures so they run straight is critical. This is accomplished by bending the line tie slightly left and right to obtain the desired track. Casting a deep diving crankbait all day is hard work due to the resistance these lures create when retrieved. Using thin diameter line and slowing down the retrieve will make the lure run deeper. These lures can be used as open water search baits or to target specific bottom structure. The most popular crankbait colors in Florida are green and blue black shad patterns. Chartreuse bait, like fire tiger, work well in stained water.
Buzzbaits are some of the first bass lures ever developed. Worked fast on top of the surface, they cover a lot of water quickly and draw aggressive strikes. Buzzbaits are still some of the best bass search baits available. Like plastic frogs, they should be thrown with casting tackle and heavy line. The best buzzbait conditions are on top of surface weeds with small open pockets in the grass. Hungry bass stake out in the holes and will attack a buzzbait as it runs past. High speed reels are required to keep these baits on the surface. Strikes are aggressive with the hook ratio often being somewhat better than plastic frogs. Buzzbaits can attract larger fish in Florida.
All Fishing Is Local
Check in with your favorite independent bait and tackle shop or fishing store about what lures work best for where you want to fish next. Or try a Baitstick Box designed to conveniently bring the needed bait and tackle together for you and to offer it at an affordable price. Fish many of Florida’s top fishing destinations right out of the box. Seasoned anglers can resupply with known essentials and new anglers can fish regional rivers and lakes right out of the box.
Baitstick partners with expert area suppliers and experienced anglers with local knowledge to bring together bait and tackle for Florida fishing. Baitstick Boxes are filled with handpicked bait and tackle with Florida fishing in mind. No subscription required! Try a Baitstick Box today.