Generally, a bass weighing in at 10 pounds or better is considered a “trophy.” Many, including my wife’s father, have set that bar for whether or not to have a bass mounted. Her father fished all of his life in waters from Canada to Florida and never boated that 10 pound plus bass. He caught a lot of bass, both largemouth and smallmouth, walleye, muskie, and northern pike throughout his lifetime; and generally caught more than anyone he was with, but never the trophy largemouth bass that he sought after. His wife (my mother-in-law) caught two in her lifetime and he made her mount them both! Now, thanks to fiberglass replicas, we are able to “have our cake and eat it too” so to speak. We are able to have a “copy” trophy mount on our wall or table, but we are also able to release these trophies back into their habitat to continue producing more bass that are genetically prone to growing up to trophy size … like the one below:
This is a picture of the biggest bass landed this year. On or about March the 10th we get a call from Tom Keady and Gail Klusek from New York. Tom and Gail have a place at Lily Lake in Frostproof, Florida. They were out at a restaurant and Tom picked up a copy of IN THE FIELD Magazine. They came across the article that I had written back in January for the February issue about schooling bass, and what Joyce (my wife) and I do every Christmas morning, which is to go fishing and spend a little spiritual time with our deceased Dads, who showed us the great outdoors that God has provided for us. Anyway, Tom read this and was inspired by it to the point that they called to book a trip, and this is what became of that trip. This is Gail's 12 lb 12 oz largemouth bass, also pictured in my last article with Gail. That same morning they had one that weighed 6 lb 12 oz. Both were released back into the lake to give these fish a chance to lay their eggs, so we can have the opportunity to catch more like them.
As the kids are getting ready to get out of school, the bass are starting to get into schools. For the last couple of weeks I have been catching schooling bass in Lake Kissimmee using both live bait with medium sized shiners and with artificial baits, such as lipless crankbaits and plastic swimbaits. They have ranged anywhere from dinks too small to measure all the way up to around 6 lbs. I’ve heard of bass schooling up in Lake Toho, also, but it is that time of the year. With all the new hatchlings of a multitude of panfish, shad, and minnows, the bass are feeding on a virtual smorgasbord. They have been known to gorge to the point of regurgitation and then feed some more. It’s kind of like going out to eat to a buffet and, since you can’t make up your mind what to eat, you have some of everything. At least we know when to stop … or most of us do, anyway!
This is a time that can be a lot of fun, but also very frustrating. If you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time when the bass run bait to the surface which lets you know where they are feeding, then you can cast almost any small bait just past the school and then run it back through it, almost guaranteeing a strike. But if you are not lucky, you will run your trolling motor batteries down to nothing trying to chase after the schools that are just out of casting distance. Your best bet is to determine what areas are holding the bait, and why. Once you figure that out, concentrate on keeping your boat near those areas and sooner or later the water will appear to boil as the bass run the bait to the surface sometime during the chase. It’s kind of like “feast or famine” or “hurry up and wait.” Once you are in the right areas, continue to fan cast even if you don’t see them on the surface, because the bass and the bait are still in the general vicinity.
Another thing to keep in mind during these feeding frenzies is that generally it is the smaller bass that do the chasing, gorging, and regurgitating. The larger bass have wised up (or have become basically lazy) and will cruise a little deeper beneath the school, scarfing up the injured, falling bait and regurgitation. If you have had your fun already with the smaller bass, try twitching a fluke or anything that mimics an injured baitfish, a little deeper using a #3 barrel swivel with about 18” of leader. The purpose of this is two-fold - by using a swivel, it helps to eliminate line twist that so often occurs when using twitching bait; and the minimal weight added using the barrel swivel will help bring the bait slightly deeper and create a slow fall during each pause between twitches.