By Bob Wattendorf, Jason Dotson, Marty Mann and Allen Martin
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
The prespawn period for Florida largemouth bass can produce some of the most exciting fishing of the year – and 2011 has certainly started out exciting. Since bass tune into environmental triggers such as day length, lunar cycle and especially water temperature, timing of the actual spawn can vary. However, generally, once water temperatures rise above 58 degrees, the bedding process will begin and continue in some areas until temperatures are in the mid- to upper-70s.
Action normally starts in southern Florida and proceeds northward, with some bass spawning as early as December or as late as June. A couple days before full or new moons in late Februrary, March or early April are often premier spawning times for Florida bass. Remember, even within a lake, triggering water temperatures can vary significantly based on depth, sun exposure and currents, so not all of the bass spawn at the same time.
Last month in the “Fish Busters’ Bulletin” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) freshwater fisheries biologists identified sites they predicted would be great bass fisheries in 2011. Many of those predictions are becoming a reality. Individual anglers, guides and tournaments statewide are reporting incredible catches. Throughout Florida, there is an upsurge in bass fishing, with anglers catching both big trophies and large numbers of quality-size bass. Anglers are releasing many of those fish and applying to our “Big Catch” angler recognition program (MyFWC.com/Fishing) to memorialize their catch.
Check these examples:
Lake Tohopekaliga – Gerald Swindle won the Toho Bassmaster Southern Open in January with a total of 80 pounds, 13 ounces during a three-day tournament. To accomplish that, he averaged over 5 pounds per bass in his five-fish bag limits each day, coming close to the all-time record of 85 pounds. Bobby Lane, who came in second, also exceeded a five-pound per bass average, limited out and recorded the big fish of the tournament at 11.5 pounds. Under FWC requirements, all bass must be live-released after a permitted tournament, except for the few that can’t swim away. Those are donated to charity or used for research.
Lake Kissimmee – Tom Rewis and Doug Chance combined for a five-bass stringer that topped 40 pounds to clinch first place in the Capt. Tony Strickland Memorial Bass Tournament on Lake Kissimmee in early February. That is more than an average of 8 pounds per bass, with their largest being 10.71 pounds – and it was not big enough for first place. The team of Dustin Bozeman and Chris Maxwell took that award with a 10.76-pounder.
Del Milligan (renowned outdoor writer with TheLedger.com) pointed out, “Whether it’s Florida, Texas or California, the 40-pound mark is hallowed ground. Rewis and Chance produced one of only three five-fish limits of 40 pounds or more that I’ve heard of in Florida.” Milligan predicted, “The only thing that hasn’t happened is a 14- or 15-pounder, and I’ll wager that happens within the next few weeks.” […]
LAKE WALES, Fla. (Jan. 26, 2009) – Boater Jeremy Smith of Plant City, Fla., won the Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament on the Kissimmee River Saturday with a five-bass catch weighing 28 pounds, 12 ounces. The victory earned Smith $4,271 and placed him one step closer […]