Ask most bass fisherman about angling in various parts of the country and they will give you the age old rhetoric, “A bass is a bass.” But, if you ask some of today’s top professional fisherman…
Ask most bass fisherman about angling in various parts of the country and they will give you the age old rhetoric, “A bass is a bass.” But, if you ask some of today’s top professional fisherman, they will inform you that is not the case when it comes to Florida bass. “Fishing in Florida is so different all together” says FLW pro Scott Lunsford who recently posted a top 10 at the BP Eastern FLW Series on Lake Okechobee . “No matter what time of year it is or what the weather conditions are, you must have the mindset of shallow.”
At his most recent tournament on the “Big O” Lunsford hurled a one-two punch against the Florida creatures. “I used two presentations. One was a swimbait and the other was a ¾ oz. Omega Custom Tackle football head jig.” He fished openings in the hydrilla that were littered with shrubs and buck brush to pluck out his 6th place stringer. “With the lake being so low last year, there were a lot of shrubs that had grown up and are now flooded” relayed Lunsford. “I had to make long casts to the holes because the water was so clear.” Using 65lb braided line and a heavy action rod, Lunsford muscled giant bass from the heavy cover, including the day one big bass tipping the scales at 10-2. “I had to use heavy equipment to get a good hookset. With all the grass and brush that was in the water, the hooksets were cushioned and I lost a lot of fish.” He stated, “My hook to land ratio was about 60:40” with the 40 being the percentage of fish he lost.
The Omega Custom Tackle football head jig helped him to reduce the amount of fish he lost. “The shape of hook on that jig is so good because you land so many more fish” suggested Lunsford. Although the football head was not designed to be fished in grass, it came through well enough to put Scott Lunsford at the top of the star-studded pack after day one. “I was fishing open holes in the grass where the bass will bed, so I had no problems at all.”
Concerning the bass’ early spring spawning rituals, Lunsford compares them to panfish. “Florida bass spawn like Bream. They group up in the same area, so when you find one, you’ve probably found a whole school of them.” While most competitors were sight-fishing for spawning bass, Lunsford keyed on actively feeding pre-spawn fish. “The strikes were vicious. I think a lot of them were reaction strikes.”
Due to the highly volatile nature of Florida lakes, the fishing can go from fantastic to down right stingy from one day to the next. “With the lake being so shallow, the water temperature varied drastically. “In practice the water temperature was 53 degrees. Then, during the tournament it shot up to 70 and went back down to 56.” described Lunsford. He shares that “Although the bass may quit feeding, they are still in that shallow grass.”
His success in Florida is reflective of his success anywhere in the country. “If I had to name something that caused my success, it would be fishing by faith.” Lunsford explains that fishing by faith is simply “listening to your gut.” “Just before launch on day one I was still struggling with where I should start. I had two places where I had caught fish and one I had done much better in. My mind was reasoning that I should start where I had the most success, but my gut kept telling me to start in the other area.” Lunsford obeyed his gut instincts and rode them to a fantastic finish. “The very best in the world at this is David Dudley. I am sure there are others that are great too, but David will be fishing down a bank throwing a spinner bait and, for no reason except that he has a gut feeling, he will pack it up and take off.”
The other key to success, according to Scott Lunsford, is “keeping a level head.” “What I mean by that is getting comfortable with your surroundings and being very versatile. I am just as comfortable throwing a drop shot rig on 6lb. flourocarbon as I am with a jig on 65lb. braid.” He says that “each time you come to a lake you need to feel like you have been there before.” He cultivates this feeling through studying maps, doing historical research, and spending as much time on the water as possible. “The more time you spend on the water, the more you will see similar patterns arise.”
Scott ended by thanking all of his sponsors for their support including: Evinrude, Omega Custom Tackle, Robertson Enterprises, Humminbird, Minn Kota, Solar Bat, and Izorline. He commented that he feels very lucky to be where he is. “There are many people out there who are probably just as good or better fishermen than I am that have never gotten the chance to be where I am today. I’d like to say to them, hang in there and never give up on the dream.”
Simply put, bass fishing in Florida can be incredibly difficult. If you follow the guidelines of this seasoned pro, however, you are sure to show up to weigh in with a hefty sack of fish.
Written by Josh Bracamontes