This may not be the best time to fly to Florida for some freshwater bass fishing, but an invite from good friend Tom Morgan had my son Greg and I packing our bags. Tom has a home on a chain of 23 lakes near Winter Haven.
It was just our luck to arrive the evening before a northeast cold front blew in off the Atlantic Ocean. Add to that an 85-degree water temperature and you have the ingredients for a tough bite.
Greg and Tom have fished these waters before and found success using a big swimbait. They use a 5/0 wide-gap worm hook and peg a quarter to half-ounce worm weight to the head. They pull these weedless soft plastic lures across lily pads and weeds. They will kill the bait when it comes to an opening. Roland and Scott Martin have some great YouTube videos on how this is done.
In four days of fishing, really just early and late, we caught four bass and a long-nosed gar. Our largest weighed 4.4 lbs. A bad trip, you might think, but not so fast.
Last Sunday morning, Tom slept in. Greg and I fished Lake Cannon’s good-looking shoreline of docks, pads, and submerged weeds.
After some time without a hit, I took notice of a guy fishing out in the middle. I told my son to fire up the outboard and approach the other boat.
The man’s name was Shorty Carter. He told us he was a lifelong resident of the area and 63-years-old. Shorty was in the construction business and fished bass tournaments.
I wanted to know why he was fishing open water. He replied, “If you drained these lakes you would find multiple brush piles in 10-12 feet of water. The bass are in transition as the water heats up. The deepwater bite gets better in July.” This made sense to me and I bet those bass share the woody havens with some pretty nice crappies.
Shorty tossed me a new pack of Blueberry Zoom Trick Worms for us to try. He then lobed two deep-running crankbaits into our boat. “These are my top producers,” he said.
Our conversation got around to tournaments and hunting. “Don’t feel bad about not catching fish. It only took six pounds to win a tournament here last Saturday,” he lamented. Shorty and his buddy finished second in a big tournament on the Tennessee River telling me he knows how to adapt.
I learned Shorty and I share a passion for hunting wild turkeys. “Come down next spring and I’ll take you on this 125-acre property,” he said. He also invited me to come fish with him.
My new friend had caught three bass before we met him that morning. When we arrived back at the Morgan retreat, I sent Shorty a text so he would have my number. He had moved to another 10-foot area and caught four more bass, including two that weighed 4.8 lbs. each.
Greg, Tom, and I had a good time and ate very well. Me making a new friend, with so much in common, was an unexpected bonus.
Rick L. Bramwell began writing for the Anderson Herald Bulletin in 1972. He likes to hunt small game, deer, turkey and morel mushrooms. Bramwell’s 174-7/8 typical whitetail is the largest ever taken in Madison County. He used to compete in Red Man and BASS Federation tournaments, but is now content to fish ponds and small lakes for bass and panfish. For most of 43 years Bramwell has coached Baseball and softball. He has three grown children and resides in Madison County, near Pendleton.