Winter bass fishing in Florida really depends on weather patterns and where you’re at. Even though winter in Florida is not like everywhere else, the Canadian airs can blast through and drop temperatures into the 20s. When that happens it kind of ruins bass fishing for a few days.
In December and January severe cold fronts can roll through and sometimes cause sub-freezing temperatures that will linger for several days and that surely restricts the bass movement.
A couple of days before a front hits, southerly breezes drawing masses of warm air increases their activity. Even though these warm temperatures only last for a few days the bass start thinking of the spawning shallows and they might even move them in that direction. Once the temperatures starts to drop the bass will move to the deeper water because the temperatures are more stable there. Once the cold front has past and temperatures start to warm again the bass will move back to the shallow waters. You really have to time your fishing right so you can catch the leading edge of front.
When the winds are southerly with 70° temperatures there is a lot more activity than when the Winds are northerly and temperatures are in the 30s.
Since some lakes are affected more by these temperature changes than other lakes are your techniques need to differ from lake to lake as well. Lakes of northern Florida are affected significantly more than lakes in southern Florida.
Lakes that are basically shallow with even shallower grass beds are affected quicker and more greatly by the cold fronts and, needless to say, so are the bass. The bass may not move out of the shallow vegetation on the first day and you can still catch them in the afternoon after the sun beats on the water for a while. If nighttime temperatures stay in the 30s for a few days shallows and grass beds will become a ghost town for the bass.
Deeper lakes are not affected by the cold fronts as greatly as the shallow lakes are. This typically makes the offshore structures a largemouth’s winter home. Bass also like to hang out at drop-offs and ledges and they will often move to deeper drop-offs and school up a little tighter during cold fronts. And if you can find them, you can surely catch them. When temperatures start to warm they will move to shallower drops and loosen the schools up a little bit.
You just have to stay on your toes and keep switching your tactics and locations.
Let’s take a look at a couple lakes in different regions of Florida. Let’s start with one in the northern region.
This is one of the northernmost lakes in Florida. It is a man-made lake on the Ochlockonee River near Tallahassee. It doesn’t have much shoreline vegetation but it has a deep main river river channel and it has a few major creek arms stemming from it.
Lake Talquin has a reputation for producing great bass and with the FWCC’s recent stocking effort the lake is now producing lots of 4 to 6 pound bass and the biologist say that it will only get better.
Depending on the weather, December water temperatures will be from below 60 to the upper 60s. The primary forage in this lake is shad. In November the shad move into the major creek arms and yes the bass are right behind. When the temperatures start to drop below 70 the bass move back into the main lake following the shad, of course. Find the shad and you found the bass! To find the shad you can simply track them by temperature.
When the temperature is in the 60+ range you’ll find them moving from the main channel to the long tapering points near the creek channel arms. In the afternoon, after the sun has warmed the water, is the best time to find the moving.
The warmer the water is the shallower they will move on the points of the creek arms and the longer they will stay there. During warming spells it is not uncommon to see the bass schooling on the surface in the points of the creek arms. When they are in the creek points try a small chrome top water plug or a lipless crank bait. If they’re not all the way up on the point try a Carolina rigged plastic worm or lizard. June bug, red shad, or black and blue combinations seem to be the best colors. Or you can try a deep driving crank bait that runs in the 15 to 20 foot range in chrome, blue or firetiger colors. Work it from the point out towards the deeper water on the side of the point with the steepest bank.
When the waters are below 60° or right after severe front look for schools of shad in the deep waters like in the 20 to 40 foot range once you find the schools and shad try a 3/4 ounce chrome jigging spoon.
Now let’s look in the Central Florida area.
Conway & Butler Chains
In this part of Florida a lot of lakes were formed naturally by sink holes. They have a lot of shoreline vegetation and submerged grass beds. But the bass don’t use them much in the winter.
During the first couple of cold snaps the shad head to the waters in the 18 to 25 foot range and of course the bass go with them. If there is warm trend between the fronts you might find a few bass along the shoreline but most of them are still going to be right out in the middle of the lake until there is a steady warm-up. You can fish the banks and probably pull in a few stragglers. But if you search the middle of the lake with depth finder and find the schools you could land 25 or maybe even 50 bass and maybe a few 10 pound and up.
If you have a GPS it would be a good idea to mark the spots where you pull in a lot of and big bass. If they were here this year they’ll probably be there next year to!
The colder it is, the sharper and the deeper drop-offs they like. A sharp the drop is much more preferable than a gradual increase in depth. In other words the more the vertical drop is the better it will be in the coldest weather.
During a warming trend or just before the front hits the bass will follow the shad to the offshore drops in the 15 to 20 foot range with a more gradual slope. Some of the bass will just move up and stay suspended over the drop off.
Another good offshore target is privately planted brush piles, there are a lot of those in these lakes. Some of them were placed on good drops which helps concentrate the fish even more. There are also many brush piles that are not on a sharp drop but are in water deeper than 15 feet, you also want to check these out to.
Over the deeper drops try a 3/4 ounce jigging spoon fishing it vertically. At the shallower drops and over the brush piles try red shad colored plastic worm, 6 to 10 inch size. And in all areas give a lipless crank bait a shot.
During a warming trend, in the middle of the day, the bass will often come up to school. When you see that you should mark that spot because they normally school right above the drops they were holding on.
Now let’s head a little farther south.
In this part of Florida, as far as bass are concerned, there are only two seasons “the spawn and this summer”.
Unlike Okeechobee spawning can start and there may be fishing on the beds in October. In December you can find bass in the vegetative shallows at about a 3 foot deep range.
You can often see the bass on the bed if you do toss him a soft plastic litter lure. If you can’t see any bass on the beds try a nine or 10 inch Texas-rigged plastic worm in June bug or read Shad color, If it is overcast try black with a blue tail.if you like to fish a little faster you can try a variety of spinner baits, witless stones or even soft plastic jerk baits and you might even do good trying your favorite top water lure.
If It’s a reasonably warm day and the fish are shallow grab a 1/2 ounce buzz bait. You might not catch as many as the others are but when you do it’s probably going to be the big boy! So if you want a trophy Bass give it a shot.
In December, unlike the lakes farther north, the bass are usually found in the shallow waters.but if the bad front comes through that last more than a day or two they will head into the hydraulic walls around the channel drops.
So as you can see Winter bassin’ in Florida can be pretty productive and is definitely lots of fun! so load your gear in your boat grab your bass fishing buddy and hit the water!!