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February 26th

February 26th

Author: Brady Harp


Like an MLB pitcher that primarily throws fastballs, mixing in a curveball to your normal fishing regimen every-so-often can be both refreshing and beneficial to your development as an angler. Luckily, I got to do just that. A few weeks ago, I was able to escape the cold and muddy river systems local to me and venture down to the flat, grassy lakes that number the state of Florida. I spent time on both the Kissimmee and Harris Chain of lakes, and boy was it a needed respite from fishing back at home.

For one, most lakes near me are river system impoundments full of spotted bass still in their wintertime patterns. Florida’s waters were already mid-60-degree temperatures and offered a change that was well-received. Down there, no matter the lake we fished, fish were in all 3 stages of the spawn. Another constant? Everything was predicated on one thing: vegetation. Hydrilla was the most consistent grass in producing fish, as is the case in lakes that feature vegetation across the country. Hydrilla’s lush, green vines produce a hollow canopy beneath it and offer the perfect hiding spot for both bass staging to spawn and those leaving their springtime beds. In addition to hydrilla, eel grass, Kissimmee grass, and lily pads all played a role in finding fish. Anytime we could get around a mix of the grasses was a key hotspot on our trip.

Depending on the lake you fish, determining how to fish this vegetation varies immensely. The book will tell you to find the edges or holes within vegetation to target these Florida-strain bass. But what do you do when that isn’t a readily accessible option? That is what we found on the Kissimmee Chain of lakes. It was almost overwhelming trying to locate where to fish submerged grass, as three-quarters of some of these lakes were covered in grass! In these instances, side-scanning and locating grass edges are nearly impossible. Finding bass can be like finding a needle in a haystack. So, we simplified our approach by working backwards. By starting where the bass would spawn, we worked outward to the closest change in depth that featured grass. Bass spawn exclusively on hard-bottom areas, which are the exact places that lily pads grow. We started in the pads and moved outward towards a (marginal) change in depth until we ran into bass that were using that change in depth as a hotspot going to-and-from their spawning grounds. And thankfully, it didn’t take long before we ran into some fish!


The Harris Chain was a different story. The Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission heavily monitors grass growth on certain lakes on this chain, so an overwhelming majority of the vegetation we found had been sprayed with pesticides and was dead. Dead grass won’t produce any oxygen, and therefore won’t harbor many baitfish or bass. The key to finding fish here was similar to the Kissimmee Chain, in that we started with spawning grounds-- both lily pads and shallow canals-- and worked outward. Only this time, we only fished areas where we found grass that was alive and green. These were far and few between, but had the fish exceptionally concentrated on those stretches. There, finding an edge to fish was much easier, as we used our 2D sonar and side-imaging to see where the living grass stopped growing. The alive grass was much taller and showed a more vibrant return on our sonar systems. These areas, only 20-50 yards long, produced up to 30 fish in each.

As for how we targeted these fish, we kept it simple. A shallow diving jerkbait was our best friend, as we could work it as fast, or slow, as we wanted over the top of the grass with ease. My approach was simple: 12-14 pound fluorocarbon kept the bait invisible and in the strike zone like I needed. When fishing a jerkbait, the right rod will make or break your experience. It is imperative that you have a rod short and nimble enough that you are able to twitch your rod to produce the desired darting action in your lure without smacking the water with your rod. One thing about CastAway’s rods that I love is their versatility. My rod of choice for jerkbaits around grass is the Skeleton Nano Mag Medium Heavy (SKNMHS7). I typically prefer this rod for small jighead swimbait fishing, but this rod is perfect for jerkbaits around grass. It’s a true medium heavy rod, so I can rip my bait out of grass with ease when it inevitably gets stuck, yet it loads up seamlessly for when a bass latches onto those light wire treble hooks! If you fish anywhere with submerged vegetation, this rod is a staple that needs to be in your arsenal.

I hope you’re able to use these tips and techniques in your next fishing trip! Tight lines!