With the advent of stocking programs and lake management by individual states there are many great bass fisheries in the United States. None of them however compare to the incredible everyday fishing found on South Central Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. The sheer size of the Big “O” is prohibitive for all but the most seasoned of anglers. A sprawling 750 square miles placesOkeechobee as the second largest natural lake in the US. and Fishermen from all over the World visit Okeechobee annually. Aside from the massive dimensions of the lake, more people are shocked to find out that the lake is completely surrounded by a massive earthen dike It is only after it is explained to someone that Florida is hurricane central and without the Herbert Hoover dike, severe flooding is a very real possibility.
Each year seasoned anglers that are familiar with Okeechobee eagerly anticipatethe arrival of what can only be called a “fall bass bonanza”. Usually around mid-October the first wave of big bass will make their presence known, showing up in daily catches of artificial bait anglers, even more so by guides and anglers using a live wild golden shiner. To get a handle on this series of events an understanding of the movement patterns of the “Okeechobee Largemouth” is needed. Lake Okeechobee has an incredible number of fish, bass of all sizes swim and grow large in her fertile water, and many of those bass never leave the littoral zone,known as the weedy cover areas that surround the outer perimeter of the lake. There are however apercentage of bass that leave the shoreline cover once they are done spawning and move toward the open waters of the lake where they follow and eat schools of shad and other baitfish throughout the summer months.
This fall the first wave of pre-spawn bass made their appearance along the grassy weed lines right on schedule, feeding around points and trails that lead further into the marshy area of the lake. Numerous factors contribute to the movements of the bass, cooler weather which also cools the water, the new moon phase, which many times is better fishing than the full moon phase, and shorter daily light periods. Catch rates soared, with live bait anglers particularly going from 10 to 15 bass per outing to 60 to 80 bass per outing. Big bass were in this mix of fish as well with 6 to 8 pound fish falling prey to a live wild shiner. Once the first wave of bass move shallow bass fishing gets better each moon period, as the initial onslaught of fish move with the moon periods to spawn, another wave of bass will take their place, staging in the shallows. Many times during the following months productive areas will hold bass that are in pre-spawn mode, spawning and post-spawn mode, what it means is you can catch them coming and going.
Each area of the lake has features that are known to attract and hold bass, the key is to find a spot they just can’t seem to leave. The North end of the lake has the Kissimmee River which is the primary feeder for the lake. The water that flows into the lake from the River is rich with nutrients which feeds the entire food chain. Native grasses are key, pepper grass, eel grass, spike rush are three that are prevalent on the North end of the lake. Although Hydrilla is a non-native vegetation it is a fish magnet, bass as well as every other type fish in the lake are drawn to it.. This year it is growing far out into the lake in many places, where it will form solid lines of c0over as the water drops throughout the winter.
Each area of the lake has a name that accompanies it, whether on a map or tagged by residents. The Monkey Box has long been known as a productive area of the lake as well as Horse Island, Tin House Cove and Indian Prairie. These are but a few of the better spots on the North end of the lake, whatever area you settle on to start your fishing day, persistence (putting in your time) is key. The more time you can put on the lake the more likely you are to find that one in a thousand spot where the bass are not only plentiful but large. It’s every fishermen’s dream.