Each year Floridians look forward to the arrival of fall and the cooler weather that it brings. Around Lake Okeechobee we too feel relief when the days get shorter and the temperatures fall, but for entirely different reasons. Fall is the time for big bass on Lake Okeechobee. As the water temperatures cool down and the daylight hours get shorter the bass in the Big â€œOâ€ are driven to feed heavily as they prepare for the long spawning season that lies ahead. Okeechobeeâ€™s fertile water is rich with bass and many other types of fish. Many people are unaware that a lot of Okeechobeeâ€™s bass population actually migrate into the lake during the summer months and pursue shad and other game fish in the open water of the lake. When fall arrives, these bass many of which are trophy sized move back toward the shallow littoral zones that surround the lake. The fish take up residence in the shallow grass lines and heavier cover areas, where anglers can more easily find and catch them.
December is the time of year when live wild golden shiners are not only great bait; they are the bait of choice for catching trophy size bass. Catch rates for guided trips explode, with 40 plus fish days being the norm. The fishing/catching remains red-hot throughout the Winter but is subject to cold fronts that can throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans. Many anglers have the idea that catching bass on shiners is easy, and it can be! Finding bass in large schools is the difficult part of the equation, which makes experience on the water a treasured commodity. If you have a limited amount of time and want the best fishing/catching experience you can have, a guide is essential.
During the fall/winter months catching bass on artificial baits is still a viable option and experienced anglers can have relative success with lesser numbers of smaller bass. For those anglers interested in catching a lot of bass with a shot at the â€œFish of a lifetimeâ€ a live wild shiner is the only way to go. Never forget the fact that itâ€™s easier to feed the bass than it is to fool the bass.
As the water continues to cool Lake Okeechobeeâ€™s famed speckled perch or specks as the locals call them will show up in large numbers in the Kissimmee River and also along the shallow grass lines that line the periphery of the lake. Minnows and small jigs will be the primary baits used. Minnows work well in open water areas, while jigs are more effective in the heavier cover grass and weed areas of the lake.