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Freshwater Forecast

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 7, 2003

People often ask me what is my favorite lure?

I tell them whichever one the bass are biting.

Lures are tools, and my job is to pick the right tool for the job of catching a bass. This is not an easy task, but it is the part of bass fishing I enjoy the most.

When selecting a lure, you must consider at least four factors. The first is time of year. This will help you determine where the bass may be positioned. In the winter, we find bass migrating into shallow water; therefore, we want a lure that targets a water depth of 1 to 5 feet.

The second is water temperature. This will give you an indication of how active or inactive the bass may be. In cold water, bass and the bait they eat are not very active. The lures we choose should have the same characteristics.

The third is water clarity. The selection of the lure's color and action is affected by water visibility. In stained to dirty water, dark colors are more visible to the bass, and a lure that puts off vibration will be easier for a bass to detect. In clear water, translucent and natural colors are most productive.

The fourth is wind and water currents, which can hamper how effectively you can work the lure and detect the bite. If you cannot feel the bite, you won't catch the fish. To fish in windy or heavy current situations, select a bait you can pull through the water, and the bass will react. A spinnerbait, crankbait, topwater or Carolina-rigged bait are great under these circumstances.

As I begin my fishing day, I consider the factors that I have just discussed. It is winter, the water temperature is 53, the water is stained and there is very little wind and current. Under these conditions, I would begin the day using a straight-tailed, Texas-rigged worm with a 1/16- to 1/8-ounce weight.

My reasoning is the bass are shallow and inactive. The light weight will allow the straight tail worm to fall slowly to the bottom. The straight tail puts off no vibration and will resemble the action of the bait living in this cold water.

I would choose a dark-colored worm because the water is stained. Wind would not be a factor. With the water temperature being cold, expect the strike zone to be small. Move the bait slowly and let it sit in one place for a little while. Do not expect hard, rod-jerking bites. If you feel anything different, set the hook. Any lure on the shelf of your local tackle store or in your box will catch a bass under the right conditions. Your job is to solve the puzzle and select the right lure for the day you're fishing.

LAKE TARPON: The forecast of approaching warm weather is exciting. The bass have been a victim of the weather. Each time they begin to move in and begin biting, a front blows in and shuts them down. We have been catching many bass in the 2- to 5-pound range, but this warmer weather will push in the larger trophy bass. Shiners are your best trophy winter bait, but large, artificial worms allowed to sit in one place for a long period of time can pay off. Speck (crappie) fishing is better then we have seen in years. Minnows and tube jigs in open water are a good choice.

DUNNELLON: Many small fish are being caught on the Rainbow River using wild shiners. The Withalacoochee has not been producing numbers but has given up some big bass, including an 11-pounder.

LAKE OKEECHOBEE: Bass can be found almost anywhere you look. Two years of low water have allowed decaying bottom to dry up. The water coming back up allows the bass to use these areas to spawn. The Monkey Box, Tin House Cove and Bay Bottom have been producing good catches. Flipping crawfish and worm imitations in Junebug, red shad and watermelon colors into grass has been the best pattern.

LAKE KISSIMMEE: Water levels on Kissimmee have dropped, but fishing has remained good. Speckled perch are being caught in the grass. Shiner fishing around Grassy Island, North Cove and Brahma Island has been good.

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