Fish Florida for Wintertime Bass and Crappie

Author’s Note: Although water and weather temperatures are cooling down, don’t put away your rod and reel just yet. There are plenty of big bass and fat crappie to be caught in November and December. To find out where to catch the biggest and the most bass and crappie this month, we asked two of the best professional fisherman in the industry – Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, four-time BASS Angler-of-the-Year and two-time Bassmaster Classic winner, and Ronnie Capps of Tiptonville, Tennessee, who, along with his partner, is co-winner of more than $1.4 million earned catching crappie, as well as co-winner of the 2009 Crappie USA South Region Regional Event – to name their favorites. VanDam has proven that he’s one of the best bass fishermen in the nation, and has surpassed tournament winnings of more than $3.5 million.

VanDam’s Pick:

The Kissimmee Chain in Florida near Orlando, Florida – If I can go anywhere to fish for bass, I’ll choose Falcon Lake in Texas. However, if my family will be fishing with me, I’ll go to the Kissimmee chain of lakes near Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The weather will be warm and mild at this time of year, and you’ll see a lot of schooling bass.

Lipless crankbaits like the Red Eye Shad or top-water lures like the Spit-N-King fished on 14 pound test line will catch the bass in these lakes. You’ll catch large numbers of bass, but there are plenty of 10 pounders that come from this chain of lakes every year. Target main-lake hydrilla beds and watch for the birds. Seagulls will be diving on bait forced to the surface by large schools of bass. When you see the seagulls, stop about 100 yards from them and use your trolling motor to get within casting distance of the schools of bass. This chain of lakes is close to Disney World, so the family can go to Disney World while I fish, or, I can take a day off from fishing and go to Disney World with them.

Capps’ Selection:

Lake Harris in Florida near Leesburg, Florida – Long-line slow-troll with two, 1/32 ounce jigs on each line to catch the crappie out of this lake at this time of year. I let the line out about 30 feet behind the boat and use Southern Pro glow tubes on this lake. My two favorite colors are lime and chartreuse or chartreuse with a white tail. Although I’ll be fishing over 14 or 15 foot deep water, I often can catch the crappie out of 4 to 5 foot waters. At this time of year, the crappie often will suspend near the surface. I tie one, 1/32 ounce jig on the bottom of the line and another 1/32 ounce jig about 3 feet above it by tying a loop in the line and then attaching my jig. I’ll use one color of tube on the bottom jighead and another color tube on the other jighead, so I’m trolling two jigs on one line. I’ll be moving at about 1 to 1.2 miles per hour. The only way you can gauge your speed when you’re trolling that slowly is with a GPS receiver.

The three important factors when you’re trolling for crappie are the speed of the boat, the diameter of the line and the size of the jig. You have to learn, based on those three factors, how deep in the water your jigs or minnows are moving. At Harris, I use 8 pound test line. Slow-trolling with minnows and/or jigs is the most effective way to cover the most water and catch the most crappie in any day of fishing.

In Florida, winter’s water temperatures reach 70 and 80 degrees. However, when fishing in most of the South, the Midwest or the North, I usually troll just fast enough to see that the boat is actually moving forward. My boat may not be moving faster than .3 to .6 (3 or 6 tenths) miles per hour when I’m trolling.

This article is part of a series on fall and winter fishing hotspots. Click here for bass and crappie in Alabama and click here for the pros’ recommendations for winter freshwater fishing in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Missouri.

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