Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson
No matter where you’re from, if you’re an angler that enjoys bass fishing, there is no better place to plan a bass fishing trip in February than in the state of Florida. When the rest of the continent is locked in a state of cold, the sun is usually shining down in Florida.
Over the years I have been fortunate to be able to make a few fun trips to Florida to bass fish during the winter. Paired with my opportunities to fish FLW Tour events, I have been able to fish Florida lakes like Toho, Istokpoga and Okeechobee in many conditions and have caught some of the biggest bass of my life.
My approach to fishing down in Florida has been to cover water with horizontal moving baits to find fish, then to slow down and try to exploit an area with flipping techniques. Lipless rattle baits, topwater swim baits and topwater hard baits have been the best options for me. We’ve caught some big fish using these tactics!
The Jackall TN/70 is a top-notch lipless rattle bait that has become my favorite for fishing bass across North America. It features a tungsten lip on the nose of the bait to balance it perfectly and create a unique vibration that bass evidently can’t resist. I like to throw rattle baits when fish are in a pre-spawn mode and staging around weed clumps in open water.
When bass in Florida start to get ready to spawn they move into heavier grass cover. Swimbaits that can be buzzed on the surface excel at covering water in these places. This was the style of bait that I used to finish 20th at the 2012 FLW Tour Open at Lake Okeechobee. I caught nearly all of the fish I weighed-in with this style of bait. Spawning fish will often eat these baits as they swim over head and if they miss the bait they will at least reveal their location so you can follow up with a jig or worm to catch them.
Topwater hard baits like the Jackall Bowstick 130 are another good option when the cover is not too thick. This is a walking-style, topwater bait that I feel really selects for big bass. This is a great bait to throw early and late in the day, yet it can still generate big strikes during the middle of the day at times.
Once I find areas that have fish, I like to slow down and fish slowly. If there is heavy cover around, I’ll get out my Shimano flipping sticks and start flipping around the thickest clumps of reeds or mats that I can find. Punching through the heaviest clumps of weeds with a Jackall Cover Craw rigged with a 1-ounce tungsten sinker is a proven technique.
If you can find a way to get to Florida this winter to experience some of the great fishing opportunities that exist there I highly recommend it! Also, don’t be afraid to employ these tactics to find and catch fish on waters across North America that have significant weed growth.
Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the Walmart FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).