Bass Fishing in Florida

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 OkeechobeeGussy sideways bass hold 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).

Gussy KF_Comfort maker Boat

Wolf Hunting in Canada

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

With open seasons in numerous states and liberal seasons in most Canadian provinces, wolf hunting is a new activity for most hunters but one that is very intriguing.  Wolves are one of the most majestic creatures in our woods simply due to their ability to go unseen given their high population.  They are smart animals and ruthless predators who prey on everything from small game to moose.Wolf 2

Winter is the best time to hunt wolves for several reasons.  They’re more likely to be seen because animals must be active to stay warm in cold temperatures.  They also use deep snow to their advantage to catch prey.  For the hunter, the pelts are also the best during the winter; before the wolves start to rub them off late in the season.

During the past several years of my experience guiding wolf hunts, I’ve learned that there are two ways to hunt these animals – baiting and calling.  I’ve learned this mostly through trial and error because there isn’t a lot of information out there; many people talk about wolf hunting but few actually put the time in and do it.  In Canada, most wolves are taken by ice anglers who happen to bring a gun with them on fishing trips and catch an animal crossing the ice.  Other hunters harvest them incidentally while they are hunting other big game animals like deer, moose or elk.

The most effective way to hunt wolves, in my opinion, is to bait them with animal scraps.  But this legal and fruitful way to attract these predators is far from easy.  Sitting long hours in a ground blind in cold weather may not sound appealing to some people. But if you want to tag a trophy animal, suiting up in warm clothes and sitting it out remains the top tactic.

For winter hunting, suiting up in the warmest gear is essential.  I like to start with the best of long underwear, like Under Armour Base 4.0.  It is designed to keep you warm in extreme conditions.  From there it’s important to continue layering out to a heavy outer layer.  Staying warm is the toughest part of this hunt.  Wearing the best boots you can get your feet in is also important because your feet are the hardest part of your body to keep warm.  I trust Arctic Pro Muck Boots because between long sits on the stand and long days ice fishing I’ve never had cold feet.  They are a top-notch product.  Additionally, to help stay warm on those really cold days, when the temperatures fall below zero, I use a Mr. Heater Portable Buddy to help take the chill out of the blind.

I set up my blinds and bait on small lakes or beaver ponds—locations where snowmobilers aren’t likely to pass by.  I use the Primos Dark Horse Blind and conceal it as much as possible with small pine trees and bows.  The blinds overlook the bait that I put out and freeze into ice wherever I can.  Freezing the bait is key; or wolves will simply drag it away to chow down.

Where baiting isn’t permitted, calling wolves with electronic calls is a proven tactic.  Some of my hunters have called in wolves using the FoxPro Firestorm Electronic Caller.  This call has a good range so you can distance it from your position.  Wolves have a great sense of smell, so placing the call way down wind is vital to your success.  Fawn and rabbit distress sounds have worked well.  The times that my hunters have called wolves in, they came right to the call—literally within feet of it.  I can’t stress enough how smart these animals are!

To plan a trip of your own, visit Ontario’s Sunset Country; with its many resorts and professional guides you’ll be sure to have a great time.  When you do, check out krugerfarms.com for all the gear you need for a successful winter wolf hunt!

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).

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