Harris Chain bass must continue their annual spawn on a limited number of calm, hard bottom areas. Any angler who has put time on the water during the spawn has found the few hard bottom areas in canals, and these areas get tremendous fishing pressure. Bass are resilient, and they spawn on the rhizomes of spadderdock pads that dominate the shoreline of several lakes. This is what the good anglers focus on.
February in 2011 brought two full moons; the first moon brought freezing temperatures and the second brought warm spawning temperatures.
On February 12th following the colder moon, I fished an American Bass Anglers (ABA) one-day tournament. I was greeted to 41-degree air temperatures in the morning and 60s by weigh-in time. Water temperature ranged 54-58 degrees in the main lake and canals were colder (51F). Clean beds lacked any sign of male bass and conditions told me that my group of fish had ceased their spawning attempts. No bass fry were visible so I knew the bass had yet to spawn in this canal segment of Lake Eustis.
During this ABA tournament, I resorted to using lipless crankbaits over three feet deep bladderwort grass in the main channel to catch my fish. As slow, steady retrieve caught bass in the 3 to 4 pound range with several missed strikes as I lifted the chrome bait out of the water. I believe these were the female bass staging to spawn, as they were located immediately next to the clear-water spawning canals in Lake Eustis. It took 16 pounds to win the tournament and I placed in the top-ten with close to 10 pounds. On the same day, a friend of mine won the Fisher’s of Men tournament with a similar winning weight throwing lipless crankbaits in 6 feet deep hydrilla. Ironic how we both found the same pattern, under the same cold-front conditions, working totally different lakes with dissimilar water clarities.
A week later on February 18th the full moon had shown and spawning conditions in Little Lake Harris ripened. Confirmed reports of 20 to 30 pound bags came from canals and lily pad fields in the little lake. Main lake temperatures reached 70 degrees and canals rose to mid 60s.
On February 25th I practiced for the Bassmaster Weekend Series (BWS) tournament following the warm full moon and found sparse signs of bass spawning activity. A buck here, a cruising four-pound female there, and clean beds. Water was 71-74 degrees, and I could not find bass fry to indicate that the bass had successfully spawned. Fishing during practice was tough, with only three bites coming from pitching a sinko to spadderdock pad clumps in the stained water located at the mouth of spawning canals in Lake Harris and Little Lake Harris.
The BWS tournament was won with only 19 pounds, and many of the heavy-sticks who brought in 30-pound stringers the week before could only manage 15 to 19 pounds. Co-anglers in the tournament caught good bass throwing lipless crankbaits from the back of the boat and most boaters targeted spawning bass using pitching techniques. I found a fresh group of bass had moved up to spawn in the canals of Haines Creek and Lake Griffin. I finally observed bass fry and the guarding bucks easily hit soft jerkbaits. Many of the four to six pound females were still in the act of spawning, and failed to get them interested in my baits. I left the Harris Chain with water temperatures in the mid 70s, and bass starting to spawn on the main lakes. I learned just how quickly the Harris Chain bass move up to spawn and back out to fatten up on young gizzard shad.