Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lake Harris Chain For Two

Finally, the Harris Chain of lakes was consistently good to me! Tournament schedules in March for both the FL Bass Nation State qualifier and American Bass Angler's Ram Open ProAm series lined up on sequential weekends. 

First Event: FL Bass Nation Central Division qualifier was held on Lake Harris Hickory Point Recreational Facility in Tavares, FL. Due to family schedules I entered the event without having been in the water to practice or learn the conditions. I had to rely on pre-tournament research and past knowledge of seasonal patterns.

The time of the year told me that bass should be pre-spawn, with maybe a few early spawners. MyFWC guide also confirmed this to be a solid pattern.

After listening to the singing of the national anthem in the early dawn hour, my boat number was called and I raced to my starting area on the main lake Harris.  I began by using powerbaits on the main lake but only caught one bass for about three pounds.   I moved shallower and pitched weedless plastic baits into thick vegetation.  I caught a buck bass that showed common signs (red under fins) of a fish making a bed. This bass was my second keeper bass over 14 inches and gave me an important clue.  

Water lily in shallows of Harris Chain
I made the decision to move into a community spawning canal to look for any spawning bass.  I was fishing behind about eight other boats also looking for bedding bass. 

On my first pass I found lots of buck bass making fresh beds. An hour later on another pass down the bank I noticed three and four pound bass paired up with those buck bass.

Video of bass bed  from FWC study
This is when my skills and training from Shaw Grigsby kicked in and I filled out my limit.   

NOTE: Bed fishing in FL has repeatedly been studied and found not to impact the overall population of bass, mainly due to the long spawning season and high number of bass spawning events.  Read the latest study by myFWC here

At the end of the tournament my five-bass limit weighed 15.11 lbs and was good for third place in the Bass Nation Central Division ProAm qualifier. Not a bad start to my year.

Video summarizing my fishing pattern

Second Event: American Bass Anglers (ABA) Ram Truck Open series tournament was held at the Hickory Point  Recreation facility in Tavares, FL, same as the previous tournament.

Weather in Tavares had been consistently windy and unstable. Cold fronts and high winds rocked the area during the week and held the water temperature down.  After careful consideration, I made the decision in this tournament to fish the same pattern of targeting spawning bass. My backup pattern was to fish the prespawn areas if bass moved off the beds and back out to deeper water. 

My boat launch number of 26 meant I had the potential of fishing behind a lot more anglers in the community canals. When I arrived at my first canal I indeed had four other angers ahead of me sight fishing for bedding bass. Low light conditions in the early morning hours hampered the other angler's ability to see the beds.  Surprisingly, they missed a lot of bass and gave me a good chance for catching a nice limit. 

Elite pro Shaw Grigsby is a master at sight fishing

I owe #Bassmaster Elite pro Shaw Grigsby the credit on my success. Due to his training on how to spot bedding bass and how to quickly assess their potential for biting, I was able to overcome the crowded fishing conditions.  I even found a bass over 8lbs siting near a bed.   
View of the bed holding a bass over 8lbs. See underwater video here

I was able to spot and catch several bass in the three pound range. However, many of the bass I found were definitely pressured and very skittish. The ones I landed fell victim to my Bitter's craw bait

After leaving the community canal, I ran to another dozen canals and picked up one or two bass to cull my weight up by ounces. Like most fishing story, I lost a four pound bass that would have really helped my bag. When bed fishing on finicky bass they often pick up crawfish baits by the pinchers to move it off the bed without eating the bait.  

Unfortunately, bed fishing often results in briefly hooked, and lost bass. After several attempts at catching the big 8+ lb female I spotted earlier, I was forced to leave her as I could not get her interested in my baits. That was a bummer...

At the end of the day, I weighed 11.06 lbs in the ABA Open ProAm and finished in 18th place. Had I landed the fish I hooked, I could have finished much higher. As a competitor the potential of a higher finish made me disappointed with my overall performance in this event. 

In reality, two good events on the Harris Chain of Lakes with limits in both tournaments was an accomplishment for me! 

This chain of lakes has always challenged me in being consistent.  The other challenge was going  into those events without any practice beforehand, and I was blessed it worked out. 
Follow me at www.jeffhollandfishing.com

With the boat cleaned up and stored in my garage, I will be working on my pre-tournament research for the upcoming Bass Nation and ABA Open series tournaments on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. Again these events are lined up sequentially on back to back weekends.

The massive Lake Toho and Kissimmee waterbodies provide anglers over 53,000 acres to fish. This is an intimidating amount of water to breakdown in a single day.  

Keep following along my blog for fishing tips and details on how I catch bass in the next events on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.       Good luck catching, Jeff