Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Lake Kissimmee Bass Fishing in the Summer

The Kissimmee River runs 134 miles long and is fed from Lake Kissimmee and four other navigable lakes.  Can you name them all? (Answer at the end of this article)

In this post I share my recent bass tournament experiences on the famous Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. This information successfully earned money in one event and a top 35-finish in another. The combined events should provide anglers insight into how Florida's largemouth bass transition from one seasonal pattern to another. 

The event was held on the upper portion of the chain on Lake Tohopekaliga, managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  The weather conditions in April had bass in a post-spawn mode. Forage fish such as shiners, lake chubsuckers, shad, and sunfish were spawning. 

Hydrilla control treatments by State agencies were mostly complete. Native eelgrass and peppergrasses plants were finally relieved of the choking pressure from hydrilla and beginning to grow back. For anglers that want to understand more about aquatic plants and control measures, download the free publication "Biology and Control Of Aquatic Plants", or visit www.aquatics.org.

Even though winter winds were easing and southern winds dominated the weather forecasts, water clarity on the upper chain lakes such as Toho, Cypress, and Hatchineha remained dingy.

Dock talk was circulating that bass were feeding and easy to catch in practice on the clearer waters of Lake Kissimmee. The situation was announced that the Army Corp's navigational lock leading from Lake Toho to the lower lakes was being limited to nine boats at a time. Worries of heavy boat congestion and long wait times at the locks were the top concerns on angler's list of uncontrollable factors, including my own. 

First stop in the morning I fished an edge of a Kissimmee grassline. This mixed habitat included torpedograss and knotgrass and is great for finding post-spawn bass. 

"Kissimmee grass"
The morning started fun even though I caught numerous chain pickerel and only two small bass (14") using swimbaits.  I love catching fish and the small pike added a nice start to my day.  After moving to other grasslines, I was able to fill out a small five-bass limit by mid-day. I searched the main lake for clear water and found one area where I caught a few more bass and culled up by mere ounces. I still needed to find bigger fish.

My new mental approach of fishing without pre-conceived notions enabled me to keep an open-mind and totally change my fishing pattern. I have to admit it was unnerving to fish new water (meaning areas I had not fished before) in a tournament. It put me outside my comfort zone and made me leave the fishing pattern that had produced bass throughout the day. I was constantly battled my inner voice which kept telling me "never leave fish to find fish".  

Pushing through my mental war, I spent the last hours of my day fishing shallow water areas that appeared to be older spawning flats.  I was rewarded with catching two big bass on swimbaits, each nearly four pounds apiece! Talk about positive reinforcement! Those two bass really helped increase my 5-fish limit and gained me a final weight of 13.39 pounds.

Accepting a paycheck from ABA Tournament Director for 14th place
While the weight was not impressive, it was enough on a tough tournament day to earn me 14th-place money among a field of 73 pro anglers. More reinforcement for my new mental game plan! 

ABA Open Series weigh-in at Camp Mack's River Resort 
Two months later, the June event was held in the heat of summer on the lower section of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.  Most of the lake's bass population had moved into their summer deep water pattern. The shallows were teeming with newly born juvenile fish, and underwater plants were green and growing. Above the water, the sun was bright, air was hot, and the humidity challenged most angler's ability to focus in the summer sun. 

Before this event I was able to spend a few morning hours scouting the three lower lakes: Cypress, Hatchineha, and Kissimmee. Winds and evening rainstorms kept most of the lakes muddy. Lightening storms moved in and ran me off the lake by noon.

For this event we launched out of Camp Mack's River Resort & Fish Camp near Lake Wales on Lake Kissimmee.  Being on the lower end of the change eliminated the need to navigate the #ArmyCorp lock system. 

Launching out on tournament morning as boat 53 put me at a disadvantage for finding any fishing spots in the flowing water canals. Like in practice, overnight storms and winds continued to muddy the water.  I eventually stopped in an area that had good habitat but poor water clarity forced me to move shallower than I wanted. 

I worked the edge of bulrush to catch a quick limit of bass on worms. Both my coangler and I had small limits bass in the first hour. My first stop was a good choice and  set the tone for a fun fishing day.
Bulrush plants provided the habitat for a quick limit of bass
As the sun rose higher in the sky, I began moving around but was discouraged by even muddier water and lack of bass activity. I finally manage to entice a big bass about five pounds to hit a frog lure but lost it when the fish jumped completely out of the water and threw the bait. It would have made for some great TV footage!  In the end it hurt my feelings but fired me up to keep searching. 

Like the tournament before, I knew I had to leave my comfort zone and fish new water In order to catch bigger fish. 

After and hour of searching I finally found clearer water and started fishing this new area. My coangler Wayne earned the first bite on a swimbait and landed a three-pound bass. My first cast drew a hit but I missed the bass. My second cast with a worm picked up a 3lb bass that culled out a small fish.  The fish activity died quickly and I continued the search.  

With two hours left to fish, I picked up my flipping rod and began picking apart the plant habitat. Using a creature bait I found a few more bass resting under mats of heavy plants and debri. My biggest bass was about four pounds and really helped boost my small limit of bass up to 12.21 pounds.  
Keeping an open mind allowed me to switch fishing patterns and rewarded me with a few big fish to cull with.
Back at the weigh-in tanks anglers were talking about the good flipping bite they experienced in heavy plant mats. It always amazing me how similar bass act all across the water. 

While I solved the angler's puzzle of lure and location, it happened too late in the day. My one lost bass cost me a paycheck. Had I landed that five pound bass, I would have culled out a 13 inch bass and gained another four pounds in total weight. 

In the end, my stringer earned me 35th place out of 72 pro anglers. 
Video summary of the Kissimmee tournaments 2016
Direct link to my video summary of the pre-spawn fishing conditions on the Kissimmee chain: 

With these two tournaments over, the regular season of the ABA Open Series ended. Top ranked anglers move on to the higher level, two-day championship round.  I am happy to post that I will be among those competing in September. I remain ranked 10th place overall for the year in the American Bass Anglers Florida Central Division Open Series. 

I am really starting to settle into my new fishing approach and gaining confidence in finding bass in a short amount of time. This gives me hope that my journey to becoming a more natural and instinctive angler is moving in the right direction.  

Nice pre-spawn bass caught flipping heavy vegetation
Keep checking back as I share my work on instinctive angling!  Maybe you should give it a try as well. 
Remember to visit the angler plant identification guide presented by TVA.gov,

Answer to question: The navigable lakes that feed the Kissimmee River are West Lake Tohopekaligo, Lake Cypress, Lake Hatchineha, Tiger Lake, and Lake Kissimmee.