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Bank Fishing Central Florida Ponds
These tactics can be applied across the country.
on Thursday 02 July 2009
by Patrick Mangold

Bank Fishing Central Florida Ponds
By Patrick Mangold - CFLcoangler

There are many anglers in Central Florida that do not own a boat or choose not load up their boat every time they want to wet a line.  With the number of ponds and lakes accessible in the area, the opportunities are immense.   Whether you fish a pond in your back yard or a body of water across town, there are a few key ingredients to creating success.  The right gear and game plan are all that you need to land tons of largemouth bass.

Gear

Keeping it simple is important when heading to the fishing hole on foot.  You can pack half your garage in your vehicle but it’s no use if you can’t effectively carry and use it when standing on the bank.  In my experience, two to three rods will do and one tackle bag.  The most important pieces of gear are the rods and reels so we’ll start there.  I say two to three because it all depends on the type of water you’re trying to dissect.  I would start with my favorite rod, the one that I’ve recommended to all my friends.  A 7’6” MH flipping stick offers a great all around bank fishing tool.  Couple this with strong baitcaster and you’ll be able to turn fish and fight them through the shoreline garbage that is found throughout the area.  If you don’t want to use a baitcaster, a solid spinning combo of the same size and action will do fine.  I caught my largest bass on a spinning rod and never questioned its ability.  I suggest a baitcaster because of the power and overall control.   If a bass is heading toward the nasty stuff you want to have a say in the outcome!  Keeping with the same power theme, I would spool up either reel with 50 pound braid.  If the water gets super clear you can always tie on a fluorocarbon leader.  The second rod that I would go with is a 7’0” medium heavy casting rod.  Go with the same reel as your flipping stick to keep things cohesive.  This combo can be a versatile addition to your arsenal.  You can throw worms, spinnerbaits, lipless cranks and many other types of bait with this selection.  The only question would be what type of line to equip it with.  I would go with either 17 pound fluorocarbon or 30 pound braid depending on the type of cover you usually encounter.  If you’re pitching more, go with the braid and if you’re making long casts choose the fluorocarbon.   The third and final rod and reel combo would be a spinning rod with a lighter action for finesse situations like throwing a stickbait, a shaky head or a whacky rig.  I would grab a 7’0 medium combo with 20 pound braid and a 10-20 pound fluorocarbon leader.  So here’s the list and applications:

  1. 7’6” MH Flipping Stick – High Speed Reel – 50lb Braid:  Flipping, Pitching, Frogs, Swimbaits
  2. 7’0” MH Casting Rod – High Speed Reel – 30lb Braid: Lipless, Worms, Spinnerbaits, etc.
  3. 7’0” Medium Spinning – 3 or 4 series reel -20lb Braid: Finesse Tactics

 

The second area of gear is the tackle bag and baits to bring with you.  I say bag because you want to be able to carry it effortlessly.  A backpack style bag works great and if you already have an old backpack from your school days you don’t have to waste money on a new one.  To start out I would take two larger Plano boxes and break them up as follows:  one for hard baits and one for soft plastics.  I would then buy a smaller hard box for terminal tackle.  Falcon FTO makes an excellent box for terminal organization and it’s worth every penny to know where everything is no matter what.  I would then load the bag with any other gear needed to make a trip to the pond a success.  This gear would include pliers, line cutters, a digital scale and digital camera.  There is nothing worse than catching a great fish and having no way to prove its size and beauty forever.

Having the right gear is very important because bank fishing can be unforgiving and ever-changing.  Knowing that your gear will work every time gives you the ability to just think about the fish and what it will take to get them on shore.  Once you’ve got the right tools it’s time to go out and dissect the water and catch fish.

Breaking Down the Water

The biggest mistake you can make is trying to do what you see on TV expecting it to be the golden rule and a guaranteed catch.  You need to look at the body of water, make a few determinations about weather, time of year and time of day and stick to the basics.  Central Florida ponds and lakes offer year-round opportunities to catch bass but every day is different.  The first thing to look at is the time of year: is it the spring with the bass being shallow on beds or is it the middle of the summer when bass tend to seek deeper water and heavier cover?  With a small pond, the distance between a spawning flat and deep water (relative) can be very close.  Often times this difference is between a pitch and a full cast from the same spot on shore.  The second thing to think about is the time of day: will you be fishing first thing in the morning, the middle of the day or just before sundown?  (Night fishing is an entirely different subject for another day.)  If it’s the middle of the summer, bass may not be feeding in the middle of the day or may move out deep just out of casting range, then there are days when it’s so cold outside that the water temp will not rise enough until the middle of the day.  You have to take this into consideration.  When looking at the body of water you have to figure out what kind of structure and cover is offered for the bass to relate to.  If there is little vegetation around the edges you might have to figure out what is below the surface.  This can be accomplished with a 1oz egg sinker and some spare time.  Simply walk around making fan casts (with purpose) and as you drag the bait back to you, you can tell if there are any drop offs, if the bottom is hard or soft and if there is anything else that you cannot see.  If you have the money, Humminbird makes a castable transducer that you can use to figure out depths and contours anywhere you can cast for around a hundred bucks.  A Carolina rig will work as well.  Other things to look at are visible points, drop offs at the bank and areas where different types of vegetation come together.  These can be signs of depth change and usually hold fish.  The last thing I look for are manmade forms of structure or cover.  Culverts, skimmers (drain boxes in retention ponds) and docks (if available) are fish attractors year round.  Once you’ve taken notes on what the lake has for structure and cover it’s time to put it all together.

Go-to Lures

In the world of bass baits I have a handful of tools that I rely on frequently when I want to catch them in my local pond.  The list is simple: a trick worm, a small flipping bait, a stickbait, a lipless crankbait and the topwater frog and/or toad.  A trick worm is very versatile; you can use it on a shaky head, texas rig, whacky rig or Carolina rig.  I use it in two colors: watermelon red (clearer water) and junebug (darker water.)  I’ve caught them in seven inches of water and as deep as twenty feet with a trick worm.  The smaller flipping bait is my everyday lure when I have no idea what the fish are doing.  I pitch or flip the bait to all available cover as I walk around the pond.  I can cover tons of water and place the bait in the smallest holes in cover.  I use a black and blue craw most of the time.  The last key to the flipping bait is pegging your sinker.  You’ll find that putting the bait in small places will be easier when the bait and weight fall through together!  The stickbait (or senko) is deadly when you texas rig it with no weight at all.  The horizontal fall can talk even the wariest bass into striking.  I know a guy that caught a fifteen pound bass on a black and blue senko in a Central Florida pond.  The senko is also great to fish on a whacky rig.  The lipless crankbait is great for fishing deeper water or when fish are feeding on baitfish in the spring and fall.  These are not as good to fish when there is tons of grass or with a bunch of grass between open water and your feet.  A jumping fish, treble hooks and grass mats do not make for success.  The last bait is the topwater frog and/or toad.  There is a difference in the two.  I use the frog when I want a weedless bait to work over matted vegetation and pad beds.  This can be a fast moving bait or a very slow presentation.  The bass will tell you what they want!  The Toad is a softplastic buzzbait that can be fished in the thick stuff and in open water when a buzzbait would normally work.  These baits are great in Florida because of how weedless they are.  Just be careful, landing fish can be harder due to the nature of topwater fishing and the way bass eat them.  I always start with a 3 second delay and adjust to a faster or slower hook set depending on the bass and the way they are eating the bait.  The topwater bite can be the most exciting and heartbreaking all at the same time. 

Helpful Tricks

Make notes of what you see when the water levels are really low.  When the water rises, you’ll know exactly what the lake is doing.

Keep a log of your fishing trips.  Include information like the date, weather, time of day, baits used and water temp/clarity so you can replicate success if you get stumped. 

Find a way to mark beds when fishing for spawning females.  Do it with something that doesn’t draw attention unless you know that you’re the only angler looking for beds.  I have used small sticks stuck in the ground about three feet from the shoreline.  This is useful when you go back to fish a bed you found earlier and the wind picks up or there is more glare than the last time.  Do what you can to make it easy!

Use a straight shank hook on your soft plastics whenever possible.  You’ll get better hook sets and you’ll land more fish!  A pegged weight and straight shank Gamakatsu Superline hook is my go-to texas rig!

Bring a friend and a camera!  Bragging rights are solidified with a great picture.   

Water temps can be important.   Carry a pool thermometer when you’re doing your homework.

Ponds that have fountains and water features seem to have healthier bass.  Aeration helps the bass and the noise makes you less detectable. 

Buy polarized sunglasses.  The day I caught a nine and a half pounder I saw the bass and my brother couldn’t see it at all.  There was a good reason why he had the camera in his hand and I was grinning from ear to ear holding the prize.  Also, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a good pair of glasses.  Strike King makes a couple glasses that are under twenty bucks.  Shaw Grigsby and Greg Hackney are just a couple top pros that use these glasses everyday to earn a living.  If they’re good enough for them, they’re good enough for me. 

Use Google Earth, Google Maps, etc. to scout out new ponds and lakes.  Look at as many maps online as you can of the same body of water.   Different companies have pictures from different times and you can get an idea of what the lake has to offer by what is revealed at low and high water times. 

Use snaps on your hard bait and topwater rod.  Being able to make changes without tying new knots can save a lot of time and make the choice to change easier on you. 

Last thoughts

Be prepared to make changes.  What worked yesterday won’t always work today or tomorrow.  Get confidence in a rod and reel combo and make it second nature to flip, pitch and cast with it.  Gain even more confidence in a set of lures that you are familiar with.  Fancy and technical doesn’t always mean effective!

 I also try to tell everyone to just go out and fish for the thrill of catching fish and share it with everyone you know. 

Lastly, always treat the bass with respect and remember:  take care of the bass and they’ll take you away from the longest week at work or school on the first bite!

 

Patrick Mangold
CFLcoangler
Secret Lures Pro Staff
Reel Knights Fishing Club



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