Winter trip to Florida yields bass, good times, smoked meat

Orlando, Fla., area fisherman Dan Fay (r) helped Wisconsinite Hunter Durbin reach his personal best day on largemouths with his 17th fish. (Photo by Dan Durbin)

We like to head down to Florida once a year to either visit my dad and step-mom, Winnie, or simply as a spring vacation on our own. Baseball put a screeching halt to that because my boys had too many games that overalapped spring vacation.

The answer? Don’t go to Florida over spring break. Instead, we went a few weeks ago and rented a large home with my in-laws, Ken and Suzie Biwer, along with my wife’s sister’s family, Dana and Glenn Lazich, and their kids, Grayson, Autumn, and Macie.

We made sure that the Orlando home we rented had a lake with some fish in it. There were, with a few nice bass being caught each day. Still, we were in Florida, and I wanted more. I took to Facebook and started private messaging some local bass clubs to see if any of their members would be willing to take a Yankee and his son out for a few hours on the water.

It didn’t take but a day or two and I got a response from Dan Fay, a local tournament angler in that area who not only turned out to be a great bass angler, but an even better guy.

“Do you guys want to go after a few giant fish?” he asked. “Or do you want to fish a lake that is full of 2- to 4-pounders with a chance at one up to 8 pounds.”

As much as the glory of a 10-pounder was tempting, I was fishing with my 16-year son, Hunter, and I knew he would want action, not just a shot at a big one.

“I have access to a couple-hundred-acre lake in Orlando,” Fay said. “It’s tough to get on, but there’s a woman that lets me launch. It’s really good.”

It may have been about Hunter’s third cast when a 3-pounder sucked in his plastic worm. I stuck with topwater even though I suspected plastics would be the better deal while Dan switched off between plastics and topwaters. Fay let Hunter have first crack and many of the prime spots, even though young Durbin was doing pretty well from the back of the boat, too.

“How many is that now, Hunter?” Fay asked.

“That’s 12 bass so far,” Hunter said.

Fay then asked Hunter what his personal best was in a day and he said 15 largemouths on Okauchee Lake.

“Well, I guess we have to stay out until you at least get 16,” Fay said.

We worked a variety of areas from shoreline docks, to deep weedlines and pockets, to some flats. We caught fish everywhere.

“What makes this lake special is the amount of quality 3- to 4-pounders,” Fay said.  “I mean, they are just all built really well. Some people tell me there are 10-pounders out here, but I’ve never caught one heavier than 6 pounds. It sure is a lot of fun, though.”

Hunter ended up with 17 bass, and they were all pretty good ones. Fay wouldn’t take any cash for his time, but did allow me to buy him some dang good BBQ ribs at one of his favorite local spots.

Good times, good friends, and good smoked protein.

That’s the trifecta for a vacation, in my opinion.

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