Last March I did just that. I traveled to Gainesville, Fla., to visit a good friend and do some fishing. Over the years, we have amassed a fair amount of inshore experience. We’ve been successful catching specks, bluefish and the occasional redfish from the shallow waters in the “Right Angle” region of the Florida’s gulf coast, but we had yet to try freshwater. This time, Kevin arranged for a guide to take us out and do a little bass fishing.
We were going “shiner fishing” on the St. John’s River near Astor, Fla. I have to admit, as an “artificials only” bass fishing purest, I was a bit apprehensive about bobber fishing with live bait for bass, but the winter of 2014 was lowering my defenses.
I am an avid bass fisherman, I have fished for bass throughout my home state and have spent countless hours chasing largemouth and smallmouth bass on my home waters of the Wisconsin River. I have caught some nice fish, too, but truth be told, I can probably count on one hand largies heavier than 6 pounds. Honestly.
That day on the St. Johns, I crushed my personal best about an hour into the trip with a solid 7-pound bucket. The record would not stand for very long. When the dust settled we had boated more a dozen fish. Highlights included: four bass bigger than 5 pounds, two over 6 pounds, three over 7 pounds, one over 8 pounds and the 10-pound, 14-ounce giant you see in the accompanying photo. I weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces at birth – I caught a bass that was bigger then me!
We had a truly exceptional day on the water, ridiculous really. At one point I lost an 8-pounder at boat side; I just broke down and laughed. Before that day, losing an 8-pound bass would have haunted my dreams for the rest of my life. On that unreal day it seemed like no big thing.
Our guide for the day, Bob Stonewater, said that more than 20 bass heavier than 10 pounds will cross his gunwale in an average year. He also reports that 10-pounders can be caught throughout the entire year in the central Florida waters that he fishes. Most of these waters are less than 60 miles from Orlando. See where I am going with this? You can do this! Take the family to see the mouse, and take a side trip and do some bass fishing.
If you do decide to do this, bring your wallet. Shiner fishing has a local reputation as a rich man’s sport, and perhaps rightfully so; our bait bill for the day was $175. Add a day’s guide fee and a nice tip and this was not an inexpensive trip. But to break my personal best largemouth five times in one day? It was the trip of a lifetime.
There are numerous bass fishing guides in the Orlando area, do a web search and take the time to check references. You can visit Bob Stonewater’s website at http://www.bobstonewater.com