Florida Bass Fishing: 5 Tips for Catching Largemouth in the Sunshine State

Florida largemouth bass
Florida offers some of the best bass fishing throughout the entire country.

Florida offers some of the best bass fishing in the entire country in terms of access, success, and trophy-size fish. Though bass fishing in the Sunshine State is great year-round, winter is one of the most popular times to chase largemouth. From November to February, non-resident anglers pour into the state to escape the cold and pursue bass that are often bedding. This gives fishermen a jump start on the spawn and the chance to land a giant largemouth.

The best part about Florida bass fishing is that you don't need an expensive bass boat to catch five-plus-pound fish. Sure, you can catch big bass on historic waters like Lake Okeechobee and Lake George, but there are plenty of lunkers lurking in park ponds, canal ditches, and smaller bodies of water. You just need to come equipped with the right gear, baits, and tactics to start landing largemouth bass in the Sunshine State. Here are five Florida bass fishing tips, plus some great waters to explore.

A vintage cover of field & Stream magazine with a dog on it.
A vintage cover of field & Stream magazine with a dog on it.

Five Tips for Florida Bass Fishing

1. Watch the Weather

Anytime you’re fishing in Florida, you’ll want to keep an eye on the weather. This is partly because Florida strain bass are particularly fickle when it comes to cold. A cold front in Florida can turn a 30-bite Tuesday into a 3-bite Wednesday. A lot of the water in Florida is shallow, so just a single cold night, or especially two, can drop the water temperatures drastically and shut the bite down.

If you’re looking to schedule a day to go fishing in the winter, try to go a few days into a warming trend if you can, looking for nightly lows to stabilize in the 60s before hitting the water. During the warmer months, the weather still matters. Hurricanes are known to batter the landscape, and even isolated storms can be strong enough to shut off the fish.

High winds make for rough fishing on the flat lakes scattered throughout the state. With little terrain to block the wind, beware of big waves on the water. A little cloud cover and a nice breeze aren’t a bad thing, but the bass like it sunny in Florida. So, if it’s up to you, go when the weather is nice, and you’ll be glad you did.

2. Slow Down

Patience is a virtue, and it can pay off big when bass fishing in Florida. Soft plastic stick baits like Senkos have boated countless big bass in Florida for me over the years. Rigging a Senko on a light, ¼-ounce Texas rig and fishing it through shallow areas can be extremely effective. If this is a little too slow for your taste, rig a seedless worm like the Zoom Speed Worm with a 1/16th-ounce bullet weight at the nose. This gives you a subtle presentation for drawing in big bites from bass that might not otherwise commit to a bait.

Pitching and punching jigs are two other great ways to slow down your presentation. Flip 3/4- to 1-ounce jigs around reed clumps, and don't be afraid to punch through matted vegetation. Bass like to hunker down under thick cover. Sometimes, punching through the mats with a 1-ounce (or even heavier) weight trailed by a straight shank hook and a soft plastic creature bait is the only way to get them to bite. This is one of the few techniques that will still work during a winter cold front as well, though you’ll have to slow down even more and sometimes bob your bait up and down (or yo-yo it) a dozen times to get lethargic bass to bite.

Popular Florida Bass Fishing Waters

  • Lake Okeechobee

  • Lake George

  • Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

  • Harris Chain of Lakes

  • St Johns River

  • Lake Istokpoga

  • Stick Marsh/Farm 13

Sinnerbaits are great for targeting staging bass.
Sinnerbaits are great for targeting staging bass.

3. Fish the Shallows

Florida lakes are generally shallow compared to other fisheries around the country. Though many bass certainly find their way into deeper water during the summer, you can never go too shallow. Florida largemouth will push so shallow that their backs will come out of the water, especially during the spring bedding season. Look for shallow mats, isolated clumps of vegetation, and vast hay fields. Usually, there are bass underneath.

As the bass make their way in and out of these areas, you can also catch them staging on shell beds or in submerged vegetation like hydrilla out in front of the shallower places. Use Rat-L-Traps, chatterbaits, and spinnerbaits to target the staging bass. Weedless rigged swimbaits also work very well.

4. Use Braided Line

Braided line is typically your best friend when fishing around heavy cover. Braid can help you boat a giant, especially on shore, where monofilament and even fluorocarbon simply aren’t up to the task. The nature of Florida fishing, with big bass and an overabundance of thick vegetation, makes it hard to wrangle fish. Using 30-, 40-, 50-, 65- and even 80-pound braided line is common in Florida. Use the lighter 30-pound braid with baits like Senkos and Speed Worms. Swap to the 40 and 50 for Rat-L-Traps, chatterbaits, and spinnerbaits. Then use the 65- or 80-pound braid for your really thick cover applications, like punching, flipping a jig, or bombing a Gambler Big EZ Swimbait around a shallow flat.

Great baits for Florida Bass Fishing

  • 1-ounce black and blue jig with Rage Craw trailer

  • MISSILE Baits D-Bomb in Bruiser Flash with 4/0 straight shank hook and 1-½-ounce weight

  • ½-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait in green pumpkin with Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper trailer in Houdini

  • Gambler Big EZ Swimbait in Copperfield on 6/0 EWG Hook

  • Zoom Ultravibe Speed Worm in green pumpkin or black sapphire

  • ½-ounce gold and black Rat-LTrap

5. Put Boots on the Ground to Find Ponds

If you pull up a map of the U.S., you’ll see that the state of Florida is speckled with little blue dots throughout. There are hundreds if not thousands of ponds in Florida, some public and many private, where anglers can experience a great day fishing from shore. Many of the same baits we’ve already discussed work well in ponds, too. Launching lipless cranks, vibrating jigs, and spinnerbaits out towards the middle of these smaller fisheries can produce big bites. You can also use these baits to parallel the banks at times, depending on the cover, swapping over to the Senkos and Speed Worms if need be. Make sure to keep an eye out for gators—they love the freshwater ponds.

Final Thoughts on Florida Bass Fishing

Whether fishing from shore or from a boat, Florida is one of the premier states for catching trophy bass. The largemouth bass here are big and mean and have the advantage of heavy cover. This makes them hard to land, but if you follow these simple tips and utilize the bait selections above, you’ll find success fishing in Florida on your next trip. And since this article was free to read, I’ll even offer a money-back guarantee on that.