Angler Hot Spots Information

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One of the Kissimmee Islands – June 5, 2024

Hot Spot Characteristics:  This area has Kissimmee grass and spatterdock lily pads and bulrush patches.  The outside edge has a greater than average incline leading to it, which always holds fish somewhere from the open water deeper section and the shoreline which I have marked on the bathymetric map below.

Lake Kissimmee has a 3.5’ high-low water management schedule (52.5’ to 49’) which is currently at 49 feet above sea level. Therefore, I seldom catch bass back inside the vegetation in the shallows this time of year but instead find success along the outside edge and back inside the openings and around all bulrush patches and spatterdock lily pads.  

Hot Spot Angling Tactics: I like to open water cast, crankbaits, spinnerbaits or drag a Carolina Rig, starting at about fifty yards from the shoreline vegetation. I find bass on the incline leading to the shoreline. I pitch flukes, big senkos, and jigs. Usually black and blue, dark sold green, green pumpkin, and junebug colors. Jigs work good in the pads, everything else I throw into the bulrush, and pads and Kissimmee grass.  

Whenever I fish Kissimmee grass, I always make sure my trolling motor blade is new or sharp. Getting to a quality sized bass in Kissimmee grass is always a challenge.

The deepest hole in the lake is 600 yards south of this hot spot. There is a steeper than average elevation change leading to this area. Fish come to this area somewhere in between 250 yards south and 150 yards north of the hot spot marker on the map below. But mostly right at the marker is where I’ve caught half of my bass. You’ll see the lines on the map which designate the migration area or grounds bass use to travel back and forth. If the pressure is dropping or has been dropping by the time you get there expect fish to be moving out toward the deeper hole.

I have placed float markers at the deepest section where the incline begins. You should go out there and study your sonar graph along the way. The submerged grasses change throughout the year at this location, and you should discover where the fish use the lake bottom in this area to travel. Hint, it’s not in a straight line.

I also use the same rods and reel rigs as I use on clear water lakes such as Crooked Lake. Fifteen to seventeen pound fluorocarbon line on a casting fast tip rod with the drag set light, with just enough drag to set the hook, which I sharpen beforehand. Otherwise in the vegetation I always use sixty-five pound yellow braided line. I also use brighter colors in green, blue, silver, gold, red, orange and rust than I use in Okeechobee, Istokpoga, Hatchineha and other shallow muck lakes.  

Hot Spot Coordinates: Southwest Bird Island Shoreline - 27° 54’ 15” N by 81° 15’ 20 W is the open water area just outside the vegetation where I set the boat down. I begin fishing this area and work my way into the visible vegetation. Again, as I always do when fishing lakes with more than twelve foot depths, I use float markers so that I can get a visual determination on where to cast. The objective is to cast uphill and retrieve the bait downhill into the sight of the fish facing uphill.

My Fishing Effort History: My biggest bass at this hot spot was seven pounds. The norm for me has been in the three to five pound range. There were many days where I would catch six or seven one to two pounders. However, when atmospheric pressure change was 0.20 in hg or more upward, the larger bass would be present. Three to five pounders were the norm.

My best day at this hot spot occurred in April, one day after the new moon. Four one to two pounders began the effort followed by two in the four pound range thirty minutes later. Over the following hour, I pitched Kissimmee grass combined with pads and boated a seven pounder.  On the way back towards the outside edge a heavy four pounder took a gold bladed green spinnerbait I worked in the opening in the grass.  

I have fished this location a total of thirty eight times since 2007 and came up empty six times. I noted all six times that there was heavy angling pressure present before and while I was there. This is a well known hole and heavily fished. And my best results always came during the overhead or underfoot periods on days close or on the new or full moons.

Other Notes and Information: If I was going to credit one strategy as being ‘The One’ tactic which was most important, it would certainly be fishing hard during the new and full moon phases and during the overhead and underfoot periods respectively. I have experienced good results and caught trophy bass during a first and last quarter moon phase during the early morning hours. My record comments for this location definitely prove this point.

If you would like an “On Your Boat Bass Fishing Guided Lesson” please contact me and I’ll design a customized bass fishing experience for you on most major lakes in central Florida. 8633818474

Lake Kissimmee East Shoreline Hot Spot – May 22, 2024

Hot Spot Characteristics: This area of course has Kissimmee grass, milfoil, occasionally Hydrilla if weed management hasn’t sprayed it recently, and spatterdock lily pads and bulrush patches with eel grass in the shallows.  The outside edge has a greater than average incline leading to it, which always holds fish somewhere from the open water deeper section and the shoreline.

Lake Kissimmee has a 3.5’ high-low water management schedule (52.5’ to 49’) which will be at 49’ by June 1. Therefore, I seldom catch bass back inside the vegetation in the shallows but instead find success along the outside edge and back inside the opening and within the airboat trail and all bulrush patches and pad fields.  

Hot Spot Angling Tactics: I like to open water cast, crankbaits, spinnerbaits or drag a Carolina Rig, starting at about fifty yards from the shoreline vegetation. Many days I found bass on the incline leading to the shoreline. I pitch flukes, big senkos, and jigs. Usually black and blue, dark sold green, green pumpkin, and junebug colors. Jigs work good in the pads, everything else I throw into the bulrush, and eel grass and Kissimmee grass.  

Whenever I fish Kissimmee grass, I always make sure my trolling motor blade is new or sharp. Getting to a quality sized bass in Kissimmee grass is always a challenge.

The deepest hole in the lake is 400 yards west of this hot spot. There is a steeper than average elevation change leading to this area. Fish come to this area somewhere in between 100 yards south and north of the hot spot marker on the map below. But mostly right at the marker is where I’ve caught half of my bass. You’ll see the lines on the map which designate the migration area or grounds bass use to travel back and forth. If the pressure is dropping or has been dropping by the time you get there expect fish to be moving out toward the deeper hole.

I have placed float markers at the deepest section where the incline begins. You should go out there and study your sonar graph along the way. The submerged grasses change throughout the year at this location, and you should discover where the fish use the lake bottom in this area to travel. Hint, it’s not in a straight line.

Hot Spot Coordinates:  Middle East Shore - 27° 53’ 16” N by 81° 13’ 035” W - (East of Deepest Area)

My Fishing Effort History:  I have fished this hot spot a total of 63 times since 2006. It was the very first fishing areas I fished on my first time on the lake. Before I traveled to the lake, I consulted a bathymetric map and determined that this should be ‘the place’ which always holds bass. It was April and the water was flowing so I knew fish were following the flow and would ultimately be in the deepest hole in the lake and moving southward with the flow.

I used one bait that day. A 7” Yum Dinger in black and blue, with a ¼ oz, Gambler Florida Rig Rattling bullet weight in black and a 5/0 heavy gauge offset worm hook on Stren 65 lb. yellow braided line. Back in those days I had not perfected the “Silent Bait Entry” pitch technique, so my pitching distance was about a rod’s distance away from the target entry point—entry splash was minimal which is important if you’re hoping to attract the biggest bass in the lake—if it isn’t natural, she won’t investigate the new visitor.

I caught two bass in the two-pound range in the first thirty minutes along the outside edge. I moved in through an opening in the Kissimmee grass and began to pitch my senko along the edge of a bulrush patch. After twenty minutes of effort, I boated a five pounder. I moved a little further south to another bulrush patch and boated two four pounders. Then I returned to the first patch again, and within five minutes boated a seven and a half pounder. Then I moved north to fish a smaller bulrush area with spatterdock pad and caught a three pounder in the pads. Move to the back side of the vegetation area and caught a two pounder. Then the bite shutdown, which I concluded due to no action at all at the three locations, nor the outside edge over a ninety-minute period.

Other Notes and Information:  After I left this hot spot area, I went west in order to head in the direction of Camp Mack on the Kissimmee River. I stopped at another location which I’ll feature in my next Hot Spots Info article. And I caught one bass in two hours of labor. She was almost eight pounds, was barely hooked and tore a large hole in the corner of her mouth and came out of the center of a bulrush patch. I pitched into an opening within the patch and let the big worm lay there for over a minute. I felt a ‘tick’ in my reel thumb and set the hook. She battled hard and I had to use the trolling motor to get the boat far enough into the reeds to grab her just in time. Another hard pull and she would surely break free.

The weather factors for this day was rising pressure, 0.15 In Hg, over a four-hour period. It was a pre-front day. Water temperature was 72 degrees with about sixteen inches of clarity. Wind were out of the south southwest at ten to twelve mph. And it was one day after the lunar perigee and one day before the new moon and it was on the best fishing day of any week of the year, Wednesday, when fishing pressure is almost always the lowest.

I was new at Florida bass angling when this incredible day occurred. I was alone, and I did not take pictures---didn’t even dawn on me to take pictures. I remember thinking, “I’m only going to take a picture of a bass if it’s in the double-digit range.” When I told people about my first trip on Kissimmee, no one believed me because I didn’t have pictures.

I have taken a few dozen customers to this hot spot over the years. Nine times it produce nothing on a day when it should have. Don’t know the reason why except I have noted that in 2016 weed management had been there the week prior.  My biggest bass at this hole was caught by a customer and weighted 10 lbs. 10 oz. (I didn’t take length and girth measurement that day but used a digital scale instead.  

Note – I recently buried my best friend, who was my proofreader. So, if there are errors I apologize.  It’s been a very tough three weeks and I still have a lot of work remaining.

If you would like an “On Your Boat Bass Fishing Guided Lesson” please contact me and I’ll design a customized bass fishing experience for you on most major lakes in central Florida. 8633818474

Lake Istokpoga West Side Hot Spot – April 24, 2024

Hot Spot Characteristics:  This area has a seasonal maximum – minimum depth of 50” – 30” at the outside edge of the visible vegetation. There are bulrush, cattails, spatterdock lilypads, eel grass, and arrowheads.  And over the years this particular area did not have a great deal of weed management thus it was consistent. And during the ‘hydrilla years’ there was a large patch in the open water area in front of this hot spot for several years. This resulted in fish remaining in the hydrilla and not so much in the other visible vegetation closers to the shoreline. I did know how to fish hydrilla, understood the techniques and strategies to produce well and in those years I did equally as well as the years since the weed died out due to high turbidity, which prohibits the weed from growing today.

I am willing to bet that all the state and federal weed management agencies which planned hydrilla management for Istokpoga knew full well that if they kept consistent annual large scale herbicide treatments going, eventually there would be enough increase in turbidity, caused by decomposition of dead vegetation, to prohibit enough sunlight to penetrate Istokpoga’s water column to enable the rapid invasive plant to take root and thrive. Today if the plant attempts to grow from a tuber in the lake substrate, it rots within a month due to inadequate sunlight. Perhaps I’m giving the FWC scientists too much credit. Na, they knew…….and they were instructed to shut up and act dumb.

Ok, back to the subject at hand.  You’re sitting in your boat at the coordinates that I’ll be providing behind the paywall, and you’re looking at the sonar to note the lake bottom characteristics.

There is a definitive breakline leading to this location which fish migrate to and from deeper water. It is protected from a north wind and is perfect for an easterly to southerly wind, which is when I fished it a majority of the time and occasionally during a west and north wind when I wanted to get out of the wind. But since I mainly fish the windy sides of lakes as a first rule, it wasn’t often that I fished it without wind.

As is the case for the overwhelming majority of the fishing holes on this lake, it benefits when the spillway is open, and water is flowing.  I work the outside and inside areas of this hot spot and move northward to the cattails of the south end of the Henderson Point sandbar. And I also work southward around the bulrush patch about 50 yards. Bass of all sizes frequent this location, and it always has fish on it.

However, it does get regular fishing pressure both on the outside and inside.

Hot Spot Angling Tactics: I use the same strategy I do on all shallow type lakes in Florida. I pitch the big senko worm everywhere using various retrieve methods depending which vegetation requires to present the bait naturally. And I place big jigs on every cattail base and every spatterdock base. Will also use the jig instead of the senko worm if the worm failed to produce.

I go to the submerged grasses behind the visible vegetation and use long casts with a top water rage frog or any bait which emits heavy vibration at very slow speeds. I usually spend about 90 minutes here but there have been days where I spend half a day due to the constant action when atmospheric pressure changes more than 0.10 in hg up or down.

When I approach this hole, I set the boat down about 70-100 yards out on the 27 22’50” parallel and fancast spinnerbaits on the upper north side of the 20-26” breakline and to the lower south side of the breakline. Fish move along the breakline constantly and I’ve done well many times before I got to the visible vegetation.

Hot Spot Coordinates:  Istokpoga 27° 22’ 50” N by 81° 19’ W – North End of West Wall – Southeast End of Henderson’s Point.

My Fishing Effort History: My best day at this hot spot location consisted of nine bass between 1-6 lbs. with two 5-6 lbers, four 4 lbers, and three between 1-2 lbs. They were in bulrush, spatterdock, and cattails. And when it seemed the bite was over because there was no action for about a half hour, I checked the various scattered cattail clusters, making sure to produce zero disturbance when the jig was placed right on the main stock of the cattail so that it made contacts with the plant all the way to the root base.

On the third cluster checked, I felt the telltale signature of a trophy bass; a slight “tick” feeling in the reel thumb. I set the hook, and she took line straight toward the breakline, which I had previously marked with a few orange floats when I was fan-casting the open water area leading to the vegetation when I first arrived. I allowed her to take line while putting slight pressure on the spool with my thumb---love feeling the strength of the big bass. It took about twenty seconds for her to begin to slow down so I engaged the spool, turned the boat, and went towards her, reeling in the slack line as I went.

She had no fight left in her as I drifted up near where the line went under the surface. I used the rod and brought her up enough to see her---about a foot under the surface. She went back down, and I allowed her to do so but still required that she use muscle to accomplish her effort. Then I put my net into the water next to the boat, holding it vertically submerged just below the surface. I then pulled her up using the rod and she swam directly into the black hole of the net. I turned the net 90-degrees pulled upward and put her in the boat.

She measured 26.5” by 23.75” and was without injuries and looked beautiful. She was not spawning, and looked to have had some success in previous feeding activity. And her girth measurement remained at 23.75” for five inches of her length.  Her weight was 12 lbs 12 oz. One very fat Istokpoga trophy bass.

After I released her safely back into the water, she immediately swam downward and out of sight in five feet of depth. I decided to check the rest of the cattails which were about 100 feet to the south and closer to the main bulrush patch and after fifteen minutes or so I hooked a 23” hard fighting bass which had a 19.5” girth with a weight of 7 lb. 10 oz.

I have fished this hole 93 times from 8/2005 – 5/2021 and haven’t fished it since, but it’s due to the fact that every time I’ve tried to fish it there were anglers already fishing it. It is a very popular fishing hot spot for experienced Istokpoga anglers.

This location has a 65% success rate, meaning I catch bass two out of three attempts to fish that area. Besides the two afore-mentioned big bass, I’ve caught 2-10 lbers, 2- 9 lbers, 12 in the 7- 8 lb. range, 18 in the 5-6lb. range and 29 in the 4-5 lb. range and 35 in the 2-4 lb. range, and 24 in the 2 lb. and under range == 124 bass in 60 successful efforts of one bass or more out of a total of 93 total attempts with 33 zeros over 16 years.

Oh, and I lost 13 bass of which eight were estimated conservatively to be between 4-8 lbs. – three were definitely 7 -8 lbs. and perhaps a little larger according to my notes. And there were nine occasions where gar, pickerel or bowfins caused me to abandon my effort which I guessed that it meant bass had already stopped feeding, thus I was too late or perhaps too early by several hours.

Other Notes and Information:

For all you L x G x G / (number between 800 to 1200) proponent bass anglers, (who measure instead of tormenting the bass by hanging the fish by a hook or vise-grip), the divider for this length to girth difference, 2.75” needs to be 1165 to match the weight on a digital scale calibrated using true 10 lb. 15 lb. and 20 lb. weights, so I know the weight is true. 26.5 x 23.75 x 23.75 / 1165 = 12.83 or 12 lbs. 12 oz. And the second larger bass of the day had a 3.5” difference in length and girth which requires a 1140 divider.

For instance, George Perry’s bass and Manabu Kurita’s bass, both with the same certified weight of 22.27 lbs., and share the ‘world record bass title’. And both have published the length and girth measurements of their bass. Perry’s bass was 32.5” by 28.5” (difference of 4 inches) and Kurita’s bass was 27.20” by 26.77” (difference of 0.43 inches). So, Perry’s bass had a longer thick body and Kurita’s bass had a ‘football’ type body.

I have done the math formulas of ‘length times girth-squared, divided by a divider in the 800 to 1200 range (L x G x G / 800 or 1200) on all the giant bass caught and recorded in bass fishing history, to determine whether or not these formulas are accurate, using this 400-point divider range. And I have discovered that there needs to be an adjustment to the divider to arrive at the accurate weight, which is dictated by the L to G difference.

There isn’t enough room in this article to list all that data so I will simply give you the adjusted formulas of the two current record holder’s Florida largemouth bass. Perry’s bass requires an adjusted formula of L x G x G / 1185 to arrive at 22.27 lbs. And Kurita’s bass requires a formula of L x G x G / 875 to arrive at that same weight.

This is the ‘length to girth difference general rule’: When a bass girth measures the same as the length the divider 860 should be used and with a bass with a 5-inch difference in length and girth, the 1200 divider should be used; I’ve only used and found this to be accurate on bass over 10 lbs.  

If you would like an “On Your Boat Bass Fishing Guided Lesson” please contact me and I’ll design a customized bass fishing experience for you on most major lakes in central Florida. 8633818474

Istokpoga Long Island Area Hot Spot 8 – March 31, 2024

Hot Spot Characteristics:  This hot spot area has every type of vegetation the lake has to offer. Bulrush (pencil reeds or buggy whips), cattails, pickerel weed (arrowheads), and spatterdock lilypads, and submerged vegetation types, eel grass, pepper grass, Kissimmee grass, milfoil, gator grass, and shrimp grass, and occasionally new hydrilla growth which dies-out before maturity due to the Istokpoga High Turbidity conditions which has virtually prohibited the species from the lake over the past decade.

All types of bait fish, insects, and creatures thrive in this location. The bass population thrives here as a result. This is the type of bass fishing hole that an angler could stay in all day and not learn everything this location has to offer. It’s a 200-yard lot which offers open-water to thick cover and everything in between. A single cattail twenty feet from any other type of vegetation has yielded a single bass several times over the years. If you don’t pitch, flip, cast, to every single piece of vegetation you probably missed a bass holding to a root base.   

 There are two distinct break-lines which bring fish into the shallow feeding area and depending on weather conditions, hold fish at the deeper beginnings of the break-lines as well as all along the lengths of the lake bottom change break-lines due to submerged grasses providing ideal protection.

The deepest hole is about 100 yds away and has an annual high-low depth of 8’-6’. When the S68 Spillway is open over several days there is substantial flow through the entire area. You can anchor the boat to flip and pitch visible vegetation and turn around and long cast out to eight-foot depths and retrieve through several type of submerged grasses. The health of these grass types changes throughout the year; dieback in the late fall and winter and expanding grown in the spring and summer.  

Hot Spot Angling Tactics: I use three open water set-ups and two thick cover set-ups when fishing this location. (I always have these and a few more rod set-ups in the rod locker). The three open water rods all have 17 lb. test fluorocarbon line with reel drag set just tight enough to set a hook. One has a custom Carolina rigging, one is for long casting plastics on a heavy gauge 7/0 offset worm hook with a Gambler rattling Florida rig 3/8 oz. black bullet weight, and one is for ¾-1 oz. spinnerbaits.

Then for up close, as in flipping vegetation within a rod’s distance, and pitching anywhere from a rod’s distance to 100 feet away, I use 65 lb. yellow braided lines with 3/8 oz Gambler rattling Florida rig black bullet weights pegged in front of a heavy gauge 5/0 offset worm hook used for plastics and one set up with a ¾ - 1 oz Medlock Double Brush Guard Jig with all forms of big trailers of various colors depending on the season. And no matter which baits I throw; they always have noise capability.

And again, I’ll state what I’ve said in previous article, I always approach a fishing hot spot hole by pitching or casting all of but the Carolina rod set-up, as far as I can but still accomplish a silent bait entry presentation which causes no splash to speak of. A silent bait entry or a non-splash presentation attracts the big bass to investigate the intrusion of something into their area.

It should be noted that I set the boat down 100 yards out and away from the hot spot and use the trolling motor to arrive at the long casting long pitching location. After I have worked 360 degrees around the boat, know the vegetation status of the entire area I’ll drop a orange float at that spot and depending on the results from that first check effort, I’ll move if required.

I never have a definite step by step strategy preplanned at any hole which has submerged vegetation leading up to the above-water vegetation areas. There have been times at this hole where I didn’t fish the above water vegetation due to consistent catches of quality bass 50 yards from bulrush, cattails, and arrowheads.

But more often than not, success came by pitching 50 feet to five-foot pitches to the main stocks which lead to the largest root base of the plant cluster. And as always is the case in all shallow heavy vegetation lakes with rich food-chains, there’s always bass in the various vegetation, but it depends on the season as to which type they prefer to use.

Case in point. During the winter season big bass prefer cattails if they are present, and especially if there are many cattails because there usually is a sandy bottom which is good for the spawning effort and crawdads live at the base of this vegetation type; they burrow into the sand at the root base. And because of this fact, bass always have their mouth-nose to the root base, which is why your crawdad type fake bait needs to slide, and bump down the main stalk to the root base and again the bait must be placed into the water with producing a splash or any unnatural disturbance.  

Also, if you are very accurate at casting and or pitching spinnerbaits to target locations, you can fish this area without causing any disturbances which are unnatural to the environment. But if you’re the type of angler who doesn’t enjoy his bait being dragged slowly through vegetation, one foot every five to ten seconds, perhaps you should opt to not use a open hook bait.

Food for thought: I use 1 oz. rattle traps with heavy gauge 3/0 straight shank hooks instead of the stock treble hooks which come on the bait. The idea is to drag this altered customized rattle trap through the weeds so slow that the hooks don’t become embedded into the stems and stalks of the weed. The idea is to make the bait appear to the bass as if it is trying to ‘not be noticed’ so as to not be eaten.

In other words, fish your bait in such a way it appears that you don’t want the bass to find it. By accomplishing this the largest bass in the area will be the only one who finds it.

Hot Spot Coordinates:  27° 19’ 40-50” N by 81° 17’ 50-55” W – Long Island East Side Middle Lower to North-South Area – 100 yds. north & 50 yds south, inside, and out into open water.

My Fishing Effort History: My personal best at this location was not near as impressive as when I guided a customer at this hot spot. My best, which also happens to be the normal average result at this hole, was eight bass comprised of three 2 lbers, two 4-5 lbers, and two 6 lbers, and one 8 lb. bass caught two days before the new moon in the month of May over a four-hour period with four passes through the entire area. The big bass came on the fourth pass. And the barometer was rising 0.18 in hg during that period, which is rate in the month of May.

The best performance at this location was achieved by an experienced bass angler who only fishes with big jigs. He came with three rods with big jigs and big chunk trailers all in black and blue. I fished with a 7” black and blue Yum Dinger with my hook bent over to retain the worm and to prohibit damaging bass and to use my bait to expose the presence of large bass in order to direct my customer to where the bass are.

My guiding technique worked on two of the five bass my customer boated that day. His first bass was a 6 lber who provided four strong battles and came out a bulrush-arrowhead combination area. His second 6 lber came from the outside of bulrush and like the first one fought like hell. His third bass was a heavy 7 lber, just a few ounces under 8 lbs. She came from five feet inside the bulrush. The fourth and fifth bass were both in the mid-8 lb. range and again came from inside open holes within the thicker bulrush. And the three bigger bass were each caught about twenty minutes apart, on separate passes but all from the same bulrush patch.

The reason I believe this occurred is because we put the first two 24” bass in the livewell for pictures later at the end of the charter and when we caught a third bass over 24” we took pictures with the customer holding all three 8 lbers. By removing the larger bass in the livewell and not immediately releasing her, it maintained a natural status in that area, which enables other large bass to use the bulrush patch as they normally naturally would. If we released the injured bass, it might have caused other bass to leave the area.

I have tested this theory many times and have seen it proven true too many times to not keep doing it. It’s legal to for each licensed angler to keep one bass over 24” so I do just that for the sake of once in a lifetime pictures, then release them back into the wild.  

Other Notes and Information: The weather conditions for this day were ideal. There was a southeastern 12 mph wind blowing into this area producing foot and a half wave-action. A fifty-fifty sun-to-cloud ratio caused fish to move back and forth to and from cover. There was no action from 7-10:30 a.m. nothing! Then at 10:30 a.m. pressure began a rapid rise and the wind picked up to 12 mph.

The new moon was three hours away from being completely overhead and it was during this three-hour period that all five bass were boated. And by using a bent hook Yum Dinger to hunt for the presence of big bass the biggest bass of the day were discover and the customer was able to put his big jig into the area which moved in an unnatural manner which big bass do when they turn in response to the Yum Dinger moving through the area.

All five bass were wound-free, and looked healthy and provided strong prolonged battles. All were released and immediate swam down into the deeper section of eight feet. It was an exceptional day on Istokpoga water.

If you would like an “On Your Boat Bass Fishing Guided Lesson” please contact me and I’ll design a customized bass fishing experience for you on most major lakes in central Florida. 8633818474

Istokpoga Bumblebee Island Area Hot Spot 7 - March 24, 2024

Hot Spot Characteristics:  This location holds fish all year but as is the case with many of the best fishing areas of this lake, its population increases when water is flowing from April through the rainy season. A deeper hole to the north and a river or creek bed provides a southward flow past this Bumblebee Island marsh area.

The prominent visible vegetation is mostly bulrush with occasional cattails, spatterdock lilypads and pickerel weed (arrowheads) patches. And along the open water outside areas there are submerged grasses comprised of Kissimmee grass, eel grass, milfoil, and shrimp grass.

Hydrilla has not grown here due to high turbidity rates which prohibit the necessary sunlight levels required for this plant species to grow. This is typical for any area of the lake which is open to north winds.

The depths of the outer edge of the main vegetation has a seasonal high-low level of four to six feet. There are openings going back inside or in back of the bulrush outside areas which have depths of two to four feet. Submerged grasses and a variety of visible vegetation are abundant. I’ve seen anglers fish these inside areas with occasional success. I have fished inside many times, in all four seasons and in all conditions, and the reward was not worth the time and effort compared to the success rate on the outside edges.

Hot Spot Angling Tactics: As is the case with all bulrush fishing, I set the boat down fifty yards from the starting point, which is determined by wind direction---I always fish into the wind so that my baits approach the mouth of the bass. I begin by pitching baits to the outside edges of the bulrush from one hundred feet away---as I have stated in other articles, which is not an exaggeration.

I use a underarm or sidearm pitch or cast to project the bait at a very high speed across the top of the water, approximately one to two feet above the surface, and slam on the brakes using my reel thumb on the spool to enable the bait to drop about one to three inches into the water, producing a minor disturbance which appears natural to the bass—silent bait entry produces no splash.

Big Bass get big and remain healthy because they only investigate potential food sources which appear natural. A big splash is about as unnatural as it gets in the ‘rich food-chain Florida lakes’. Now a big splash due to being unnatural will produce curious investigation by fish in a lake with a very poor food-chain, and because food is not plentiful, many fish will compete for the prize of an unnatural offering.

Not so in Istokpoga, Toho West or East, Kissimmee chain of lakes, Okeechobee, or any similar lake with a very healthy vegetation environment --- 5lb. bass = 19-20” length, 6 lb. bass = 21-22” and 8 lb. bass = 23-24” lengths. In lakes like Lake June or Jackson, subtract one and a half to two pounds from those inch measurements.

By checking the outside edges from one hundred to fifty feet away I am able to determine if fish are arriving or leaving the area---depends on which way the barometer is moving when I’m fishing the location. I’ll swim my bait back to the boat using a retrieve technique which mimics the live member of the food-chain which the artificial bait is designed to mimic. So, for instance when using the Yum Dinger 7” black and blue laminate senko worm, I present it as if it is a needle fish, which moves from root base to root base or from structure to structure cautiously so as to not be noticed or seen.

When I’ve finished investigating the open water area outside of my starting place and move to with ten to twelve feet of the vegetation, I begin to pitch my bait to the outside part of the bulrush or vegetation first, then further inside about two feet, then another two feet inside on the next pitch, etc. I always pitch my bait into the inside darker pockets where big bass wait to ambush their smaller feeding prey.

I keep my rod tip down and tow the bait out and back to the boat. This allows me to have the rod in the hookset ready position at all times. If you’re having difficulty envisioning this technique, give me a call and schedule a four-hour lesson on your boat. I promise you’ll greatly benefit from the experience.

The baits I use are big senko worms, big jigs and trailers, creature baits, big gold-bladed spinnerbaits, and various top-water baits depending on the type of vegetation.  And always, since I mainly fish dark turbid low visibility water, the darker the better. And the more vibration and noise, the better.    

Hot Spot Coordinates:  Istokpoga 27°20’ 59” N by 81° 17’ 33” W – Bumble Bee Island Beginning of Long Is. Cut, North Entrance 100 yards north and south.

My Fishing Effort History:  I have fished this location mainly when water is flowing and when the lake is at 39’ or higher. Annually that amounts about fifty to sixty times a year.  My biggest bass from this location is 9 lbs. 8 oz. caught on a Medlock Double Brush Guard Jig Black and Blue with a Fat Ika Blue trailer. She came at the beginning of the effort which is very rare---big girls usually come near the end of the effort, however this day I fished this hole near the end of the day’s feeding period.

Twenty minutes after boating the 9 lber I boated a 6 lber which provided six battles before tiring out. She was barely hooked when she chose to swim into my submerged vertical black net. Ten minutes after releasing her, I boated a 23” which I did not get a chance to weigh because she escaped my grasp after I measured her length and flipped over the side of the boat and into the water. She was healthy, and displayed the Istokpoga Girth so I’m guessing she weights in the low 7 lb. range. She also battled hard and waged five battles on the way to my black net. Her sixth battle effort robbed me of finishing my data collecting effort.

On my second pass of the outside edge, I boated two more bass in the low 3 lb. range, which I did not weigh but rather just obtained a quick length reading which was in the 15-16” range and released them could have been males since it was the month of April.

My average performance at this hot spot is sixteen pounds and usually is comprised of one 5-6 lber, two or three 3-4 lbers and rarely something smaller. In total I have caught twelve bass over 8 lbs, and ten weighing 6-7 lbs and fourteen 5-6 lbers.

This hot spot is what I refer to as a Five-Pound Tournament Hole. A place where you can go to boat a 5 lb. tournament bass even if other competitors fished it ahead of you.

I took a friend of mine fishing at this location on his birthday. He fished one bait, a Gambler Crawdad 4” Junebug color. He’s a strict Flipper. Drops baits into the water at a rod’s distance from the boat. That day I gave him the command of the boat, and he put 35 total lbs. in the boat, six bass total. It took three hours to accomplish this performance. All I did was net all six bass. The largest was 8.8 lbs. and he had three heavy six pounders and two in the 4-plus lb. range.  

I had fished the previous five days, ten hours per day and needed a day off. So, I took a good friend to one of my productive hot spots as a birthday gift and he put on a Flipping Clinic to beat all flipping experiences by putting an extra wide gap 5/0 hook between the eyes of all six bass. The only work I did that day was unhooking the fish. And one fish was knocked completely out by the force of the hookset. We put it into the livewell to revive it and after about thirty minutes she was ready to be released.

Other Notes and Information: So, the best performance at this hot spot came in the form of a birthday present for a friend during the month of May, three days after a new moon. Atmospheric pressure was rising 0.20 in hg and three gates were open 1.5’ flowing 1500 cfs at the S68 Spillway, so there was flow at this location.

All but a few of my fishing experiences at this hot spot were during atmospheric pressure change, up or down which amounted to over 0.12 in hg in change—my best performance came at the end of a 0.22 in hg rise feeding period.   

If you would like an “On Your Boat Bass Fishing Guided Lesson” please contact me and I’ll design a customized bass fishing experience for you on most major lakes in central Florida. 8633818474

Istokpoga Hot Spot Info Six – March 16, 2024

(A 2381 word read)

Hot Spot Characteristics:  This hot spot has a break line which come from one of the eight deep holes in Istokpoga. Of the eight distinct deeper sections of Istokpoga, there are two holes with 10-12’ depths, three with 7-9’ depths, and three with 6-8’ depths (Two-foot variations are result of water mgmt. annual schedule). This location’s break line comes from a deeper hole with 7-9’ depths and is the least fished hole of the eight due to its location.

Fish move along the break line from the deep hole to this hot spot location regularly however this migration route has far more traffic when water is flowing southward to the S68 spillway from April through the rainy season or when the spillway is open for any extended period. But it should be noted that when a consistent northerly wind occurs, this hole’s population increases as fish follow the wind-driven members of the food chain.

The vegetation is comprised of bulrush, occasional cattails, and spatter dock lilypads. The depth at the vegetation drops off almost two feet, twenty feet from the edge of the bulrush. The plant growth is thick and mature and has large root bases which hold crawdads and a variety of bait fish. Over the years there has been submerged grass beds to the north, west and east of this point but the only species which remains consistent is pepper grass. Over the years I have found eel grass in the opening in the bulrush but because this point faces north, northerly wind create a high level of turbidity in this area which caused die-back.

For those of you that believe that you need ‘clean high visibility’ water to achieve success, this condition won’t occur at this hole. And southerly wind days usually produce trash fish more than bass in this calm leeward area. I have had great success fishing the windy side, low visibility, dirty water, because it helps hide the fakeness of my artificial bait presentation. Bass rely more on vibration confirmation than visual confirmation in areas which more often than not have high turbidity.

Fish don’t have the ability to reason that, “Hey there’s clear water up wind so I think I’ll go where I can see better”. In fact, fish move with the wind naturally, following the wind driven smaller members of the lake’s food-chain, however, fish face into the wind when they feed as to sense and perhaps see the food that they are hunting for.

Bass over four to five pounds don’t chase their food very often if at all. Instead, they become ambush predators who face into the wind, within the thicker vegetation, waiting for their prey to seek the best cover areas to remain safe. In doing so, they meet the exact opposite scenario.  

This fishing hole is the perfect location for all fishing days but when a southerly wind prevails. When you find success at this hole, you know every other hole with the same characteristics in the lake is also producing.

Now, this hole also is not far from the deepest hole in the lake. However, there are no break lines which lead to his area from that hole. However, the aforementioned submerged grass beds do occur towards the north to northeastern section of that deeper hole and when winds come from a westerly direction fish migrate through the weed bed and toward this location.  

I call this hot spot the ‘Long Island North Point’. Anglers love to fish points because they typically are shoreline areas which have break lines from deeper inhabited sections of the lake. This point also has that characteristic.

Hot Spot Angling Tactics:  Depending on weather conditions I fish this area using a variety of strategies and techniques. If the wind has been blowing into this area for a day or two, I’ll pitch the vegetation, beginning with the outside edge first and then gradually pitching further back into the dark openings within the thicker section of the vegetation. Again, as almost always, I have three pitching rods set up with a ¾ - 1 oz. Medlock double brush guard jig black and blue with a large green, blue, black or junebug colored trailer, a 7” Yum Dinger senko worm with Gambler Florida rigged rattling black bullet weight 3/8 oz. on a 5-7/0 heavy gauge offset worm hook, with embedded-glued glass rattle just below the hook, which is by the way, positioned deep in the body of the worm so that the hook is “Not” ready to protrude---true weedless presentation.

I almost always prefer to use yellow 65-80 lb. braided line of which Stren is my favorite—the less polymer the better. Florida sun is the killer of all thing’s polymer. So, if you use a polymer hybrid line make sure to keep your reels out of the sunlight as much as possible. Or you’ll have unexpected unpredictable line breaks just when you have finally achieved success.

On days when a north wind has just started that day, I will open water cast big spinnerbaits with gold blades or the big senko and occasionally the big jig riggings along the outside of the grass beds and the break lines. It’s best to use floats to make these edges and lines. And you must throw into the wind to enable to bait to swim into the face of the fish. Now, this strategy produces mainly bass under five pounds unless I slow-walk my baits at a speed barely above a pause---real slow.  The faster the retrieve the smaller the catch is always true in lakes which very rich food-chains, of which Istokpoga has one of the healthiest food-chains in all of central Florida.

One of the characteristics of this particular hot spot is that it acts as an entry point for feeding grounds on both sides of the point. Once a fish moves up onto the point, they’ll move either 100 yds to the right or 200 yds to the left, assuming your boat is pointing southward approaching the point from the north.  Fish have formed a natural route which begins at the point is goes to the left toward the cut between Bumblebee’s west shoreline and Long Island’s east shoreline (Long Island does not have any dry land but Bumblebee does).   

Hot Spot Coordinates:  Istokpoga 27° 21’04” N by 81° 17’ 53” W – North Point Long Island & 200 yds left & 100 yds right---boat pointing south looking at point from the north.

My Fishing Effort History: I have fished this location too many times to count, well actually I do know the count, it’s 472 times in eighteen years or on average about two times per month.  Now I remember and my notes confirm that I fished this point several consecutive days until success rates dropped to zero. And obviously I didn’t fish it as often when other locations were on fire---opting to take customers to the best producing holes.

However, this is one particular place that is easy to check, and can be quickly fished. So, I often would stop here as I traveled through this area of the lake, again, especially when the spillway was open. Points on Istokpoga should always been checked when water is flowing.

Here is a fishing tactic which I have used from the beginning, which I learned from my grandfather. The reason some anglers have a greater consistent catch rate than other anglers is often due to one strategy. When you catch a fish and then within a few minutes another fish, it will serve you well in understanding the body of water you’re fishing if you use the gas and go to as many fishing holes as possible over the next two hours to check to see which holes are productive.

If you are fishing with a partner or more than one person, everyone should use a different bait and strategy. And especially note the depths the fish were caught in.

Then determine if the barometer is moving, and which direction it’s moving, and compare that data with the predicted weather for that day to discover if the pressure will be moving more in the upcoming hours or not. If the pressure is forecasted to keep moving, then you know there will be more fish entering that area if pressure is on the rise or leaving that area if pressure is on the decline.

Getting back to the tactic of speed boating to several fishing holes when fish are feeding. The trick or discipline is to not let one hole’s non-action prohibit you from continuing your research effort. It’s a biological fact that when fish begin to feed, they do so for one to two hours or sometimes even longer. I have been asked many times why bass anglers have fast boats with big motors. My answer depending how the questions was asked is either, “Because we love to go fast”, or if the question was not sarcastic or did not have a tone of condescension I’d reply, “To fish as many fishing holes in the lake as possible when fish are actively feeding throughout the lake” Being able to travel at 76 mph between holes save valuable time for the Bass Fishing Guide and or Bass Tournament Competitor.  

He who fishes the most fishing holes when fish are hungry……...wins!  Has a high percentage of truth.

I have caught more small-to-medium sized bass here than larger trophy-sized bass. And when I have caught bass over six pounds, they have either been out in the open water migration routes to the deeper hole or to the submerged grass beds, or inside five-to-fifteen feet within the bulrush, where open pockets provided a dark protected hole in the bulrush patch. However, fishing this way requires a very strong trolling motor with a new blade edge on the blades.

When fish are populating this point area it’s reasonable to expect five bass between 2-5 lbs. along the vegetation outside edge. If you learn to works the approaching open-water lake-bottom structures, there are good odds of boating a bass over five pounds. And if you master what is required to put bait back into pockets within the mature bulrush so that the bait enters the water in a natural manner, and then learn to play the bass instead of man-handling her, while getting your boat back into the thicker bulrush, you might just land a 7 lb. or larger big girl. Need a firm hookset that doesn’t rip a hole, however.

My best performance:  My best day at this hole occurred with a father and two teenage sons in the boat. Both sons caught three bass, 3,4, and 5 lbs. And dad caught one 6 lber and lost two bass which looked to be in the 4-5 lb. range. I boated an 8.5, 2-6s, and 3 in the 3 lb. range. When the bite started the smaller bass were caught. After thirty minutes the medium sized bass were caught. In fact, one of the sons and the father both fought bass at the same time and I managed to net both bass as each angler got them to the side of the boat. The 3- 6s and 8.5 lb. bass all came in the last thirty minutes of a three-hour period.

On the best day we fished strictly Yum Dinger 7” black and blue senko worms with 3/8 oz rattling bullet weights pegged on yellow 65 lb. braided line with heavy gauge 5/0 offset worm hooks deeply positioned with the worm and hook points halfway through the worm, not ready to protrude out unless there was a definitive hookset. I also taught the father and sons how to use my ‘Low and Tow’ retrieve technique to advance their baits. Most fish were caught on the outside, but my biggest was ten feet back into the bulrush, requiring my customers to reel in their lines so I could gradually advance the boat with the trolling motor into the bulrush so I could grab the bass by the mouth to boat her. She was barely hooked, and I caught her because I gave her line instead of resisting her. When I grabbed her, the line was wrapped around several bulrush stalks.

And during the three-hour period we did travel 200 yards to the east and 100 yards to the west and did a total of two passes of pitching baits. And one more point of interest, my customers did not know how to pitch nor flip, but within about fifteen minutes of teaching them the pendulum swing motion of the bait using the rod and timing the thumb release off of the spool, they were achieving minor to medium splashes as the bait entered the water. And when I asked them to hit the bulrush with the bait about two feet above the water’s surface, instead of trying to not hit the bulrush they all reasonably achieved that technique too.

Because they were able to somewhat master a more natural bait presentation into the water they produced strikes. They were exceptional customers who learned new fishing techniques quickly. But the two boys were both saying their forearms were hurting after three hours of pitching.

But there would not have been this level of success if we didn’t fish a midweek day, which was a day before the new moon which was five days after the lunar high and six days from the orbit perigee. There was an even mix of sun and clouds, with an eight-mph north wind and seventy-seven-degree water. And a north wind had occurred the two days before. Atmospheric pressure rise of 0.12 in hg was occurring during the fishing effort.

All of these weather factors promoted a higher than average ‘fish adjustment activity’ level, which produces a higher-than-average feed rating. The advertised feed rating projection for that day was a six to seven for this general geographic area but at that hot spot that day we enjoyed a eight to nine rating.  

If you would like an “On Your Boat Bass Fishing Guided Lesson” please contact me and I’ll design a customized bass fishing experience for you on most major lakes in central Florida. 8633818474

Angler Hot Spot Xtra Info - Istokpoga Hot Spot 5 - February 21, 2024

This week’s Angler Hot Spots Info will again feature Lake Istokpoga. And again, the area of the lake will be near the west wall.  It has all types of Istokpoga vegetation except for hydrilla, which can’t grow in the lake anymore due to the inability of sunlight to penetrate enough to prove the amount of sunlight hydrilla requires to thrive. And since most of the lake doesn’t have enough water clarity the plant doesn’t survive.

Back to this excellent fishing hole. This particular fishing hole is again, known by anyone who fishes the lake on a regular basis so it’s no secret---there are no secrets on this lake, and it’s very close to the deepest water in the lake and when the S-68 Spillway is open, it has a substantial flow which fish follow, thus the population of fish at this hole is very good.

The size of this location is about one hundred and fifty yards or so and has mainly bulrush, spatter dock lilypads, a few cattails, eel grass and pepper grass. And unlike most areas in the lake, it also has a steep elevation change from the outside of the vegetation to the inside of the vegetation, which provides the perfect environment for fish to easily adjust to atmospheric pressure changes.

I used the word “steep” which is Istokpoga specific, just as the word “deep” is Istokpoga specific, meaning in comparison to all other areas of the lake.

There is a ten-to-thirteen-foot depth area (depending on the season you fish it) within a hundred yards and the elevation change within the vegetation patch goes from two feet to seven feet within twenty feet.  

When fishing this hole, I pitch baits, mainly because I am able to perfect the silent bait entry into the water without making a splash. It is imperative that you present your bait naturally, as fish and specifically giant bass, interpret ‘Naturally’.  But most anglers flip this section so that they can be sure to accomplish a natural bait entry and natural fall of the bait to the lake bottom.

Bass point their mouth to the root base of most plants, such as cattails, spatter dock lilypads especially.  Therefore, if your bait doesn’t fall down the main stalk of the plant, bumping and rubbing the plant all the way to the main root system, the bait presentation will be unnatural.  When your bait makes contact with the plant’s main stalk or stem, it produces a well-known vibration to the bass therefore the bass prepares to inhale the ‘food gift’ from above.

The baits I mainly use are the 7” Yum Dinger in Black and Blue, and a 1 or ¾ oz. Medlock Double Brush Guard Jig Black and Blue with a black and blue type trailer, such as a Fat Ika or part of a 7” Yum Dinger.  Adding a noise maker either to the plastic trailer body or the jig is a good idea.

The coordinates of this location is 27° 20’ 23.5” N by 81° 18’ 19 W.  The name of this vegetation area (there is no dry land) is called Long Island’s middle west side.

At the south end of this area has a spatter dock lilypad field point which holds bass. The depth is five feet during the hurricane season and eight feet during the other three seasons. Going north, the pad field leads to mature bulrush with occasional cattails and pads. This stretch is a little over a hundred yards. At the north end of the bulrush section there are two types of submerged grasses, pepper grass and eel grass.  

Over the submerged grasses I like to use a Rage Tail Frog. The retrieve must be very slow, with pauses during which you move your fishing line to the left for ten second and to the right for ten second, causing the frog to move back and forth. Do this for a minute or two, (Yes, I mean 120 seconds, count if you have to). Then move the frog slowly. Try to pause it over the thicker grass areas and retrieve it a little faster over the more open areas of the grass field.

I have worked this area too many times to count over the past eighteen years. It gets a lot of traffic during the weekends. But not during the midweek. My best days have ‘always’ been Wednesday and Thursday. On weekends I’ve seen one angler after another stop to work this line of vegetation. It’s non-stop angler pressure three days in a row over the weekend.

My best performance at this hole produced an 11.50 lb. beauty at the north end bulrush point followed by a 5 lber fifty feet further south.  Then at the mid-opening airboat path bulrush point two 4 lb. bass engulfed the Yum Dinger.  Then at the south end lilypad-bulrush merge area a 8.75 lb. took a Medlock 1 oz jig w/a 3” Yum Dinger part as a trailer with glass rattle inserted and glued.

That day the atmospheric pressure spiked 0.15 in hg. There was an even mix of clouds and sun. Winds were from the southeast at ten mph, which means the water was calm at this hole. It was the month of May and one day before the new moon. For some reason I forgot to enter the lunar orbit position, but the lunar high was the day before. Water temperature was perfect at 78 degrees and the time was from 10:40 -11:50 a.m.

I did note that I could not find anyone to take a picture of my big girl. I was the only boat there and when I travelled back to the north ramp, I passed only one boat at the mouth of Arbuckle which was fishing for crappie.

NOTICE: If you’d like me to guide you on your boat on Istokpoga for a half day or longer, all you need is $100 cash. I’ll bring my rods and provide the bait for you and me. Call me. 8633818474.

Angler Hot Spot Xtra Info - Istokpoga Hot Spot 4 - February 21, 2024

(2300 word read)

This edition of Angler Hot Spots Info again focuses on Lake Istokpoga’s west shoreline. This fishing hole is one of several locations which are close to one of two areas of the lake which have ten-foot depths during the hurricane season and twelve-foot depths during the remainder of the year when water is being stored for the winter season.

The annual two-foot variation in depth is part of the state’s management plan which compensates for the rainy season’s extreme weather systems heavy rainfall. Istokpoga is where most of Highlands County’s rainfall flows to. Therefore, when extreme weather events occur, the lake fills six times faster than the S68 Spillway gates are able to release the water it receives. Thus, the reason for the two-foot level buffer schedule.

South Florida Water Management and the US Army Corp both say that timing the release of water is crucial for this plan to be a success. And since they too rely on weather forecast predictions upon which to base their strategy for each major storm event, there are real possibilities of getting the planning wrong. Since I have lived here there’s only been two times where they’ve gotten it wrong. Once it resulted in too much water which caused homes in the lake area to have problems with septic systems and once the lake level ended up very low making lake usage more difficult. But nevertheless, two out of eighteen is a very good record.  

Let’s talk about why fish use the lake the way they do. Angler’s have all sorts of theories as to why fish use certain areas and not other areas. I’ll let you determine if any of them are true or not. I will instead focus on facts which are not theories, but are observable physical events which can be recorded and studied.

Istokpoga is a major attraction in the Florida Bass Fishing Community. Regardless of the mismanagement of the state and county weed management programs and the subsequent negative affects it’s had on the fish and wildlife populations of the lake, many anglers still frequently fish the lake, albeit not at the same numbers of a decade ago and nowhere close to the numbers of two decades ago.

So, the point is Bass Fishing Pressure and other unnatural factors have a decisive impact on how fish use this lake. This occurs in several ways; I’ll focus on the three most influential ways.

One, angler tournaments artificially impact where fish locate. On any given weekend from October through June mainly, there are several bass fishing tournaments occurring on the lake. And fish are weighed and released in the boat launch areas where the tournaments are conducted. Fish then do what fish do, and move to the nearest protective cover, which is vegetation, and will within a few hours seek the deepest water they can find. Their ideal habitat is deeper water which has thriving vegetation.

It is this artificial action which causes fish in Istokpoga to use areas of the lake they would not normally use and would never naturally find just being fish---contrary to what many say, fish do not travel through the lake to see what the lake has to offer. Instead, they follow wind-driven and water-driven food movements and they use the lake bottom characteristics to achieve this adjustment.

Fish never move in straight lines unless the structure is in a straight line.

Now it should be noted that state and county environmental engineers don’t just put boat ramps and docks where it’s convenient for human travel just as businessmen don’t just put a fish camp on the shoreline of a lake because a road is nearby. Instead, both study the characteristics of the lake environment, learn where fish naturally feed and put the necessary access points in those locations.

Nevertheless, human interaction with fish, and specifically bass, put fish in areas in numbers which are not natural.  The route 98 Istokpoga County Park ramp in the north and the Windy Point County ramp in the south, are where most anglers access the lake and where most tournaments launch out of. And this results in bass being within a few hundred yards of these two locations due to artificially being relocated by competitors.  Oh and, since tournament anglers cull smaller bass and keep the large ones, larger bass will eventually over several weekends or even months of competitive bass fishing events, inhabit these areas resulting in an unnaturally higher percentage of large bass.

Two, anglers create the unnatural factor of high-fishing pressure. Anglers believe they have secret fishing holes but in reality, there is no such thing as a secret fishing hole. So, what actually occurs is many anglers on a regular basis, which I would say occurs weekly and consistently, all fish the same holes. And when I say weekly and consistently, I’m saying (on this type of lake) we’re mainly talking about Friday through Sunday, which is when most anglers fish. Monday through Thursday are the least days fished as a general rule throughout the Bass Fishing Capital of the World community.  

It is a fact on all heavily fished lakes in central Florida, I have caught 82% of my best bass on Wednesday and Thursday. And it is also a fact that Monday and Tuesday on these same lakes produce far fewer quality bass---these days consistently produce bass under two pounds, that is……...when I have found a hole with active fish. And seldom have I found bass over five pounds active on these days.

Point of interest: On lakes without heavy pressure and tournaments, none of these things occur. Fish don’t have an artificial influence on where they use the lake. Having a bathymetric map and knowledge of influents and effluents and grass and shell beds, is all that is required.  

So, the main point is, bass fishing pressure results in a high number of ‘catch and release’ bass, which don’t bite naturally. After being hooked and worked hard in battle, fish require time to heal and therefore these ‘secret fishing holes’ actually become infirmaries for bass in various stages of healing. And anglers eventually believe the fish are no longer in these ‘secret holes’ anymore when in fact they are still there, but can’t feed normally anymore. However, this process slows down fishing pressure resulting in a resting period. Fish begin to use the area naturally again. But eventually, anglers will return to where they remember doing well resulting in the fishing pressure beginning to escalate again and the cycle continues.

Three, lake management polices cause an artificial flow of water currents through the lake from the influents to the man-made effluent gateways. From April through the end of the rainy season, Istokpoga (and all managed lakes in central Florida) have a moving flow which occurs along the historical ‘river ways’ which naturally occurs in the deepest areas of the lake, north to south. If an angler discovers the routes by which water flows from Arbuckle Creek to the S68 Spillway, they’ll find actively feeding fish along lake bottom structure changes which are close to the flow.  And the heavier the rainfall during this five-to-six-month period the more flow there will be, and the more fish will move within this flow.

With these three artificial fish moving factors in mind, today’s Hot Spots Location has all three of these points-characteristics, happening at least six months out of the year. Three hundred yards or so north of the Windy Point boat ramp there is a shoreline feeding area where the Highlands Park Estates Clubhouse Park dock is located. The approximate coordinates are 27° 19’ 03” N by 81° 18’ 54 W.

Bass end up here as they follow the lake bottom contours northward after they are released at the outside areas of the boat ramp. Wind blows into this area on a majority of the days of the week which is why it’s appropriately named “Windy Point”.  And therefore, water is pushed naturally into this area which causes an undertow current both north and south.  Many anglers after weighing their bass release their bass to the north of the ramp, and those bass travel northward as a result, following the under flow and eventually the lake bottom break lines which lead to this Hot Spot. And it should also be noted that natural rainfall runoff occurs in this area of the lake which provides ideal conditions for insects and frogs to inhabit the shallows.

The vegetation in this hole is comprised of cattails, bulrush, and eel, pepper and milfoil grasses and some sparse spatterdock lily pads. Bass move fifty yards north and south of this location, but I have found the dock area, meaning fifty feet north and south of this structure, to be the most consistent and successful.  

This is one of the areas I will use a topwater frog and devil’s horse and my trusty 7” black and blue Yum Dingers, ¾ to 1 oz. Medlock double brush guard black and blue jigs with black and blue type chunk trailers. And a majority of the time I long-pitch the jig and senko, presenting them with no splash and allowing them to fall with a yellow 65 lb. braided line on the water’s surface in order to see the inhale of the bait---a straightening of the line. And I also cast sidearm the top water baits, so that they travel to the target destination about one to two feet off the surface of the water in order to accomplish as little splash as possible. Remember the more natural the bait presentation the more the giant bass will investigate the action and vibration.

When you set the hook on a bass here, they will charge to the open deeper water to the east. You should count on them going under the boat the majority of the time. I still recommend playing the bass by free spooling the reel, using your thumb to regulate the taking of line. Always imagine that you have the bass barely hooked so that finesse is required to keep her hooked all the way to the boat. Just imagine you’re using six-pound test line instead of the heavier pound line.

Once upon a time, several years ago, I fished at this location, again during a new moon phase in the month of May. There was a perfect wind from the southeast which created just enough wave action to mask the fakeness of the bait and my presence in the area. Pressure was rising enough to cause ‘fish adjustment activity’ towards the shallows as the moon was arriving overhead during the late morning hours. Water temperature on the surface was seventy-three degrees.

I knew there had been no fishing activity on this area over the past eighteen hours. I knew this because the afternoon and evening the day before I was guiding customers at another fishing area where I could keep an eye on this area. And when I began fishing earlier in the morning, I also was able to keep watch, hoping no one would get there ahead of me. And no one fished it as it turned out.  

Knowing no one has beaten up the bass in the area you’re about to fish provides an added incentive to relax and execute perfect bait placements, and experimental retrieval techniques with greater patience and determination. You know they are always there, and you know they are not healing from being hooked. That leaves me only with the responsibility to present in a natural manner the food sources the bass has been consuming over the past few weeks.   

The results of my effort produced seven bass. The biggest was just under 25” and had an 18” girth. Four were in the 23-23.5” size but were fat with all having about a 17” girth. And two measured 22” with 16” girths.  The smaller sized bass were caught first, and the largest one came forty-five minutes after the sixth catch.  The total time between the first and seventh bass was just over two hours.

A lot of anglers release their bass immediately after they catch them, right in the area of the battle. Unless the bass is spawning, I don’t do that. Instead, I move the boat out into deeper water (I’m always fishing on deep water break line areas so deep water is always very close by) and release them there, so they won’t go back to the battle area. This provides some time for the area to return to a natural setting. But is also allows me to long-pitch parts of the area which are twenty or so feet away from the exact place where I boated the fish. I always imagine there are more than one fish present when I’m fighting a bass. And I believe those bass do the natural thing of moving away from the unnatural activity. And I have discovered by testing this theory for many years, that they don’t go too far. And that day was a case in point.

I have fished in this same area over one hundred times in the past nineteen years. I have brought many customers and clients to this location. The success rate for this location is 73%. Many days only produces fish of four pounds or under. And on many days this spot was only good for one or perhaps two bass, which usually were in the four-to-six-pound range. But there have been thirty-two times that bass over six pounds were caught. My largest bass was the 25” bass already mentioned. So, while I’ve never caught a double-digit bass here, I believe it’s just because the timing was wrong for the big girls. I’ve caught double digit bass close to this location many times, so I know they are here from time to time.

Note Istokpoga Section Map with red markers and Windy Point locations.

Angler Xtra Info – Istokpoga Hot Spots 3 - February 11, 2024

The type of shoreline areas which have produced consistently for me and many other Istokpoga anglers over the years is an area with mixed vegetation with an outside average depth between five to seven feet and fifty yards or more of vegetation deep going back to the shoreline. These types of areas on any lake hold an abundance of the lake’s food-chain and are primes big bass feeding areas.

But the question remains, which areas hold fish and which areas don’t?

What I’ve always done when I don’t know the answer to this question is to cruise the shorelines, keeping about fifty feet from the vegetation’s outside edge, with one eye on the sonar screen, pay attention to lake bottom level changes and watching for sharp elevation changes and submerged vegetation.

Break-lines are where the migration routes of fish and especially bass, are in lakes like Istokpoga. Most shallow lakes don’t have ‘laydowns, rock lines, or other structures’ for fish to use when they change depth during atmospheric pressure changes, which forces them to adjust until their bodies can regain normal comfort again.

So, when you see an area on Istokpoga you should investigate the open water area out in front of this area to learn if there are break-lines leading to it or running parallel with it, and looking to see what submerged grasses are present and whether it’s thriving or decomposing from weed management programs.

There was once a day on Istokpoga where all you had to do to know where experienced anglers fished was to cruise the shoreline areas, watching the sonar screen, and mark every spot where you saw a patch of hydrilla. For those of you who didn’t already know, hydrilla is carried by boat motor props from place to place where anglers catch fish. This is not the case anymore since the turbidity levels in the lake became high enough to prohibit adequate sunlight for the rapidly growing weed to survive. But that’s a subject for another article, which I have worn out many years ago to no avail.   

So back to the subject of determining which shoreline areas have fish and which don’t.  It’s a good idea to cruising back and forth a few times, at different distances from the outside shoreline vegetation, for instance, 20, 35, 50, 65, foot intervals, noting the lake bottom characteristics which will reveal clues as to how fish come from deeper areas into this area and perhaps even show you where fish hold when they’re not in the shoreline area.

It’s always good to know which ‘really good-looking shoreline areas’ don’t have any break-lines, submerged grass beds, or decomposing vegetation occurring between the shoreline and open water areas. Such characteristics are a sign that you shouldn’t fish the areas at all and if you do, do so quickly as to not waste valuable time in an area the fish have been pushed out of or simply don’t use much if at all.

Eliminating areas is vital in experiencing a better catch rate. You can’t catch fish that aren’t there to begin with. Istokpoga has many areas which fish don’t feed nor spawn in. But they sure look like they should. In fact, by looking at what’s above water throughout the lake, you’d believe there are an abundance of fish everywhere. Nothing could be further from the truth.  

I have used many techniques to determine why fish use a particular area. And have determined how the fish moved into and away from the area, and also how fish feed throughout the area when they’re actively feeding and when they’re done feeding. It took many years of consistent trial and error experimentation and accurately journalling the results and findings in a structured format which best serves to provide necessary data for verifying or disqualifying, old wise sayings, fishing adages, bass fishing publication’s claims and instructions, solunar publication predictions and suggestions, and also my own postulations and premises.

A true scientist always seeks to tear apart his finding in every way possible to discover what he might have overlooked, assumed, or concluded as fact, while fishing across the wide and broad spectrum of the Florida Bass Angling World. One thing is certain, successfully catching the largest largemouth bass in the lake in Florida requires unique techniques and strategies which won’t work anywhere else in the world and from lake type to lake type which are just a few miles apart.

Big bass do not leave an area when they’re full of food. They remain in the area but not where the feeding activity occurred.

Hint: the most critical period for fish to experience physical comfort is during digestion, when gasses and pressure within the body are naturally active and changing. And since fish feed when atmospheric pressure is changing, and often when pressure changes are significant, a fish will keep adjusting to maintain that physical comfort level required for proper internal physical functions to enable digestion.

When a ten-pound female and a three-pound female feed successfully and have full stomachs, they will not move to an area within the shoreline feeding area where the feeding activity was or still is active. Instead, they will move to the thickest cover available and hide there. It is in these places that they can hear a large predator coming from enough distance to flee if required.

Both the gator and the giant bass are ambush feeders, i.e. they lay and wait for the unsuspecting smaller feeder to make a mistake and move to within striking distance. Neither are able to sneak up on anything without creating unnatural vibrations and noise. Therefore, putting the correct bait ‘down’ into the resting place of the giant bass requires a specific skillset and knowledge of what a fully satisfied monster bass, in a state of digestion, will strike defensively instead of opportunistically as they do when in feeding mode.   

The following Hot Spot is an area which always produces during all four seasons, and has all the characteristics described above. And no matter how much fishing pressure it gets there is always a high percentage chance that the anglers who fished in the area before you did not catch and release all the quality bass in the area.

This Hot Spot bass fishing hole extends seventy yards north and south of the central coordinates of 27° 20’ 29” N by 81° 18’ 50” W – Southern West Wall 100 yds. North of Rutledge Canal.

This particular hot spot location is within 50 yards of the deepest water in the lake and has a significant 1.5-2’ breakline running parallel with the outside shoreline vegetation about half a casting distance from visible vegetation and there is submerged vegetation which is mainly peppergrass on the breakline itself. The visible vegetation consists of cattails, bulrush, spatterdock lily pads, eel grass, peppergrass, and milfoil---haven’t seen hydrilla at this location in years because it has some of the lowest visibility water in the lake.  

My best day fishing in this area came in April during the new moon phase several years ago but the location has remained consistently productive. The sun-to-cloud ratio was 50-50, the water temperature was 76 degrees, the wind came from the southeast at 8-10 mph and the new moon was directly overhead and the pressure was dropping slowly, not enough to make fish adjust downward.

There were no anglers fishing there when I arrived and there had been no anglers fishing before I arrived---I know this because I was at another fishing location for several hours which allowed for me to keep an eye on it from a distance.  

I arrived at 10 a.m. and began to do what I call, ‘testing the waters’ which means I use long casts with a medium-to-fast retrieve type bait, which could be top-water or submerged, to see if any activity or vegetation movement occurs signaling active feeders. I used a ¾ oz. spinnerbait with black skirt and gold blades, retrieved at one reel-handle turn every two second for six seconds—three rotations--followed by a one second pause, then repeated the sequence.

After six such ‘testing the waters’ attempts, a 1.5 lb. bass took the bait as I retrieved the bait between cattails, sparse bulrush, and pads. The small bass looked as if it came from the cattails side. After its release, I tested the open water breakline which was where the boat was sitting. First cast yielded a 1 lb. bass.  I decided to use a Medlock double brush guard black-n-blue 1 oz. jig w/ black chunk trailer on the cattails instead of continuing to fish the breakline where smaller fish were.

I have perfected the silent-bait-entry technique when pitching or sidearm casting at any distance, even from 100 feet. The bait enters the water without a splash as if it is placed into the water from one to two inches above the surface, and therefore appears natural and triggers investigation instead of rejection.

I checked cattail bases for twenty minutes and when I placed my jig in between three large cattail clusters from fifty to sixty feet away I saw my yellow line display an unnatural jump as the bait was falling in the four-foot depth. I responded by setting the hook---note that my line was on the water’s surface which means my rod tip was also on the surface as my thumb stopped the bait where I wanted it to drop into the water. This technique places the line and bait onto the water’s surface at the same time. Thus, the rod is positioned perfectly to execute a proper fast hookset.

The bass gave me one very strong charge toward open water, which I allowed and controlled because after the hookset I free-spooled the reel and used my thumb to feel the fight ability and judge how to play the bass. I knew it was over ten as soon as I saw it pull line while mowing down smaller sparse bulrush and cattails as it made a run for deeper water. I continued to allow it to pull line with just enough pressure to tire her out. She passed by the front of the boat slowing down as she made open water. I set the reel and began to retrieve her. She pulled one more time for about five second, which caused me to free-spool the reel again.

After the second pull, she was all done---which means she’s definitely over ten pounds. After retrieving her to the side of the boat I grabbed my extremely large all-black net, put it vertically into the water as far away from the boat and her as I could reach and picked up my rod and guided her toward the area of the net. When she saw the black hole the net created, she swam directly into it, and I turned the net 90 degrees and put her on the deck.

Her measurements were length 26.5” by girth 22”.  She was unmarked; no bedding nor hook marks. Overall color was picture perfect. I had her back into six to seven feet of water within thirty second and she headed toward the twelve-foot depth 100 yards away—I always have all the tools ready on the front deck to measure (I never hang-weigh my girls due to risk of jaw damage which occurs in huge bass if you hang them on a scale) and take pictures quickly.

As standard procedure I always move the boat at least fifty feet from the battle zone and begin to fish again. However, I switched to my 7” Yum Dinger black and blue set-up which has a 1/4oz. Gambler rattling Texas rigged bullet weight pegged with a 7/0 heavy gauge offset worm hook, sharpened the night before. My reasoning was the sun was higher in the sky and the new moon was just west of the sun which usually causes big bass to move toward darker thicker areas of vegetative cover and away from their usual nighttime cattail crawdad feeding pattern.

At this time during the late morning hours, crawdads burrow their way into the cattail root base to rest until nightfall. Hungry bass will begin to select active needlefish, smaller bait fish, usually consisting of bluegill, bass, crappie, and other small creatures.

The 7” heavy senko worm, I have always presented as a needlefish, so I swim it sort of like you would a traditional swimbait but retrieve it in such a way as to keep it along the lake bottom, moving from plant root base to root base, pausing with any ‘feel of resistance’ which occurs when the bullet weight comes into contact with the plant base.

Again, I have my yellow line on the water’s surface relaxed in an “S” shape; after advancing the bait by moving the rod across the water’s surface toward the boat, reeling in the slack line after the initial movement, followed by moving the rod toward the bai just enough to allow the line can achieve the relaxed “S” pattern on the water. When and if the line straightens, set the hook.

The bigger the bass the more she won’t cause any indication that she took the bait. However, a yellow line laying on top of the water, when fishing vegetation, will reveal even the slightest movement of the bait when the fish inhales it.  

I used this rig and strategy for twenty minutes as I moved away from the battle zone of the first bass. Nothing happened so I switched to the jig again and traveled further north for another ten minutes and came up empty. So, I turned the boat and headed back towards the location of the big bass catch and went back to the Yum Dinger.

When I got to exactly where I fought the 10-pounder, I decided to sidearm cast about 100 feet back into an opening in the bulrush and behind where I had hooked the last big girl. When the bait entered the water, the line came down through the bulrush patch so that when the bait was retrieved it would go through the thicker section of the bulrush patch.

As the worm weaved through the patch using a retrieval speed of one reel-handle crank every three seconds, I felt a slight tap on the reel thumb, which signaled to me to set the hook. When I did, she came through the patch with authority and as always, I free-spooled the reel and controlled her taking of line with my thumb. Once she progressed to within twenty feet of the boat she slowed down. So, I engaged the reel and took in the line and checked to see if she had another fight in her. She did, twice more, each time lasting less time than the previous fight.

Finally, I had her next to the boat and netted her using the same method as the previous bass---when they see the dark hole created by the appearance of the net in the low visibility water, they swim directly into it, I believe they think it’s a dark safe place to escape. This technique always works when in low visibility water only.

She measured length 24.75” by 20.25” girth, which translates to about an 8.75 lb. bass. She had no marks of any kind. Colors were again picture perfect, and she was full of fight, very aggressive and hard to keep still for measurements and a picture. Upon release she took off like she was shot out of a gun—typical for bass between 6-8 lbs.   

I progressed a little further toward where I first began to fish and pitched the Yum Dinger into a lily pad-bulrush area about thirty feet from the boat, and as the worm sank, I saw the line jump as it went across the water’s surface, so I set the hook.

She acted almost exactly the same as the last fish, so I used the same tactic of control, which amounts to allowing the bass to take line just enough to she doesn’t tear a larger hole in her mouth area or rip the hook free if the hook is not in a bone or happens to be barely hooked. I only approach close to the big girls when they’re unable to produce a full-strength battle.

It worked fine and I had another bass which measured a length of 24.125” by 19.90” girth, which translates to about 8 lbs. I released her with no problems. However, she did have two hookset marks in different stages of healing. And she had an old injury mark on the beginning of her tail area, which looked to be fairly old.

I caught three more bass that day on the Yum Dinger, all in the 2–3-pound range and lost a bass which was slightly larger than 3 lbs. because she wasn’t hooked very well. It came out of the water a little and shook the hook free.

I have fished this hole too many times to count and many times there were anglers fishing it when I arrived. This hole is no secret and has fish moving in and out of it all the time from deeper water. It has a rich food-chain, and the bass have the deepest water in the lake close by. And when the spillway is opened consistently from April through June, in preparation for the hurricane season there are even more fish feeding there as the old creek current flows directly by this location.

The more there’s wind in this location the better it produces. I credit this to the increase turbidity and lower visibility and the noise of the wave action helping to mask the angler’s presence and the fakeness of the baits used. The only time this location doesn’t have wind is when it comes from the west.

I’ve attached a map of this location which is north of Rutledge Canal on the west shoreline of Istokpoga. As with all the hot spots on this lake or any lake for that matter, if you fish at this lake’s hot spots when fish have not been beat up and when they are hungry, you’ll have a great day. Timing is everything.  

Lake Istokpoga Hot Spot Number One for February 2024

This Hot Spot fishing hole has consistently produced quality bass since I began fishing it in 2005. It’s a well-known Hot Spot for most Istokpoga bass anglers so the first angler who works this hole reaps the benefits. However, this is a location where bass come up from deeper water, all the time, several times per feeding period and or day.

There is a deep-water break-line which leads directly to this location, and bass will move into the shallows to the west of the arrow about 50 yards, and into the rich vegetation to the east, about 100 yards.

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