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Winter is time to go after trophy bass

Posted Dec 13, 2012 by The Tampa Tribune

Updated Dec 13, 2012 at 06:42 PM

By FRANK SARGEANT

Captain Mike Shellen reported some real “chunk” bass from Okeechobee, probably a result of the big change in water levels there during the past year, which provides abundant feeding areas.
“These are some of the fattest bass I’ve ever seen in my years here,” Shellen said. “Just footballs!”

He said most of the big bass are coming from grass edges on wild shiners, but persistent flippin’ with worms or grubs will also turn up some nice fish. Crappie have been somewhat slower the past week but should pick up with the cool-down. Live minnows drifted on outside edges are still the ticket, though these panfish should move into the reeds and start spawning by the last strong moon in January and continue through March; .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Both the Kissimmee Chain and the St. Johns Chain of lakes continue to offer steady action on big wild shiners throughout the winter. Though these 6-inch baits cost up to $15 a dozen, they’re just about a sure thing for catching trophy bass in winter.

Crappie also are reportedly biting at smaller lakes like Lake Manatee east of Bradenton — anglers slow drift the submerged river channel here with live minnows just off the bottom.

Red tide appears to have moderated along most of the west coast this week, and fishing both offshore and inshore is strong. Reef anglers are catching a bit of everything, including keeper red grouper, and there are still plenty of Spanish, as well as some kings, hanging around near-shore wrecks and artificial reefs.

Captain Ray Markham (http://www.captainraymarkham.com) reports great action on trout and reds in the past week, with lots of big fish — up to 25 inches — caught in Lower Tampa Bay, Boca Ciega Bay and at the Clam Bar. He said Paul Brown lures fished shallow caught many of the larger fish, which were in a foot or 2 of water at times. Markham and others also have reported a nice mix of trout, reds, snook and flounder in Miguel Bay and Joe Bay, as well as along much of the South Shore.

Rocky creeks from the Anclote River northward through Citrus County are good spots to target in the slightly cooler weather for reds, mangrove snapper, sheephead and trout — live shrimp is the universal soldier here.

At Charlotte Harbor, there are plenty of trout and reds along the outside edges at Bull Bay and Turtle Bay, and both species can also be caught in the potholes on extreme low tides throughout the winter, particularly when a strong northeast wind takes water to unusually low levels.

Tripletails continue to hang around stone crab floats and floating debris from Clearwater to Naples. An unweighted shrimp, pinfish or killifish is the best bait

Tribune correspondent Frank Sargeant can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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