March is always a top month for bass fishing locally. There are only two negative things one could reasonably attach to the sport during this month:
- March is typically one of the windiest months—and wind is not the fishers’ friend.
- By March, many of the very largest female largemouths have finished their bedding duties and therefore can be harder to locate.
But neither of these possible drawbacks seemed to affect the day local tournament anglers enjoyed on the middle waters of the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes Sunday. On the overly-breezy day, 26 boats launched onto Hernando Lake before daybreak to carry anglers competing in the Florida BASS Nation Pro/Am qualifier. When they returned in the afternoon for weigh-in, two things were evident:
- The windy conditions had apparently not held the anglers back very much.
- Those very largest female bass might have been post-spawn…but they had sure not been terribly hard to locate.
On the “Pro” side, Danny Engleking bagged five nice bigmouths totaling 21.96 to win. His best bass weighed in at 7.11-pounds. Chuck Ervin finished second with 15.73, and William Paul Braun settled for third with 15.72. Braun’s biggest fish was a 8.48-pound beauty.
Orange Lake was once the favorite fishing lake of a slew of Gainesville and Ocala anglers…and the lake whose south shore makes up the boundary between Alachua and Marion Counties is heading in the direction of regaining its stellar reputation.
Last Wednesday morning, Spurge Harrell and Steve Ward launched onto Orange. The Gainesville brothers-in-law went to the lake’s south end and promptly found a great bluegill bed. Fishing grass shrimp with ultralight tackle and cane poles, they pulled in 25 big bluegills and 2 nice speckled perch…all big enough to fillet. One was big enough to break Steve’s light spinning rod. By 11:00, the men were ready to call it a day, so they ramped out at Heagy-Burry Park, walked over to the Eagle’s Nest Restaurant and enjoyed tasty ’shore lunches’ — a catfish basket and a shrimp basket — to complete their satisfying morning.
Then on Sunday, the Bassmasters of Gator Country fished their monthly tourney on Orange. Like the Gainesville Bassmasters a few weeks before them, the Gator anglers fared well on the resurging lake. Keith Chapman won with an impressive 5-bass limit weighing 18.02 pounds. The heaviest single fish of the day was a chunky 6.12-pounder taken by Mike Prince.
Photo: Rodeheaver Boy’s Ranch Benefit Bass Tournament
Saturday, a hundred boats were launched onto the St. John’s River at Crystal Cove Marina to carry teams competing in the annual Rodeheaver Boy’s Ranch Benefit Bass Tournament.
North Florida is home to several world-class bass anglers… guys who regularly compete against the hundred or so other best bass anglers in the world. I’ve always thought it great when one of our Bassmaster Elite Series Pros chooses to, for fun, occasionally participate in a local event.
Everybody seems to agree with this sentiment, welcoming the chance to go against the ultra-skilled angler. At least, that is, until the pro wins. That’s when a few fishers prone to sour grapes-thinking whine about one of the most skilled anglers anywhere “taking the local fishers’ money”.
Saturday offered a great opportunity for anglers—a nice weekend day in late February. Lots of casters took advantage of the too-uncommon chance.
The Gainesville Bassmasters held their monthly club tournament on an old favorite spot—Orange Lake. Along with Lochloosa, the revered bass producer was once the number one choice of many local bassers. Then a sink hole in the lake bottom opened up and took the fishing mecca away.
Saturday, the Gainesville bass club returned to Orange for the first time in several years. Twenty members in ten boats launched at Marjorie K. Rawlings Park before daylight. Due to low water, they trolling-motored out the access cut and canal and planed off in order out in open lake. And then the Gainesville Bassmasters enjoyed their best club tourney in months. Jason Ward and Gary Lough teamed up to win in ‘boat weight’ with six bass (this club has a self-imposed three-fish per person limit) weighing 22.12-pounds. In individual weights, Lough’s 3 bass weighed 11.02 and included the day’s best single fish at 5.90. Ward’s three came in at 11.10, and Nick Vigil’s three pulled the scales down to the 11.53 mark. Overall, the 20 anglers took 31 bass to the weigh scales, and these totaled 83.29 pounds. That’s 2.69 pounds per fish…a mighty solid average.