December 21st, 2012
Florida Bassin’ – Trip Planning Tipsby Catherine April 5, 2013
We recently returned from an awesome fishing trip in Florida. In preparing for the trip, we tried to keep our expectations in check. It was just far to tempting to imagine ourselves with several fish-of-a-lifetime type trophy bass; especially after seeing daily photos of 10-lb+ Florida bass on the web and in social media pages like Trophy-Catch Florida’s Facebook page. Our last trip outside of Canada that focused on bass fishing was to Lake Hanabanilla Cuba. Although the Hanabanilla trip was enjoyable, the lake definitely did not live up to its online hype (see complete fishing report and travel article here).
Well, we are pleased to confirm that central Florida met and exceeded all of our restrained expectations. We had a few catches in the 7-12lb range and our “small” catches were in the 2.5 – 6lb range. It’s very important to note that these results are should not be expected by anyone who just flies down to Florida on a family vacation and plans a last-minute half-day trip on a whim with a guide while they are down there. There is LOTS of planning involved and considerations that should be made in advance to maximize the potential for success. In this article, we will share with you some planning tips and key factors in making your Florida fishing trip a success.
1 – Soul Search – Everyone may want to return from a Florida vacation with stories of trophy-sized bass. Although possible, it may not be realistic for all types of trips. Here are some key questions that may help to narrow down your expectations and needs:
Are you travelling with family? How much time can you dedicate to fishing? Keep in mind that even though Florida is a short flight, travel time can take up the majority of your arrival and departure days when you take airport/customs processing, travel time to/from the airport and to/from your hotel into consideration. A 7-day trip, minus arrival and departure days, quickly turns into a 5-day trip. If you planned to do sight-seeing and maybe couple family days at amusement parks, you could be left with little or no time for some serious fishing.
What is your fishing priority? – numbers or size? Tournament-style fishing with artificial lures or with live bait? Your best chances of catching large fish will be with live bait, specifically shiners. Keep in mind that Florida bass live in an ecosystem that provides a variety and volume of food to bass unlike anywhere else in the world. They are also heavily fished, so the fishing pressure is always high. Now combine these two factors and consider how much harder it can be to convince a bass to commit to a plastic worm, while it is surrounded by all the food living in the heavy vegetation like hydrilla, cat tails, cane, and Kissimmee grass, that Florida’s lakes are famous for. Our fishing guide, Dave Douglass, quickly pointed this out to Grant. He was wise to quickly remind us that despite Florida’s potential for fish-of-a-lifetime, trophy-sized catches, this was also going to be some of the most challenging bass fishing of Grant’s lifetime. Dave also pointed out that if Grant was less interested in testing his angling skills, and more interested in just catching big bass, we could switch to shiners at any time. After our first morning on the water, I could see that this offer was tempting. Grant did not cave in. Later in the day when I asked him if he was considering the live bait option, he smiled and said “No! If I just wanted to see a big fish, I can visit an aquarium.”
Do you want to bring your own equipment?
Does your airline, credit card or travel insurance cover the value of the equipment you plan to bring?
How will you transport your equipment and minimize risk of damage during transport? What are the related airline fees?
What size rental vehicle in Florida will you need to fit your equipment, luggage, and family/travel companions?
Where do you want to fish? The “Big-O” is top of mind to most, but if you are staying in Orlando, Lake Okeechobee is at least a 1.5 hour drive to the north end of the lake, and weather conditions may dictate a need to launch you boat on the southern end of the lake. There are plenty of lakes throughout Florida that offer superb bass fishing, and many of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes face less fishing pressure than Okeechobee. Keep an open mind.
2 – Once you narrow down your needs and wants, decide on whether or not to hire a guide. If you can dedicate at least 1 or more full days of your trip to some serious bass fishing we definite recommend hiring a fishing guide! Fishing guides are not one-size fits all. We highly recommend speaking to at least 2-3 guides on the phone in advance to determine the best fit for your fishing needs and personality. Even in sunny Florida, conditions on the water can be cold, raining, windy and miserable; imagine being stuck on the water with a guide that you just don’t get along with on a day with less than desirable weather conditions.
We decided to book Dave Douglass, The Highlands Bass Angler, for several reasons. Dave specialized in the lakes we were most interested in fishing: Istokpoga, Okeechobee and Toho; he was a tournament angler who only used artificial lures; he was flexible with the days, lakes and times we wanted to fish. Above all, he immediately struck us as a no-nonsense type personality while we felt like we were getting a timeshare-like “sell” when speaking to other guides. Dave also is very involved with local fishing conservation authorities, and wrote for local publications, giving us some more confidence in his knowledge of the areas we wanted to fish. During our trip, we laughed when we found that during our phone conversations, Dave was screening Grant just as much as Grant was screening him.
3 – Buy your Florida fishing license in advance! 3-day, 7-day and 1-year fishing licenses are available to non-residents. First time Florida fishing licenses have to be purchased by phone; 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Your license will be emailed to you. Make sure you remember to print out your licenses and pack them with your travel documents to ensure they are accessible with you on the water. If you wish to have a hard copy as a souvenir or other reasons, they can be mailed to US addresses only; Canadians may want to have them sent to their Florida hotel. Give yourselves 5-10 days for delivery. After your first license purchase, visitors can use their fishing license # to renew for future trips online: Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Grant and the team are still sorting through and editing tonnes of raw video from our week long trip, including planning tips, product reviews, interviews and on-the water footage. All videos will be uploaded to the “Florida Fishing” playlist on the AnglingAuthority.com YouTube channel.
Regardless of your fishing style and expectations, Florida is a fantastic destination for any angler. We will definitely return, hopefully sooner than later.
For more information on our Florida Fishing Guide, Dave Douglass, The Highlands Bass Angler, check out his website.