Central Florida Largemouth Bass Fishing
By Buddy Knight
With more than 550 lakes and countless other bodies of water, Polk County is a freshwater fisherman’s paradise, especially when it comes to largemouth bass.
Both its tropical climate and diverse landscape allow bass to thrive year-round and grow to trophy sizes, making the county the “Largemouth Bass Fishing Capital of the World,” and allowing for a unique freshwater fishing experience that cannot be found anywhere else.
One local fisherman, Ron Anderson, can attest to this fact, having previously lived in Minnesota, which is known as the “land of 10,000 lakes.”
While Minnesota has an abundance of lakes, most of them are located within the wilderness outside of civilization. Most of the metropolitan areas, where Anderson used to live, have been overfished, forcing him to travel a good hundred miles, sometimes even to the Canadian border, just to fish.
The cold winters complicate matters even further unless one has the means to drill through the ice. Either way, fishing up north tends to be a cold and murky experience.
Since moving to Florida nearly two years ago, Anderson has been able to fish year-round due to the tropical climate and plentiful lakes; and since retiring six years ago, he has even more time to do so now more than ever.
With a dock only 30 feet away from his house in Lake Alfred, all he has to do to fish is hop in his boat, and with Lake Haines connected to the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes, he can access up to 18 different lakes without ever leaving the water.
Over the past couple years, Anderson has caught nearly 100 bass. Most of them have weighed two to three pounds. His largest one was four to five pounds. One of his friends caught an 11 and a half pound bass, while most tournament fishermen he knows have caught fish up to five or six pounds.
Patience has been the key to his game. He usually spends about two to three hours per day on the water waiting for the fish to bite. The ideal time for him has been early before sunrise or after sunset, when the waters are most calm.
“If I don’t get anything the first few hours, I’m pretty much done for the day,” Anderson says. “They’re not biting… but once you start fishing and casting, you get a lot out of it.”
Fishing on a daily basis, Anderson has gained much valuable experience on the local waters, learning the best places to fish, the best lures to use, and the best time to cast his line.
While others would use this experience to win big in local tournaments, Anderson, not being the completive type, reserves his experience for his own luxury.
Still, others like Monte Goodman of Central Florida Bucket Mouths use their lifelong experience to show others how to land the best catch, especially a largemouth bass.
Goodman has been fishing since the ripe age of sixteen, and since then he has been “eating, sleeping, and breathing bass fishing.”
He has participated in more than 300 tournaments, and has landed plenty of big catches within the six to seven pound range, even catching a few bass over 10 pounds. His biggest catch by far has been 13 and a half pounds.
Most of his fishing has been in Florida, though he has ventured outside state lines to Alabama and Georgia. Of all the places he has fished, Polk County has proven plentiful with trophy bass.
“There are big fish in lakes in Texas and California, but nowhere else can make the claim that there are more 10 pound bass than right here in Polk County,” Goodman says.
While most fisherman would boast of being masters of a single lure or bait, Goodman claims his success on his versatility with all manners of fishing, insisting that a good fisherman masters a variety of lures for diverse fishing scenarios.
“That will make you a better fisherman rather than sticking to one lure and trying to use it at all times and seasons and conditions because that doesn’t work,” Goodman says. “You have to learn to be versatile.”
Through his fishing guide services, Goodman trains fisherman, both amateur and expert, in the tips and tricks that he has learned from his 35 years of fishing experience.
To him, anyone can watch a fishing show or read a book about fishing, but true learning comes from experience under an expert as himself, and for the right price, he is willing to take people out into the water and show them the tricks of the trade.
“They can learn more in a four hour trip fishing with myself or any other full-time guy,” Goodman says. “They will learn more from that trip than they would from four months or years fishing on their own.”
Another local expert fisherman willing to spread his expertise is Reno Alley of Memory Makin’ Guides.
Alley has fished his way up-and-down the East Coast, participating in and winning numerous tournaments. His biggest catch were two 14-pound bass, with his most recent catch being 11 pounds.
Most of his time he has spent treading Florida waters, where he has taught himself how to land the best catches, and it is these very tricks which he’s willing to teach others though his charter fishing guide service.
Through Memory Makin’ Guides, Alley takes customers out on his pontoon boat onto Central Florida waters, which he has traversed over the past 30 years, sharing with customers the fishing experience he had gained during that time.
Whether he takes them out on local waters within Polk County, or on the freshwater of Orange and Osceola, and whether his trips are for two hours or six or eight, his customers are sure to learn the best way to catch a largemouth bass.
As many of his customers come from up north, they tend to want to fish along the water’s edge upon the banks and rocks rather than in the water and among the grass.
“What works up north does not work in the state of Florida,” Alley says.
As such, most of his training involves teaching them to learn where the fish are and how to best catch them, which involves fishing in the open waters and in the grass.
“That is the hardest part: knowing where they are at and finding them,” Alley says. “It is a big challenge for people to learn how to adapt to fishing with grass, but once you understand it, it is quite easy.”
His best advice, other than seeking the services of a guide like himself, is to invest in the right tools, most importantly, a depth finder.
Though not every one of his customers are guaranteed to walk away with a trophy catch, they are sure to walk away with lifelong memories. Alley has seen his share of stories during his time out on the water, from customers falling out of the boat to having them lose their cellphones (with an average of two to three per year).
Regardless of how well his trips meet their expectations, his customers are sure to come away with wild fishing stories to tell, along with the knowledge necessary to land a big catch.