Courtesy photo Paul Tardiff shows off his haul working the tree piles from Tuesday on Lake Francis.
published: Friday, August 16, 2013
Ever wonder what's below you when you're fishing?
If you're a fisherman, you probably assume there's fish, but truthfully, most of the water you fish or drive your boat over is barren.
Nothing but water!
Fish tend to congregate on or near structure.
And structure can be anything from a pile of rocks or old tires to roadbeds, railroad tracks, boat docks and even sunken boats.
But the most common form of structure in our lakes here in Highlands County is tree piles.
Many of these tree piles were placed by the Department of Natural Resources, but I suspect most were placed by eager fishermen.
And bass love them!
The thing about tree piles, even more so than other types of structure is that they attract baitfish and everybody knows, if you can draw in the baitfish, you'll draw in the bass.
They also provide a safe haven for bass, and an attack position when a hapless bait fish swims to close.
I was fishing with Paul Tardiff on Tuesday and he is one of the best structure fishing guys I've ever fished with.
And he knows where most, if not all the tree piles are located on all the different lakes in our area.
With his side-viewing depthfinder he's been able to find and mark many of them on his GPS and he will be the first to tell you they hold some big fish.
The number of fish he's taken over 10 pounds is staggering.
We went down to Lake Francis to fish the many tree piles in 12-20 feet of water.
There was a small bass tournament being held on the lake and it was easy to figure out where some of the tree piles were just based on where the anglers were fishing.
But Paul went directly to one of his favorite spots and I wasn't surprised when I hooked up on my fourth or fifth cast with a nice bass.
But there is a hazard to these bass holding tree piles.
They love to reach out and grab your bait.
I snagged up a number of times and ended up breaking off, losing not only my worm but also the hook and slip weight.
The bass just love to grab your bait and run right back into the brush pile, snagging you up and ultimately freeing themselves.
Summertime is a great time to fish these deeper areas in the lake and many hold some huge bass who utilize it as their summer home.
The best rig is a plastic worm with a small 1/8th to 1/4 oz weight and size 2/0 hook.
Many fishermen will use a drop shot rig - weight on the bottom of the line with a worm or plastic creature bait 12" to 24" above the weight. Others, like myself will utilize a Carolina Rig - slip sinker, followed by a swivel, two feet of line with a floating plastic bait.
But regardless what you use, be prepared to catch fish.
Paul mentioned that he has over 150 GPS coordinates for structure in many of the different lakes in Highlands County, some representing tree piles, while others could be almost any sunken object.
I've never been a big fan of deep water fishing.
Oh, I fish my share of deep running crankbaits, jigs and worms, but I'm more of a "visual" fishermen, preferring to find targets in and around shallower areas where I can target my casts.
But Paul is quickly making a convert out of me, as my end goal is probably the same as every other fisherman - to catch fish.
Tuesday wasn't a great fishing day, but we boated more than a half dozen fish in a couple of hours before it got too hot and we called it a day.
Our biggest, a solid 4 pounder was the last fish we caught around 11:20 a.m.
Wednesday Bass Tournament
Our Wednesday morning tournament on Lake Jackson continues to draw in more anglers. Last week we had 6 boats and everybody caught fish.
I caught my first fish on the second cast of the day, followed by another and another. But we just couldn't find any bigger fish. My partner, Burt Watkins caught our biggest fish, just under 3 pounds an hour before quitting time on a white spinnerbait.
Lake Jackson has a lot of nice fish in it, but there are a huge number of 14-15" bass and they are pretty easy to catch.
Nick DeSanta caught 17 bass in 17 casts early Wednesday morning, and stated that he caught over 50 bass throughout the morning. Paul Tardiff said he probably caught just as many, but most were in that 14-15" range.
Dwight Ameling won the tournament - his second win in a row, with 3 nice fish weighing around 7 1/2 pounds.
Nick DeSanta finished in second place (the fifth time in a row) with three fish weighing in a couple of ounces less than Dwight's.
Paul Tardiff finished in third place with 3 bass weighing around 6 pounds.
All in all, we had a lot of fun and we're looking forward to this weeks tournament on Wednesday.
Lake Jackson is filling up and there are many new areas that are holding fish.
Many of the boat docks that have been out of the water for some time are now sitting in 2-4' of water.
Vegetation that once required weekly mowing is now under 2-3' of water.
And the cut under Route 27 is deep enough now to get into small Lake Jackson.
We'd like to see more guys join us as we finish up the summer and move into Fall.
It's only $20 per boat - one or two anglers, 7:30 a.m. to Noon, with a 100-percent payback.
We're thinking about starting another tournament on Friday morning on Lake Glenada. I'll let you know what we decide in next weeks column.
Don Norton is a professional tournament bass fisherman, bass fishing guide, and custom rod builder. He lives in the Golf Hammock area of Sebring with his wife Lexie, and is the owner of a custom rod building company appropriately named "The American Fisherman". He is also the owner of REDS II, a full-service fishing tackle store located at 3603 Sebring Parkway, in Sebring, FL. You can reach him at 863-273-4998 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his American Fisherman Facebook page or his website at theamericanfisherman.com. or stop by the store to see him in person.
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