Courtesy photo Don Norton shows off the 9-plus pound bass caught on Lake Istokpoga this past weekend, a weekend that proved to be quite a haul on the local lake.
published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Lake Istokpoga - Fishing is Hot
I had the opportunity to fish Lake Istokpoga last weekend on Saturday as well as Sunday and the fishing couldn't have been better.
The weather both days was less than perfect, with cooler air temperatures, spotty rain showers and strong winds.
Anyone anxious to catch their limit and maybe even hook into that wallhanger should be fishing this incredible lake right now.
So Saturday morning I stopped by the Lorida Bait and Tackle to get a few tips from John Wood, and he showed me a couple of baits that were really hot.
One combination that he put together himself, a swim bait with a weighted hook and Colorado blade was an easy sale as I selected both the dark and lighter versions.
The winds were exceptionally strong on Saturday, but knowing the bass will typically start their spawning activities on the north or western sections of the lake, I crossed the lake from the Cowhouse Rd boat ramp and immediately got into some nice fish.
Casting the swim bait with the wind was like shooting a cannon.
My casts were long and deliberate and the strikes were amazing.
Within the first 30 minutes I'd had six strikes and landed three bass.
But the blowing winds were just too much for my electric motor and I finally decided to find some calmer waters.
With a Northeast wind, the eastern shoreline of Lake Istokpoga offered a welcome respite and although I wasn't real confident I could find any fish there, it was a pleasant experience not having to fight the wind.
The bulrushes and reeds along the northeastern section of the lake are numerous and most are in 2-3 feet of water.
I moved in close to flip the outside edges and within minutes hooked into one of the biggest bass I've ever seen.
For those of you who do a lot of flipping, you know that occasionally, as the boat is moving forward, you'll see the reeds move out of the corner of your eye.
Well, I noticed the reeds separating just ahead of the boat and I carefully flipped my blue-black Yum Dinger into the spot.
Within seconds the reeds moved again and as I set the hook, a bulldozer of a bass exploded as she ripped the line off my baitcasting reel.
Often, when flipping a plastic worm or jig, the bass will pick it up and move out towards open water, but this bass headed straight back into the heaviest concentration of reeds, traveling at a tremendous speed, she broke water and tail-walked a good three feet before snapping my 25 lb test Trilene Big Game line.
I couldn't believe it!
The entire event couldn't have taken three seconds, but it seemed to be in slow motion.
I sat down in the boat and took a deep breath.
Eventually I reminded myself - win, lose or draw, that's what bass fishing's all about.
I finished the day with 11 bass, all between 2 1/2 pounds and 5 pounds.
Many were caught on the swim bait, but for the record, I probably missed or lost as many bass as I caught.
Fishing the swim bait, you need to give the bass an extra few seconds after the strike to get the whole bait in their mouth before you set the hook.
I figured that out after I missed a fair number of strikes setting the hook too quickly.
Sunday the winds were lighter as I started fishing a little earlier in the day, around 10 a.m.
Still thinking about the "big one that got away", I decided to start near where I'd lost the fish on Saturday.
I had marked the spot on my GPS, so I pulled in about 200 yards north of the area and started flippin'.
On my third flip, a big fish picked up my bait and headed back into the reeds.
I wasn't expecting action this quick and I stumbled for a moment, setting my coffee down and lowering my rod tip to strike back.
It felt like a good hook set but the fish was already deep into the reeds and circling around a dozen bulrushes.
I put the electric motor on high and proceeded to knock down the reeds as I got closer to where the big bass was tangled up.
About five feet away, I could see the huge bass lying on her side, but I was shocked to see two blue-black Yum Dingers hanging from her massive jaw.
I couldn't believe it - could this actually be the bass I had hooked and lost yesterday?
My mind was racing as I raised the power on the electric motor determined to get to this big female before she got her second wind.
At the sound of my electric motor thrashing the water and reeds, the big bass made a frantic jump and I could almost hear the line snap.
And she was gone again.
Every bass fisherman experience's the feelings associated with losing a big bass.
But to lose what appeared to be the same bass two days in a row was a crushing blow.
It was time to re-think my selection of fishing lines.
Like many bass fishermen, I used to use Power Pro or one of the other braided lines for flipping, but, being old school, I always preferred the Trilene Big Game line for its flex and durability.
I never worried too much about breaking off but twice in two days, with what appeared to be the same fish, maybe it was time to switch back.
After a few minutes of thinking about what I should have done, I chalked it up to just another exciting battle and got back to fishing.
Moving out to a little deeper area I went back to casting the swim bait and was rewarded on my first cast with a nice four pounder.
A few casts later a 3 and a fat 2 1/2 pounder found the bait irresistible and I put the loss of the big bass out of my mind.
Coming up on some lily pads, I changed tactics and went to a silver phenom Bass Assassin, weaving the bait near the surface and watching intently as it mimicked a wounded bait fish.
I wasn't sure if the bass would hit a surface bait but I was soon convinced when a nice 4 pounder blew up on it in the middle of the pads.
Catching a couple more, I decided to go back to flipping the reeds in the hope of hooking up with another big fish.
Moving along 300 yards of reed-filled shoreline without a hit, I was just about ready to go back to the Bass Assassin or the Swim Bait when I felt a solid tap.
I set up and a big bass came right up to the surface and under my boat.
This one wasn't going to get away, I thought, as I worked the bass over to the portside of the boat and reached down and grabbed her lower lip.
She was a beauty, weighing in at 9.12 pounds and full of eggs.
She wasn't as big as the one I'd lost (they never are), but she put the icing on the cake for me as I finished up my day on Lake Istokpoga.
I landed 17 bass in two days, the biggest one over 9 pounds and most in the 3-5 pound range, on three different baits, in three different areas of the lake.
A great couple of days that I hope to repeat over the next couple of months.
Later, I told a couple of my buddies about losing the same bass two days in a row, and I noticed some raised eyebrows.
But if you're fishing Lake Istokpoga and you catch a monster bass with two blue black Yum Dingers hanging from her jaws ...
Don Norton is a professional tournament bass fisherman, bass fishing guide, and custom rod builder. He has also taught a few fishing classes at the South Florida Community College. He lives in the Golf Hammock area of Sebring with his wife Lexie, mother-in-law Ruth Charvat, Ranger, a huge black lab and Riley, a large golden retriever and is the owner of a custom rod building company appropriately named "The American Fisherman". He can be reached at 216-339-6571, 330-635-6682 or by email at email@example.com. His website address is theamericanfisherman.com.
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