UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - St. Lawrence River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Winding Over Florida Grass

Winding Over Florida Grass

Picking apart the mats with a big weight and sight-fishing for spawning bass are time-honored techniques for Florida, but the casting bite can be just as good at times. It’s a proven tournament-winning technique too, which is why fishing a moving bait over and through massive grass fields that Florida offers is an important tactic to know.  

We caught up with Val Osinski, owner of Gambler Lures and winner of the 2015 Costa FLW Series event on Okeechobee; TVA-legend-turned-Florida-stick Randy Haynes; and Jared McMillan, who narrowly missed winning the 2014 FLW Series event on the Big O, for a solid rundown on how to reel fast for bass in Florida.

 

 Search ‘em out

“The big thing with fishing moving baits here [Lake Okeechobee] is that it’s a really good way to cover water and get bites,” says Osinski. “That can lead you into the right area. Fishing fast with swimbaits and swim jigs and targeting big aggressive fish is just the epitome of power fishing.”

When the fish are moving from out in the main lake in toward shallow spawning flats and the like, Osinski likes to target whatever cover is their first stop. He continues working in from there. On the north end of Okeechobee, the target might be hydrilla beds. On the south end of the big lake, the bass might end up staging in big pad fields.

Haynes also uses moving baits to quickly comb water.

“It’s about trying to get across an area quickly and at the same time be methodical about it,” explains Haynes. “You can roll through an area and realize the water color and how the water is moving and just check it. Even if the water color isn’t right now, it might be in a week, and you can go back and quickly check it a few times.”

 

 

The Speed Worm does it for Haynes

Randy Haynes started the morning with a buzz frog.

Haynes’ favorite weapon for casting the grass is a watermelon red flake or junebug Zoom UV Magnum Speed Worm rigged with a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce weight (not pegged) and a 5/0 Gamakatsu Superline Offset EWG hook.

“If the wind is blowing I’m more of a ChatterBait or swim-jig guy,” allows the Tennessee pro. “But, if it stays still that daggum Speed Worm is just unbelievable down here. It has beat me out of the back of the boat a few times and is one of those baits I make sure to throw before I leave any area.

“Most of the water down here isn’t but 3 or 4 feet deep,” explains Haynes, who is currently in Florida prepping for the upcoming FLW Series opener on Okeechobee. “I like to reel it subsurface, over hydrilla and eelgrass. You can pop it a bit and give it a twitch every once in a while, but it’s a do-nothing worm. You can be daydreaming and fishing it.”

Regardless of the bait, Haynes pretty much has one combo for winding on Okeechobee. He starts off with a 7-foot, 6-inch, heavy-power Kistler Helium 3 casting rod, tops that with a Lew’s Super Duty Speed Spool in the 7.1:1 gear ratio and fills the whole thing up with 50-pound-test braided line.

 

Osinski goes swimming

Val Osinski adds a skirt to his swimbait to attract more bites.

Back in 2015, Osinski used a unique Gambler EZ Swimmer/skirt combo to boost his catch on the final day and lock up the win. We covered it extensively at the time. As successful as that rig has been for him, Osinski will also throw a swim jig from time to time, particularly if the cover is sparse or deep by Florida standards.

“I want to just be ticking the top of whatever vegetation I’m targeting,” says Osinski. “If I’m out on the north shore over hydrilla I might be swimming it back 4 feet down over the grass. On the south end around pads I like to buzz over the top of them and then swim down in the gaps.”

No matter the bait or vegetation, the affable pro has the same philosophy throughout.

“I rely on hitting something to give the bait action. A lot of guys impart a lot of action [with the rod] on the swim jig as it’s coming in. I like the deflection off the grass to be the action.”

On the swim-jig side of things, Osinski naturally prefers the Gambler Lures Heavy Cover Southern Swim Jig to others, and usually tips it with an EZ Swimmer. He fishes it with a 7-foot, 3-inch, heavy-power Powell Max 3D rod, a Daiwa Tatula with a 7.3:1 gear ratio, and 65-pound-test Sufix 832 braid around heavy cover or 20-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon in lighter stuff.

Having a lot of color versatility is key for Osinski, and he’ll mix and match all the way from green pumpkin to white on the jig color and the swimbait. Depending on weather he wants to imitate a shiner, a shad or a bluegill, Osinski has it all at his disposal.

 

McMillan looks for spawners

Gambler Big EZ

McMillan’s favorite way to chase the casting bite is to sling a Gambler Big EZ for spawners.

“I’m targeting bedding fish that are aggressive and making them react,” he explains. “A lot of people will slow down and try and sight-fish them and actually see them, but I like to cover as much water as possible and hit as many beds or possible beds as I can.”

By specifically targeting likely bed location such as holes in the vegetation or small cattail clumps among the “hayfields,” McMillan can burn through a big area and possibly irritate a big fish or two into biting pretty quickly.

“It depends on the day, but most of the time I use a straight retrieve at a steady pace just so it bubbles along the top and stays loud,” details the Florida stick. “Sometimes, especially after a cold front, I’ll bubble it along and stop it at each hole and let it fall to the bottom, and they’ll react on it then.”

McMillan’s tackle is pretty well sized for Okeechobee. He opts for a 7-foot, 3-inch, heavy-power G. Loomis MossyBack rod and a Shimano Chronarch CI4+ in a 7.6:1 gear ratio with 65-pound-test Sufix 832 Braid. McMillan’s preferred Big EZ colors are black and blue, Copperfield and forty-niner, and he likes to put it on a giant 7/0 Gamakatsu EWG Monster hook.

 

Big results

Okeechobee expert Brandon Medlock made a solid run at Osinski on day three, but it wasn't enough. Osinski slammed the door with this pair of hawgs.

The next time you go to Florida, make sure you bring all your flipping stuff, but don’t be shy about doing some casting. According to our experts, it can be a big part of just having fun or a tournament win. Heck, winding a bait at Okeechobee produced what might have been the best bite to ever be captured on film by FLW. It could provide the same kind of excitement for you.

We will leave you with this video of Greg Bohannan's epic catch that is sure to get your heart thumping.

Tags: florida  grass  swimbaits  jody-white  article 

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