Fishing report: Good catches, fresh and salt

Orange Lake
Orange Lake
Courtesy of FWC

As expected, area freshwater fishing remains solid into the spring season. 

Cane pole and light tackle fans have indicated that bluegill have replaced speckled perch as the fastest-biting panfish, and some folks have already located big beds of fat bream. 

But here around the shop, the fishing stories we’re hearing most often include good bass action.

Orange Lake’s great run of producing big bass continues.  On March 18, the Xtreme Bass Series held the season’s third qualifier in its Orange Lake Division.  An impressive field of 70 teams showed up before dawn to launch at Marjorie Rawlings Park despite wet and unsavory conditions. 

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At weigh-in, the rain-soaked teams weighing their catches marveled at the five-bass catch brought to the scales by Nathan Beasley and Tommy Beasley. Anchored by a 12.76-pound giant, the winning limit totaled 31.89 pounds.

Mike and Tony Davis finished second with a fine 27.66-pound total and Dennis Hart and Don Bunting took third place with 24.75. The Pete Roberson/Rob Roberson team nailed down fourth with 23.87 and Drew Bowen and his highly decorated bassing dad, Billy Bowen, finished fifth with 23.39.

Bass fans less interested in fishing competitively are likewise finding big bites on Orange. 

The most entertaining story of the week, though, detailed a trip in which the fish clearly won out. In early March, Gainesville angler Jimmie Jennings added his name to the growing list of anglers who have caught giant Orange bass when he boated a largemouth that weighed 13-07 on his digital scale. 

Last Saturday, Jennings was back on Orange along with Rick Rabel looking to repeat the monumental accomplishment. With their primary spots producing strikes from only smaller fish, the men decided to hunt around and try to find another ‘big fish spot.' And one of the spots they tried did indeed hold big fish. 

On this trip, however, things did not go the anglers’ way. One hard-fighting bass broke Jimmie’s new rod. Then, upon setting the hook with a spare rod, the reel popped off the reel seat, allowing the big fish to escape. The anglers went on to lose three more heavyweights before finally boating a solid five-pounder that made them feel only marginally better.

Jennings and Rabell caught nearly 40 bass that day, mostly while casting Zoom Mag Speed Worms. But they’re sure to remember it for the ones that got away.

Five members of the Gainesville Amateur Kayak Club hit the Steinhatchee shallows two Thursdays ago. Al Clements and Jim Traylor of Gainesville, Charlie Ray of Old Town, Matt Scott of Trenton and Neil Duncan of Jacksonville slipped out into the clear flats early at low tide in only a foot or so of water. 

There were a good many sizable trout to be had first thing, and each of the kayakers caught several while primarily casting soft plastic lures. As the tide rose, the five eased in closer to the grassy shoreline and there, they found redfish. But despite the reds being apparently abundant, the anglers couldn’t seem to get them to strike a lure.

Finally, Charlie Ray decided to give a Chatterbait a try, and that turned out to be the ticket. All of those with Z Man Chatterbaits in their possession caught big reds, along with a few big flounders.

Three of the five fishers filled trout/red/flounder slams. And all agreed that it had been an exceptional morning.

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