Fishing report: Rainy spell sure help to lakes

Cory (left) and Wynston with their Orange Lake Big Bass.
Cory (left) and Wynston with their Orange Lake big bass.
Courtesy of Gary Simpson

A remarkably rainy June is sure to improve fishing on our lakes. And some of these waters were producing just fine when things were dry.

Especially Orange — the famous pool that has received a great deal of attention from bass-seeking anglers all year. Through recent weeks, there hasn’t been quite as many giant, double-digit bigmouths pulled from its weedy depths, but what there HAS been is almost as great a crowd pleaser. On Orange Lake, a first-rate topwater bite is going on.

Chatting in the shop, bass lovers sometimes throw out fishing hypotheticals and one we’ve heard is, “How many good worm bites would you trade for one good topwater flush?” 

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I’ve heard replies ranging from “two” all the way to “10.”  

Angry surface explosions are just special.

When the Florida Freshwater Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced it would not issue bass tournament waivers for contests held between June 15 through Sept. 15, most bassers expected tournament organizers to take a pass on scheduling tourneys on Orange and Lochloosa during this hot-weather window. 

The primary tournament series that regularly goes out of Orange, the Xtreme Bass Series, surprised us by continuing with their prescheduled events. Without the waiver, teams would only be allowed two bass more than 16 inches long within just a three-bass limit.

The first of the waiver-less Orange Lake Xtremes went out of Marjorie Rawlings Park Saturday. The tournament drew a field of 45 teams — not bad at all considering the unfamiliar limit and weather that was forecast to be poor. And one of the top big-bass-producing lakes in Florida again shined. 

Cory Kempton and Wynston Kicklighter each bagged a big fish — Cory’s at 9.70 pounds and Wynston’s an 11.92-pound beast.

And the accomplished angling team added their rule-required sub-16-inch bass to finish with a winning 22.42 total. Cory said their winning plan involved chunking a lot of topwater lures.

With Orange on such a roll, there’s a misconception that Orange Lake is our only truly “hot” lake heading into the summer of 2023. A journeyman father-and-son team might beg to differ.

Todd and Brent Van Alstyne headed out early two Fridays ago for Lake Rousseau. They launched around daybreak at the public ramp on the reservoir’s dam end. Something about this day was undoubtedly to the liking of the Rousseau bass. 

Todd said, “Our second cast of the morning produced a 5-pound, 14-ouncer.” They would go on to enjoy an epic bass-catching day on Rousseau, releasing at least a couple dozen fish including three 5-pounders, two 6-pounders, and a fine 8-pounder.

Soft plastics, buzzbaits and crankbaits all contributed to the tally and were most effective when working near stumps surrounded by grass. The father-and-son team caught bass like crazy until 2 p.m., when approaching storms cut the fun short. 

The elder Van Alstyne went on, “We guessed our best five at 32 pounds — only caught two fish under three pounds all day.”

Understandably fired up by their epic bass-catching day, Brent and Todd Van Alstyne returned to the productive water a week later. But whatever had spurred the Rousseau bass to the big feed a week earlier seemed no longer at work. 

“We fished all day for eight bass,” Todd said.

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