Only a few teams showed up Saturday morning to fish the UF/FWC Bass Tournament on Newnans Lake. That was likely due to a couple of factors.
With the lake now very high, the bass-catching had steadily become tougher here, and the week leading up to the tourney offered practicing fishers brutally tough fishing. The shut-out anglers theorized the fish had moved into the ‘new water’ far back in the cypresses now inaccessible by bass boats.
On top of that, there was tempting competition from another tournament scheduled the same day on red-hot Orange Lake. Along with the nine teams set to fish the Newnans event were a few young UF Bass Team anglers. They weren’t eligible for tournament prize money, but were fishing hard for bragging rights within their club.
Erik Van Dyke and Noah Rivera, UF team members and part of the tournament committee, pulled up with a narrow 14-foot johnboat powered by a 15-horsepower Mercury. Veteran Newnans bassers took note, whispering that this looked like a proper “Newnans boat.”
When weigh-in time came, the predicted tough fishing was confirmed. Carson Kamien and I had managed only three fish for a little over 8 pounds, but amazingly, this was enough to win the prize money.
Right behind us were Dennis and Lake Hart with a bit over 6 pounds. John Kurtz and Johnny Bass caught the big bass of the day, a 4-pounder.
But these meager catches were hardly the story of the day. Van Dyke and Rivera motored across the lake in their little vessel. They made their way back into the cypresses at “the first opening we found.” They “pinballed our way back through the trees,” sometimes both leaning to one side to squeeze over unseen cypress knees.
Interestingly, the young anglers chose to cast topwater lures rather than the standard snagless soft plastics generally favored for such tight quarters. The bass were there. Fishing Devils Horses, the anglers had crushing strikes.
“I couldn’t even see the biggest strike,” Van Dyke said, “because the bait was behind a tree.”
Even though they were using just 15-pound test monofilament, the young anglers managed to boat an entirely impressive bunch of bass.
“We had a cooler and a bucket to dip water into it,” Van Dyke said. “We kept the smaller ones in there. For the big ones, I called my buddy and we shuttled them back out to the main lake and put them in his live well.”
Two were over 9 pounds. Their five bass totaled 29 pounds, 15 ounces—almost quadrupling the total weight of the ‘winning’ team.
In the Saturday tournament that drew more participation, the North Central Florida Trail went out of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park on Orange Lake. Again, catches were impressive all-around. Joe Yarborough and Dewayne Moore won with a five-bass limit totaling more than 28 pounds. Yarborough’s nearly 11-pound giant anchored the catch.
Second place was nearly as impressive, as Tyler Griffis and Dusty Reddish sacked a limit weighing more than 26 pounds.
As springtime rolls in, inshore anglers are checking on the gulf favorites that should be arriving. Spanish mackerel sage Steve Beeland went Monday to Seahorse Reef off Cedar Key.
“We found large balls of very small baitfish and we caught eight small-to-medium sized Spanish,” he said.
Tuesday, George DeLoach and Greg Brown enjoyed an excellent trout and redfish day in the Steinhatchee shallows, releasing 31 trout up to 26 inches long and 19 slot-size redfish. They were surprised, too, to hook several large Spanish mackerel in water about three feet deep.
Sunday morning, Hagan and Hudson Thomas went fishing out of Suwannee with their family. The Lake Butler twins already have earned a reputation as fine fishermen … and the 7-year-olds again showed off impressive fish-catching skills. They don’t just soak shrimp like most youngsters.
Casting a Mirrolure, Hudson hooked and eventually whipped a fine, legal-size 33-inch snook. Not to be outdone, Hagan’s Mirrolure was nailed by an even bigger linesider. Finally, Hagan boated and released his over-slot 36-inch whopper.
The First Annual Josh’s Place Inshore Fishing Tournament will go out of Steinhatchee’s Sea Hag Marina Saturday, April 9th. Cash prizes will be awarded for the heaviest three legal trout, and for the three heaviest legal redfish. Entries and prizes are for individuals, but multiple anglers may fish together. For more information, email email@example.com.