Lake Kissimmee is world famous for it’s catches of big largemouth bass, yet the fishing pressure is fairly light due to the expanse of vegetation, and the many places for bass to hide out and ambush baitfish. It is entirely possible for a bass to live to a ripe old age without many encounters with anglers, since there are places which are impossible to reach with any conventional boat.
Lake Kissimmee covers some 38,000 acres from the mouth of the Kissimmee river on the north end to the exit of the river near US Highway 60 on the south end.
The lake was drawn down in 1995-1996. Part of the process in drawing down the lake included the creation of 24 miles of new shoreline, where the muck was scraped off the bottom of the lake to reveal clean sand underneath. These areas are now prime bass spawning habitat.
The new bass population became evident in 1998 and the effects of the draw-down will continue to be felt over the next 8 to 10 years.
Lake Kissimmee is also benefiting from the new 5 bass limit, only one of which can be over 24 inches in length. (see Florida Game and Fish Laws for details) The results – Bigger bass and more of them.
An increasing awareness of the benefits of catch and release fishing is having an impact on the big bass population as well.
Shiners fished in the heavy cover will often bring feeding bass to the attack. Wild shiners are much preferred, since they are hardy and more active than hatchery raised shiners.
Kissimmee bass go for shiners in all sizes, but bigger bass go for a shiner in the 4 to 6 inch long range. Shiners over 6 inches can be used, and it seems there’s no upper limit on shiner size, since a 2 lb. bass might well decide to eat a shiner 7 inches long!
In warmer weather, after spawning season, a somewhat smaller shiner may be better, as bass are then feeding on shad and small shiners. You can depend on the local fish camp to recommend the correct size shiner for the present condition. Local guides tell me that Camp Mack goes to great length to get the proper size shiner.
Shiners can be fished several ways, including with a bobber, freelined in heavy cover, or with a small balloon tied to the line as a “strike indicator”. Shiners will often become agitated and even jump out of the water when a bass is stalking him. The balloon offers much less resistance to the vegetation, and can slide up the line as the bass runs into the cover with the shiner.
A bobber offers a little better sight control of the shiner, but is more likely to telegraph the bass that there’s drag on the line as he runs with the shiner. Freelining a shiner offers the bass the bait with no drag at all, but it is more difficult to detect a strike if the bass stays put after taking the bait.
Methods of attaching hooks to the shiner are either through the lips and out one nostril, or in the back, just below the tail end of the dorsal fin. Both methods have their drawbacks. The shiner hooked through the back is able to swim naturally, but would be pulled backwards if reeled in. Repeated reeling and casting results in a sluggish or dead shiner. Hooking in the lips impedes the shiner’s swimming ability a bit, but allows him to be reeled in from time to time.
A favorite trick is to clip a small section of a pectoral fin off the shiner, so that he swims a bit off-balance. Bass will sense this injury and it may induce a strike.
Another shiner trick I have heard of is to use some bright colored food coloring on the shiner to make them easier for the bass to see in cover.
Bass can be taken on a variety of artificial lures in Kissimmee, based on the water color, temperature, wind, cover, and time of year.
Plastic worms are a good bet, as are rattle traps, buzzbaits, weedless spoons and spinnerbaits.
Numbers of bass are taken regularly on topwaters and shallow crankbaits, and in the heat of the day flippin’ the weedlines can pay off big.
For the record, Crappie catches at Kissimmee/Hatchineha can be awesome!
A 4 ft ultralight, and 4 lb test with a Beetle Spin, or live minnows and a pole can wear you and the fish out! Not much problem to get 30 or more fish in few short hours. Lotsa’ fun!
Casting Beetle Spins at a Hydrilla bed can produce Bluegills, Shellcrackers, and buckets of Speckled Perch (crappies), and those guys will give a 4lb test outfit a real fight.