First Published January 22, 2014
I couldn’t stand it. I was turkey hunting on a central Florida Wildlife Management Area and all that I could think about was bass fishing! During a pre hunting scouting trip several days earlier, I happened upon a deep drainage ditch that was loaded with lily pads. I was hopeful that it was loaded with bass too! I quickly packed up my turkey hunting gear and made a mad dash back to the truck where my frogging rod waited. A short 5 minute drive and 10 minute hike through the woods and I was in business! Cast after cast produced one nice bass after another that quickly inhaled my LiveTarget Frog. Because of the remote location of this fishing spot and the complete lack of sign of human activity such as trash and foot prints, I wondered if the fish that I caught had ever seen a lure. I had found my “Secret Spot”!
Every bass fisherman dreams of finding a secret spot that is loaded with bass and sees very little pressure. Many of these spots are on public lands and are easily accessible by anglers that are willing to put in a little work. Follow these easy steps and you are on your way to finding your own secret spot!
Find Available Public Lands:
There are lots of opportunities for discovering public lands with fishing hot spots. Conducting a little internet research will help. I will categorize public lands in three different groups and discuss options for researching and finding fishing opportunities for each.
City and County Lands:
Many city and county parks have undeveloped lands or wooded areas that contain ponds, rock pits or wetlands that hold bass. Try looking at city and county parks and recreation web sites. As an example, there is a county park located less than 2 miles from my house. This park is visited by hundreds of people each week who enjoy playing sports on the various baseball and soccer fields in the park. An internet search, through a mapping web site, revealed a hidden swampy looking wetland area located in an undeveloped portion of the park. Fishing is incredible! I often go back when I need a quick bass fishing “fix”.
State Lands (Hunting Lands, State Parks, State Forests, Water Management Lands):
Many state lands are open to the public. Although fishing is allowed on many of these lands, anglers are usually not the primary user group. On hunting lands, fishing is normally allowed but access may be restricted to certain days. Searching through your state’s Fish & Wildlife Agency web site will help you identify potential properties that can be fished. On other state lands, non-consumptive uses such as hiking, biking, bird watching and horseback riding are usually the most popular forms of recreation. Doing an internet search of the state agency web sites responsible for state forests, state parks and water management district lands will lead you to productive fisheries in your area. As an example, I located a remote rock pit in a state park that is a good mile walk or bike ride from the nearest road. The 5 acre lake is a crankbait fisherman’s dream and worth every bit of effort to get there!
Federal Lands (National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks):
Many federal lands offer great bass fishing. A thorough internet search through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service or National Park Service websites will reveal properties in your area that have bass fishing potential. As an example, one of the busiest National Wildlife Refuges in my state has several isolated ponds that are off the beaten path. These ponds offer incredible fishing!
After you find potential public lands, the next step is to thoroughly inspect a map of each property. My favorite way is to use mapping web sites such as Bing Maps and Google Earth. Click on the Satellite or Earth feature to locate water bodies on each property. You can really zoom in to study each area in detail and determine the best and shortest path to and from each body of water. I like to use both Google Earth and Bing to compare the body of water from different aerial photos.
Check Your Regulations:
This is a must. Pay special attention to area specific licensing requirements, days/hours of use, parking/driving restrictions and fishing regulations. By knowing up front what you need to do will often lead to a more enjoyable day. As an example, many National Wildlife Refuges require a no cost Refuge Fishing Permit. This requires the angler to read over and agree to abide by the refuge regulations before signing the permit.
After you have located your spot and read over the regulations, it’s time to go test out your new spot! A good rule of thumb is to keep your bait selection simple for the first visit. When going to a new spot, sight unseen, I like to bring a medium light spinning rod with 8 lb. fluorocarbon and a small selection of Zoom or Bitter’s finesse worms. This set up will catch just about anything, large or small. I keep my color selection to light colors such as watermelon or motor oil for clear water and darker colors such as black grape or junebug for darker waters. Once I get familiar with the lake, I will tailor my tackle according to the terrain and vegetation. Don’t be afraid to “Go Big” and upsize your tackle after learning the particulars of your spot! Giant bass will often thrive in little waters!
Doing a little homework and putting in a little effort can be very rewarding when trying to find a secret fishing spot. There is nothing like the excitement of taking that first cast into waters unknown. Join the excitement and take steps to find your own secret spot. You’ll be glad that you did!
Steve Wayne (Flatsnbay)