February Bass Bonanza begins with “No Snow” Down South
Spring fishing is something that everyone all around the country simply cannot wait for. While many enjoy the hard-water action and great success during the winter months up north, not everyone can handle the cold. Aches and pains seem to migrate to between the ears when the mercury drops and folks all start to think about spring.
Why? Well, almost everyone looks forward to the fish-catching action we find for many freshwater species as those colorful spring flowers start to pop and the birds begin to warble and chant through the morning collection of their annual mating jukebox.
For some lucky folks, springtime and good fishing starts really early in the year, for example, in Florida, where professional fishing guide, Tom Marks, visits his mom to test many freshwater lakes and ponds that he calls, “Friendly waters down south.” Some of these are on golf courses.
Last year, Marks was rewarded with a monster largemouth bass that tipped the official Florida scales at 13 pounds-12 ounces, a healthy bass.
With his home near Buffalo, New York, you might understand why Marks looks forward to a southern trip in winter. Living on the Great Lakes, Marks is a professional guide, he catches big fish throughout the year. With this last big fish, he may have achieved a mark that few pro’s anywhere in the country ever achieve, that is, catching three bass in the last three years all over that magic 10-pound mark. Some folks can fish their entire life with hopes of catching a 10-pound bass someday, but never do. It is a giant wish on the bass fishermen’s bucket list, for sure.
You have to understand that Marks is a retired engineer that took his scientific mind from the desk to the water and he thinks his way through every fishing situation. This tends to make the end result a good possibility that good luck fishing will be realized.
Humble as Marks is, he says, “Catching big fish does take a bit of luck, you know, you have to pay attention all the time.” Those folks that know Marks say he never really talks too much about what he is thinking, he just catches fish and then shares his rod with his friends. He catches fish every day too, even when other charter captains on the fishable waters that he is either guiding on or competing in, are wondering where the fish went for a vacation day. That probably tells the rest of us ordinary anglers that he is not just lucky, but that he has a system, a logical approach to find fish and attract fish, then entice them to strike.
Asked about his big feat, Marks says, “It’s funny fishing the smaller lakes in Florida, I scoot around in some places, always with permission from local ownership, sometimes on a golf cart loaded up with rods and tackle. I was telling my wife I feel like I am on a bass boat because I run as fast as the cart will go from "spot" to "spot", then I race back to the house, not for weigh-in, but for dinner. It’s so much fun!” So how does he know which golf course ponds to fish? He says he depends more on the weather, as it seems many of the ponds have fish, many of them big fish, and yes, he does have a plan that he insists he calls lady luck.
He adds, “Many Florida ponds and lakes have almost no structure in the form of plants or weed lines. Some are more than 20 feet deep, bowl sharp, with almost no bottom structure. Sometimes there are flood control culvert pipes here and there, surface dams and drain tube, sometimes that is the structure! There are some points with drop-offs that fish hang on. I think I have figured out how to catch the bigger fish.”
In reviewing his notes, Marks shares, “In steady weather, folks casting a line can catch a ton of smaller bass in the one to three pounds range. Now, when the cold front comes to pass and the weather is windy with cold air and a clear, bluebird sky, the bite is off for the average bass. Most folks go home, they know that rule, but I have found that the giants are still feeding! It’s exciting! It’s the one time I can get my lures to the big fish before the aggressive smaller bass wack the baits.”
Marks continues, “During the post-front hours, I catch very few fish, but they tend to be much bigger than average.” Marks says, “In the two weeks after I caught that big bass, I missed a few other real giants, but maybe we can save those for next year.” Marks caught the monster trophy (which he released after one picture), on an artificial lure. He really nailed it hard, stripping 14-pound fluorocarbon right away. It never jumped or broke the surface, so I had no idea what I hooked was that big. The fish made several good runs before I got it close to the bank where I could see what it was, this is where I start talking to the fish. "Don't come off! Please don't come off! At least not until I could get a solid grip on its lip.”
It was an amazing day for Marks, “As I brought this fish in I could see my spinner bait was broken, but I had two hooks on the lure and they were both in its mouth (I use a trailer hook). I kept just enough pressure on the lure to guide it to my hand, what a relief it was to lift it out of the water. I ran it over to my golf cart to weigh it on my Berkley “Boka” grip scale. There was no one around to take the picture I was headed back to the bank to let it go when a golfer came up and wanted to see the bass. I showed him and he took the picture with my iPhone. I got it back in the water real quick. I came back several times to that golf course “water trap,” no floating bass, so I know it made it. Actually I have never seen any bass floating, I get them all back in pretty quick.”
So whether or not you may feel Marks is extremely lucky or simply extremely good at fishing, either way, you might want to check his calendar availability for early spring bass in Florida where the air is warm too. There are not that many open dates (I checked), but what I was extremely surprised at was the low rates that Marks charges his clients for hire. I asked him about his all-day charter low fees ($225) and Marks said, “Well, you know, I have enjoyed my job and our great fishing all over this great country for all of my life. In a sense, I’m just trying to give back a little and help other folks learn a little bit about my systems for catching fish, no matter what the conditions. I charge enough to cover my boat gas, some fishing supplies and to pay my taxes, that’s all I need. I might raise them a little this year to be fair.”
Marks guides for many species and he also offers photo-trips, sightseeing and “ECO” conservation trips. Visit his website at http://gr8lakesfishing.com or call him direct at 716-997-6919. There is nothing like on-the-water-education from someone that knows their way around.