….. This story starts at work in the cubical of my good buddy Zack. A Serbian refugee, now an American citizen, Zack lives in St. Pete and fishes saltwater exclusively and has never fished for bass. So being the confident “jacked up” bass fisherman that I am, I told him, “I’ll take you fishing on the Santa Fe River and I promise you’ll catch a bass!” Ok, that was mistake #1…never promise anyone that they will catch bass or anything for that matter. In the mean time, circumstances changed and Zack and I decided to fish the Myakka River instead. Mistake #2, if you promise someone they’ll catch bass, at least take them to a river you have previously fished. I have no previous experience fishing the Myakka River. Although a very beautiful river, the Myakka failed to produce a single fish for either of us…all we caught was sunburn. Back at work, I have not heard the end of our failed fishing trip. Zack keeps reminding me about “broken promises” and the bass he never caught.
Fast forward two months later, Zack and I are finally headed to the Santa Fe River for a weekend of fishing and camping. This time all I promised was that we were going to have a good time, but my bruised ego is determined to put Zack on some bass. I’m writing this intro on the eve of our fishing trip. How did the weekend turn out? It’s time to go fishing.
Zack and I set up our base camp at Ginnie Springs which gave us the convenience of floating back to our campsite. We finally launched the canoe late Saturday afternoon. Our plan was to troll up river past all the Ginnie Springs “tubing traffic” and start fishing as soon as the river quiets down. Once through the “tubers”, I immediately started casting to lay-downs and brush-piles. Zack was working on his casting accuracy, but adapted quickly to the “lighter” freshwater tackle. With daylight falling fast, I managed two bass this evening caught on 8” junebug ribontail worms. I was positioning the canoe up to lay-downs so Zack could cast into the best spots. Never fishing with worms before, Zack lost a couple bass after the initial “thump” and was fascinated by the feeling of a bass strike. I assured (not promised) him that if he kept casting into likely targets, that he’ll have more of those “thumps” on our long Sunday float.
Sunday morning greeted us with a headache and hopes of catching more bass. It got down into the lower 50’s, but with the sun coming up it warmed up quickly into lower 80’s (perfect Florida weather). We secured our campsite and headed to the US 27 access point. Our plan is to float from US 27 back to Ginnie Springs. We started a little later than I wanted to, but that’s just the way things go sometimes. While we were launching our canoe, a trailer load of kayaks showed up from one of the local canoe liveries. This appeared to be a corporate outing with at least 8 kayaks and a couple of canoes. You can expect to see a lot of canoe traffic on the weekends.
Once on the water we were treated by a very nice tail-wind that kept us moving comfortably, but not too fast that we couldn’t fish. We started casting immediately. The fishing was very slow on Sunday. We really had to work hard for the bites. Zack alternated between a Zoom Ultra-Vibe (www.zoombait.com) in watermelon/red and an ultra-light spinner for bluegill’s. Since my main goal today was Zack’s fishing, I tried to coach him by pointing out proper rod positioning, eliminating slack line and hook setting. However, learning worm fishing requires catching a bass until the “light bulb” actually turns on. Zack’s very first largemouth was a tiny bass that swam away with a 6” curly tail Zoom worm…no “light bulb” moment yet. I alternated between a buzzbait and various worm patterns.
It wasn’t until we reached the springs, mid-float, when the Suwannee bass fishing picked up. I caught a fat Suwannee bass on a laydown.
After more of my coaching which consisted of, “cast over there, cast up there, in that tree, over that grass…” the light bulb turned on. Zack hooked up with the biggest fish of the day! Under an overhanging tree next to the mouth of a spring run, I suggested to Zack, “Cast under that tree”. I positioned the canoe for him and a few casts later he yelled “FISH”! Zack landed a nice 1.5 lb Suwannee bass which fell for the Zoom Ultra-Vibe Speed Worm.
Unfortunately, the rest of the trip was uneventful. I was able to manage a few more non-keepers, but the group of corporate kayaks kept “dogging” us until Rum Island (thankfully their take-out spot). It was late in the afternoon and we needed to get back to break-down our camp, so we paddled-out below Rum Island. This was an unusually tough day on the Santa Fe River, but overall we were not disappointed. Zack was still on cloud 9 after catching a very nice Suwannee bass. Considering the state record is only 3lbs, his was a great catch! And for their small size they put up a great fight.
Now back at the office, I’m longer getting the “broken promises” ragging that I got for weeks after our Myakka River trip. I’ve learned my lesson NOT to make any promises when it comes to fishing. So if you’re planning a trip to Central Florida and want to experience the Santa Fe River or any of our other great rivers, drop me a line…I promise that you will have FUN!
Article by: Phillip Scearce (firstname.lastname@example.org)