“Within the high Florida bass lakes, I’d guess over 80 % of bass over 10 kilos are caught on dwell shiners,” says Captain Jamie Jackson, famend information on West Lake Tohopekaliga on the Kissimmee Chain. For anglers keen to go south in pursuit of lunkers, there’s no place like Florida throughout the winter months. I do know as a result of I’ve made the journey many instances, and barely come residence upset. Shiner fishing has a protracted custom there and has remained common as a result of it’s so efficient. It’s additionally lots of enjoyable. All anglers love to look at a float wiggle, then plunge under the floor, whether or not what’s on the opposite finish of the road is a crappie or a lunker bass. And the way in which bass typically play cat-and-mouse with their prey is an enchanting present in itself.

Captain Sean Rush represents the custom of shiner fishing, whereas additionally bringing it up-to-date with tools and strategies for habitats which might be frequently shifting because of nature and human exercise. His grandfather was a Florida bass information and Rush realized the methods of water and fish from him, in addition to different high guides. Throughout the Nineteen Seventies and Eighties, Rodman Reservoir, the St. Johns River, and lakes Orange and Lochloosa produced superb fish and helped encourage his love of looking huge bass. At age-17, he began guiding on his personal and has been at it for 30 years, now proprietor of Florida Bass Fishing Information Service. He focuses on Rodman Reservoir close to Ocala on the Ocklawaha River, sometimes visiting different high places and fishing no less than 300 days a yr.

He’s recently gained notoriety for placing visiting anglers on many fish qualifying for the Florida Fish Fee’s TrophyCatch Massive Fish Contest, together with three that certified for “Corridor of Fame” standing by exceeding 13 kilos, and the state’s largest bass of 2013, simply shy of 14 kilos. To fish the various situations, he makes use of two boats—a 23-foot aluminum Struggle Eagle with a pair of huge livewells to carry shiners, and an 18-foot custom-made Prodigy Mud Boat with an air-cooled Gator Tail Outboard, constructed to sort out the backcountry or reservoir drawdowns, which happen each three to 4 years on Rodman to regulate vegetation and the buildup of muck.

Captain Jamie Jackson facilities his Orlando Bass Information Service on the Kissimmee Chain, largely West Tohopekaliga. He’s proprietor of AJ’s Freelancer Information Service, taking it over for famed information Ed Chancey, who started guiding on Toho in 1960. Jackson has now been guiding for 35 years there, frequently placing shoppers on personal-best bass. He fishes artificials as nicely, however likes wild shiners for top-end fish.

Assortment and Care of Bait

One other famend bassman additionally has a ardour for shiner fishing. Joe Balog gained fame for his smallmouth strategies, tools modifications, and event victories on the Nice Lakes whereas residing in Ohio and Michigan. He’s since moved to Florida, now residing in DeLand, close to the banks of the St. Johns River. He traded his huge Ranger Fisherman for a shallow-draft aluminum rig and has devoted his fishing time to largemouth bass in heavy vegetation.

“Origins of this transfer got here years in the past,“ Balog says, “as our household made fishing journeys to Florida within the Eighties. It acquired in my blood and I started taking month-long forays there within the mid-Nineties, then lastly moved in 2015.” He’s a devoted shiner man, in addition to fishing synthetic lures. “From fishing with guides years in the past, I knew amassing and care of shiners was a big consider success. The joy of seeing an enormous bass stalk a shiner depends on having contemporary and full of life bait, as fish could ignore or toy with the half-dead shiners you usually see getting used down right here. Whereas guides typically need to depend on store-bought bait, I all the time acquire and treatment my very own, so I do know they’ll drive bass wild. Their look and vibration patterns are fully pure. And the extra they wrestle, the higher bass like them.”

Like many others, Balog collects shiners with a solid web. “If you choose areas rigorously and bait them forward of time, cast-netting could be very efficient,” he says. “I take advantage of an enormous solid web with a heavy lead-line to entice them effectively. However netting incurs mortality. If I want some notably wholesome baits, I catch them with a rod and reel, utilizing bread balls on tiny hooks. Nonetheless you catch them, it’s a three-day course of. You bait an space, then return and chum it to attract shiners nearer, catch them, switch them to tanks with cooled water and chemical remedies, and treatment them. You need them to evacuate their intestines, which takes a couple of day and a half.”

To retailer baits, he has two tanks. “Longer tanks work higher for shiners than spherical ones,” he says, “not like tanks for baitfish like shad. The bigger the realm the higher, however you solely want about 18 inches of water within the tank. Shiners like to maneuver laterally, however don’t want depth. For pumps, I’ve been utilizing Frabill Aqua-Life models, that are in regards to the measurement of a soda can. They’ve lasted for years and preserve oxygen ranges up.”

In his boat, he has a tank with a bubble pump and he provides ice and chemical compounds to scale back stress, particularly in hotter climate. And, including ice, he lowers its temperature as a lot as 20°F under ambient temperature. “That change doesn’t shock these shiners,” he says. “Colder water retains them much less lively within the tank so that they don’t bang round and get broken. However they shoot off if you pitch them into the lake or river.”

Rigging Up

Rush rigs shiners in 3 ways, relying on the kind of habitat he’s fishing. In additional open areas, comparable to edges of hydrilla beds, he hooks them on a 3/0 to five/0 Eagle Claw 84 hook, set by way of the again, behind the dorsal fin, with a 2-inch styrofoam float set above. Hooked this manner, shiners are likely to swim upward and entice strikes from under. Round thicker mats of vegetation, he freelines them on a 4/0 hook positioned simply in entrance of the anal fin. This place retains the hook from hanging up when the baitfish scoots again beneath the mat, and permits it free reign to try to escape from bass lurking there.

Joe Balog has realized how essential it’s to have wholesome shiners to tempt the largest bass within the system.

To cowl edges of submergent or emergent vegetation, he typically trolls baits, hooking them by way of the decrease lip and out a nostril, which retains them upright as he slowly strikes alongside cowl. “Some days, bass are likely to feed alongside edges, whereas different instances they lurk means up beneath,” he says. “When getting a shiner into place, I give it an underhand lob, then rapidly strip off a number of toes of line since shiners usually bolt once they land. Softer landings clearly assist preserve baits wholesome and lively.”

For the heaviest cowl, he breaks out an 8-foot, extra-heavy, long-handled Defend Rod from Rollie and Helen’s Musky Store with a Shimano Tranx 300 reel. For lighter obligation, 7-foot heavy Shimano Teramar rods work nicely, with Shimano Curado reels. For shoppers unfamiliar with baitcasting sort out, he carries 7-foot Star heavy-power Inshore Rods with Shimano Baitrunner 4000 reels, which make it simple to launch line. He spools 20- and 25-pound Berkley Trilene Massive Sport in moss inexperienced.

Jackson typically makes use of a bigger hook, a 6/0 Gamakatsu Kahle-style hook or a Matzuo shiner hook with a sickle design. “I’ve had smaller hooks bend out beneath heavy strain from an enormous bass,” he says. “With the sort out we use, setting the hook normally isn’t an issue, although you might have to set arduous and reel quick to get the stretch out of the mono if a bass is much from the boat.” As an alternative of the open hook he makes use of in pockets of hydrilla beds, he switches to a weedless one round maidencane, which has thick stalks and lots of shoots. He makes these hooks by soldering a chunk of guitar string across the shank under the attention.

For fishing deep channel turns, comparable to on the St. Johns River or round deep brushpiles, Balog makes use of a weighted rig, consisting of a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce slipsinker. “I rig a heavy-duty swivel with a frontrunner of 25-pound mono. I take advantage of my side-imaging to find brushpiles and different deep cowl, however bass aren’t all the time proper in it. I’ve discovered them as a lot as 50 yards from cowl, however nonetheless regarding it. These bass are the rulers of their area.” For a floating rig, he makes use of a regular 2-inch styrofoam float, however colours it black, with only a chartreuse tip extending above the floor, to disguise it from fish however preserve it seen.

Jackson recommends 7.5- to 8-foot flippin’ sticks matched with high-capacity, wide-spool baitcasters, such because the basic Abu Garcia Ambassador 6500C3, Shimano Catala 400, or related bullet-proof fashions. He additionally favors Berkley Trilene Massive Sport, testing 25 or 30 kilos. “Massive bass and no-stretch line can carry issues,” he says. “Hooks can rip unfastened or else bass can get slack line by working towards the boat or leaping, they usually could throw the hook. Mono retains regular strain on a hooked bass and provides a level of shock-resistance.” When fishing with the wind at his again, he coats the road with silicone to make it float, so it’s simpler to look at a number of strains. However he desires it to sink if he’s fishing cross-wind, so he leaves it untreated.

For freelining shiners in heavy cowl, Balog makes use of a heavy-power 7-foot 10-inch St. Croix Legend Match rod (mannequin LBC710HF). “As quickly as a bass strikes, let it peel off line, then set the hook and transfer them out of thick cowl as quick as potential,” he says. “These rods are gentle for his or her measurement and sturdy. For trolling shiners alongside edges, I’m going longer with a St. Croix 8-foot Legend Match Musky rod. For freelining, I take advantage of heavy mono, as I’ve seen it outfish setups with braid by 10:1 in quite a few strikes. However for trolling, I take advantage of a braid mainline and mono chief. The shiner could also be far again when trolling, usually over 75 toes, so decreased stretch helps to set the hook. For all functions, Balog makes use of a 6/0 {custom} hook made by trophy bass legend Porter Corridor, who now lives in Florida.


Every lake presents considerably completely different situations, although in Florida, you possibly can typically plan for a shallow chew, particularly in later winter and spring. Floating vegetation is frequent, notably water hyacinths, pennywort, water lettuce, American lotus, and lily pads. Bass additionally abide in thick beds of bulrushes in lakes comparable to Okeechobee, Kissimmee, and Toho, the place maidencane stands may be productive as nicely. On Rodman, Rush notes that mats could float over water that’s 20 toes deep, although sometimes a lot shallower. With water within the 60°F and 70°F vary, bass are typically shallower throughout the spawning months, whereas they use deeper water in summer season and winter.


On the St. Johns River, mats kind on channel swings which have present, in addition to in backwater bays, and bass wish to lurk beneath all of them. “That’s the fantastic thing about a dwell shiner.” Balog says. “They swim up beneath, entering into cowl that may’t be fished with a lure. They do the be just right for you.”

Conservation Issues

When In-Fisherman Editor In Chief Doug Stange first fished with Jackson whereas filming In-­Fisherman tv, he was alarmed to see that some huge bass had swallowed shiners and had been hooked within the esophagus. “The primary time it occurred,” Stange says, “I checked out Captain Jackson and requested about mortality, however he calmly took the fish, turned it over, and reached beneath its gill flap and popped the hook out, then launched it in nice form. In two days of fishing, we in all probability had 10 bass hooked deeply, but we had been capable of launch all of them in good situation.

“Fears of killing bass could preserve some anglers from fishing shiners or different livebaits for bass,” he says. “In some areas, there have even been efforts to ban sure livebaits. By learning this system and doing it rigorously, anglers can launch deeply hooked bass. It was an essential lesson, because the similar technique works on bass hooked deeply on softbaits. Opposite to frequent perception, the gills of bass are quite robust, although the gill filaments themselves are delicate and simply torn. How else may they engulf the large crawdads and spiny bullheads they generally devour? If a bass is bleeding, get it again within the water rapidly and it’ll clot and the fish heals. Jackson usually recaptures distinctively marked bass that had been deep-hooked and launched.”

Whereas many guides and specialists use a touchdown web, Rush leaves it behind. “We lip all our fish, because it prevents fish from tearing up their fins within the mesh,” he says. “And I insist that people maintain their bass with two arms, supporting the stomach.”

Whereas Florida is undoubtedly “shiner central” for bass, related techniques can work on different waterways as nicely, together with some the place reservoir construction replaces vegetation as the important thing to seasonal location. Cautious assortment and holding of bait, and deal with releasing fish in a wholesome state are cornerstones to one of the crucial productive and thrilling methods to fish.

*In-Fisherman Discipline Editor Steve Quinn is a multispecies professional and longtime author on bass matters for ­In-Fisherman publications. Contacts: Capt. Jamie Jackson, 800/738-8144, orlandobass.com; Capt. Sean Rush, 352/843-0939, ­floridatrophybass.com.

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