This 5850-acre lake has a "little" northern area and a "big" southern arm connected by "the pass" where shad school and fishing is usually good for schooling largemouth and stocked sunshine bass. Numerous homes surround the lake, most with docks and ski boats; fishing is always best early and late or at night and on weekdays. In spite of development, the fish habitat is outstanding with many areas of cypress and healthy maidencane grass beds.
Local contact: Chappini's Bait & Tackle 352-475-9496; Bald Eagle Bait and Tackle 352-473-6060
Bluegill and redear can be found around docks and cypress trees scattered around the lake. Target those fish using crickets, earthworms, and grass shrimp. If you are targeting black crappie, focus your efforts offshore, either in open water or around any submerged structure, including marked fish attractors. Recent electrofishing surveys revealed very few crappie up in the maidencane as of mid-September. With water temperatures cooling, crappie may begin to make their way closer to shore. Troll or drift crappie jigs or minnows and try to cover as much water as possible. Pay attention to water depth, lure depth, lure color and boat speed if you start to catch fish. Use this information to try to pattern these fish on a given day. Experiment with different combinations of speed, lure color, and lure depth to find what the fish want. Anglers can find scattered largemouth bass in near-shore maidencane beds, under docks, and around cypress trees – especially as the water cools. Soft plastics either flipped, pitched, or dragged near structure should draw strikes. Don’t be afraid to look away from the shoreline when targeting bass also. Bass can be targeted offshore using minnow-imitating plugs or even jigging spoons in deeper water. Look for bass to move closer to shore near the end of the fall and into winter as they prepare to spawn. As the water cools, anglers should try slow-trolling live golden shiners parallel to the outer grass edges. As with Lake Sampson, keep an eye open for roving schools of feeding sunshine bass offshore. Look for birds diving or surface commotion to find these feeding fish. Approach these feeding schools with stealth, and you should be able to catch multiple fish before the action stops. Effective lures include anything shiny, white, or minnow-shaped. Be prepared for either schooling largemouth bass or sunshine bass, as they can both display the same feeding behavior offshore. Look for the cooling water temperatures in the coming months to improve bass and crappie fishing as these fish move in closer to shore.