When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, it was about this time of year that I remember reading reports from the tournaments that had already kicked off in Florida. They’d talk about tactics like fishing lily pad stems, punching heavy mats, and running bladed swim jigs over early spring vegetation. You’d hear all this hype about how fish are caught in Florida with this new tactics, and I always thought, “Too bad these tricks don’t apply in the cold Northeast.” It wasn’t until I started traveling the country and competing myself that I learned these Florida-born techniques work pretty much everywhere bass swim. The thing about Florida is that it has a virtually endless supply of aquatic veggie options, so an angler is forced to decipher the more finite differences between them in order to be successful at different times of year. That, however, doesn’t mean this deciphering skill isn’t useful in the Carolinas, or even up into Canada.
Let’s look at lily pad stems as an example. I would bet that most of you, regardless of your latitude, know where to find some annual lily pad fields. Whether the pad tops hang around through a harsh winter is pretty much irrelevant, because I know the stems do. And where there are stems, you’re likely to find prespawn and spawning bass. In the late summer when the pads are fully grown, this vegetation may provide the best shade habitat in the entire lake, hence the bass might move back in. Even though Florida anglers have this vegetation all year—and they start catching fish in it much sooner—northern fish will relate to it the same way, even if there’s less of it that’s present half as long.
When you start catching fish in vegetation in any phase at any time of year, take note of the water temp, clarity, and most importantly, the location. You can use that knowledge to predict how you’re going to attack a body of water near you as you approach similar environmental conditions. In many ways, spring veggie fishing trends in Florida can predict your future fishing tactics at your local body of water.