|This is a perfect place to cast a popping bug or other fly on sprawling Lake Manatee.|
|This gorgeous Lake Manatee bluegill fell for a No. 10 popping bug.|
But when you get to Lake Manatee, it’s time to slow down. Way down. The slower you fish, the better you’ll do. I’ve learned this since I began fishing from a kayak years ago.
Capt. Jim Klopfer of Adventure Charters was my guest on Lake Manatee recently and he quickly caught on how slow we were fishing.
“We’ve been here an hour, but we’ve only fished 50 yards,” he said.
The key to success on Lake Manatee and many of Florida’s freshwater lakes and streams is to slow things down. And when you think you’re really fishing slow, then you need to slow it down some more.
|Dry flies work well at Lake Manatee.|
I caught a hand-sized bluegill on my first cast. I was using a No. 10 chartreuse popping bug on a 4-weight rod. I was using a 7 ½-foot leader with a 7X tippet. I concentrated on that area for the first hour, not moving more than 50 feet. The end result was 17 bluegill, most of which were ¾ of a pound to a pound.
I’ve fished Lake Manatee with powerboaters. Most are very good anglers. But most move far too quickly. They’re on the trolling motor continuously. If you don’t hit your target on your first cast, you won’t get another shot because you’ll be well past it by the time you’re ready for another cast.
I’ll pull up to a likely spot in the kayak and fish it slowly and completely. If there’s a pocket in the vegetation, I might make a dozen casts before moving on. I’ll hit every opening along the way.
I’ve found when you fish slow, you fish thoroughly. You don’t miss many spots. You cover your area completely.
|This stumpknocker fell for a popping bug.|
Florida anglers are shoreline anglers. That doesn’t mean they fish from land. It means most cast toward the shoreline vegetation. That’s a very good strategy in most Florida lakes and it works in Lake Manatee – if you know what you’re doing.
You can fish some of the shoreline at Lake Manatee, but not all. Reason is that hyacinths float to the shoreline and pile up. Cast to the edge of them and there could be nothing but empty water underneath. The true shoreline might be 10 or 15 feet in back of the hyacinth jam.
So, when fishing the lake, try to find areas void of hyacinth jams. It’s tough, but you can do it if you just open your eyes.
When you see a tree on the shore or a fallen tree, you’re in the right area. And this is where we usually concentrate. I’ll often make a dozen or more casts in such an area. It’s a trick that I learned years ago when competing in bass tournament.
|A typical Lake Manatee speckled perch (black crappie).|
I guess an outboard motor and a trolling motor are just the incentive needed to move quickly. If you don’t get a fish on the first cast, just move 100 yards down the lake. If it’s not going on, crank the engine and head 10 miles north, east, south or west. Move because you have the ability.
When you’re fishing from a kayak, you don’t have that ability. You have to fish where you are.
What that means is that you get to know your spots intimately. You learn every inch of the lake, river or bay you’re fishing.
And that means you’re able to fish slowly. You’re able to make repeatedly casts into a spot you think holds fish.
And when you catch a fish around a fallen tree what do you do? Move on?
You make another cast.
If you’re like me, you might make 12 more casts. And there are days when those 12 casts result in several more fish.
You’ve got all day to do it.