Welcome to our new angler’s guide, “How to Catch Florida Largemouth Bass Fishing Guide!” These fish are probably THE MOST POPULAR fish to catch in Florida, despite a host of other options.
Why is that? Because there are thousands of freshwater lakes and rivers you can fish in, probably within a very short distance of your house.
They are territorial and will defend their nest, so they’re not that difficult to catch. A 10-lb. fish is a real trophy that most anglers try to catch once in their lifetime.
Read our huge bass fishing guide below and get out there and catch some!
[Page Updated – 2 August 2022. Bookmark this page (Windows CNTRL+D, MAC CMD+D) so you don’t lose it.]
HOW TO CATCH LARGEMOUTH BASS – Guide
- Size: 3/10 stars
- Fight: 4/10 stars
- Difficulty to Catch: 3/10 stars
- Taste: 8/10 stars
INDEX to Sections in this Guide:
- WHY catch Largemouth Bass?
- WHERE are they found?
- What do they EAT?
- HOW to go bass fishing?
- WHEN is best time to catch bass?
- Best GEAR to use?
- LAWS in Florida
- How to COOK Bass?
PRO TIP – Florida Largemouth Bass are also called wide-mouths, big-mouths, black bass, bucket mouths, largies, Potter’s fish, Florida bass, Florida largemouth, green bass, bucket-mouths, Gilsdorfs, Oswegos, LMBs, and then a distinction between ranges, the southern largemouth and northern largemouth bass. Big ones are usually called “Lunkers” or “Whoppers.” Do send me a message if you know anymore names.
Largemouth Bass Facts
Species Identification: The Genus is Micropterus and the full species name is M. salmoides. Largemouth bass are part of the Centrarchidae family of black bass.
There are others that are similar in appearance. We talk about them in Similar Species below.
Florida Smallmouth Bass?
FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) says there are no smallmouth bass in Florida. The spotted bass looks similar to one, but it’s a different species.
They are darker on top and the upper sides than the bottom which can be pale green and white toward the ventral side (belly).
There is some variation in color but overall they are dark green speckled on top which is rather dense and looser and lighter-colored specks further down toward the belly.
- Specks of black, brown, green, olive green, light green, yellow, white
- Dark lines from the snout and eye radiating toward the gill plates
- Long dark line along center of body from gill plate to tail
- Obvious dip between dorsal fins
- Slight fork in tail
- Jawbone hinge is behind eye
- Massive mouth when open, almost as large around as girth of entire body
Similar Species: Spotted Bass (M. punctulatus) found in the Florida panhandle, Butterfly Peacock Bass are bright yellow (Cichla ocellaris) in canals and lakes in Miami Dade and Broward counties, White Bass (Morone chrysops) are white with dark stripes the length of the body, Shoal Bass (Micropterus cataractae) have a series of dark bands running vertically down the body and no horizontal dark band.
They’re found in the Chipola River and its tributaries (protected species). Suwannee Bass (Micropterus notius) found in rivers, Sunshine Bass (White bass + Striped bass hybrid), all have some resemblance to this fish.
IUCN Redlist Status: Rated “Least Concern (LC)”. Stable population and not declining. Last assessed in November 2018. Largemouths are not a protected species.
Weight: Largemouths can grow up to two pounds their first year of life, but the normal rate in less than ideal conditions is more like half-a-pound. The average fish caught is probably 2-3 lbs.
Five pound fish are fairly common in Florida and a 10 lb. fish is still considered quite big. Fish as large as 20 lbs. have been caught in the state, but they are pretty rare.
Most caught are on the nest and easy to see. These females are usually around 2-3 lbs.
Range/Distribution: The largemouth is not just a Florida fish, as you can see by the range map below. Gold areas mark the range and you can see they inhabit freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, and even streams all over the eastern United States.
I’ve caught them in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida and they’re all good eating!
Habitat: A preference for warm and quiet water with good visibility (low turbidity), a soft bottom, and lots of water plants growing in the water. Lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and backwater areas like swamps can all hold largemouths.
They can frequently be found in shallow water where they build a nest just a foot under the surface in some places. The Hillsborough River in Tampa, Florida has them all along the shallows in beds about 1 yard in diameter.
Why Catch Them?
When I started largemouth fishing in Florida, I started with them because I already had caught some in Pennsylvania where I grew up and I was familiar with them. I also knew they were great to eat, so I looked for clean lakes in Florida to start with and found many with fish in them.
Bass are delicious on the dinner plate, and to be honest this was my main motivation! I was dying for some fresh fish and I wasn’t familiar with saltwater fishing yet so I bought me a good rod and reel and rigged up some Texas-style rigs and began catching these delicious fish right away.
The 7″ plastic worms are a fantastic bait.
Largemouths are not that difficult to catch, especially when you can see them from the shore. They make an easy target. They are usually territorial and guard their nests, so if you bounce a rubber worm through there, you’re likely going to see some action.
They may just bite and let go if they’re not in the mood to eat, but sometimes you’ll be able to hook up when they do chase your lure.
I won’t say catching bass is the best fish to focus on. To be honest, gar and bowfin are much more exciting. Maybe I’ve caught too many and the thrill has worn off slightly? Possibly!
They are a lot of fun for your first couple hundred fish, so get out there and get yourself some. Fry them up in a pan of butter and you’re going to love them even more!
Where To Find Largemouths?
Basically, if you’re living anywhere near a little pond, lake, river, or big freshwater stream, head over there to start! There are many apartment complexes in Florida that stock their little ponds with largemouths, peacock bass, and other fish.
You might have some in the lake behind your unit and not even know it!
I don’t want to say you can find them ANYWHERE, but you can sure find them a lot of places. North, south, east, or western Florida you can find them. The bigger the lake, the bigger the fish – generally.
Every major river, and many minor ones will hold them. Ponds even 20 yards across and 50 yards long can hold some. Deep streams can hold them.
I remember throwing a lure into a small feeder creek that flowed into the Hillsborough river and I was surprised to find a hole filled with 2-4 lb. fish in some deeper water during a particular hot spell. They were down there cooling off!
Note – the fish found in small ponds in your apartment complex or any residential subdivision can have high levels of pesticides because they’re constantly spraying for bugs and weeds to keep the grounds ‘nice’.
I wouldn’t eat any fish that didn’t come from a clean lake. I sometimes ate them from the Hillsborough River, but to be honest that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. Not sure how clean it is.
This is another fish that can be easily seen in the shallows with or without polarized sunglass lenses.
Diet – What Do They Eat?
As you might guess, they eat a variety of prey depending mainly on what is available. Small fry eat zooplankton, very small animals that drift with the current. Adults eat all of the following.
- minnows and other small fish and fry (juvenile fish)
- small perch like Nile Perch (Tilapia)
- insects on top of the water
- eels, worms, small snakes
- small birds on or in the water
Which fish target them as prey?
Snakes, alligators, and eagles will eat adult bass. Turtles and other fish will target small fry until they get bigger.
How To Catch them?
Methods for Largemouth Bass Fishing
METHOD #1 – Fish using a free-lined minnow or other small fish, as big as you can find. Free-lining just means you have a monofilament line tied to a hook and you put the minnow on the hook and cast out gently to the spot you want to fish.
No weight, no floats, and nothing else to it. This allows the fish to swim around almost naturally but the hook will introduce some disability to the minnow. This makes it ideal as prey because the bass looks for weakness in a fish as an easy meal.
METHOD #2 – Same as above, but add a small bobber float to the line so you can control the depth the minnow can reach. The float should be buoyant enough to stay above water and prevent the minnow from swimming deeper.
This is ideal for controlling depth of your bait and of course watching the bobber submerge when you have a fish that took the minnow is an added plus.
METHOD #3 – Use a floating frog lure without weight or float and toss it toward marine vegetation that is partly submerged. Let the frog sit for a few seconds before making a twitch. Then let it sit. Then twitch a couple of times. Let it sit.
Bass have a hard time ignoring floating frogs on the surface! I actually caught a 5 foot alligator with this rig one time. The alligator bit the lure. I gave it some slack and waited. Luckily it opened its mouth and I quickly yanked the lure from its open mouth!
METHOD #4 – Texas Rig! Using 7″ dark plastic worms like “Pumpinseed” or “Red Shad” colors, rig it on a bent hook with a cone-shaped sinker at the head of it resting on the end of the worm near the hook. Image below.
You can get a lot of distance on the casts with this because there is some weight to it. Throw it out there and let it sink to the bottom.
Wait 2 seconds. Bump it up once off the bottom then let it settle back down. Wait a sec. Bump it up 2 times, not letting it hit the bottom between bumps. On the 2nd bump, let it fall to the bottom.
Bass LOVE this action and you’ll probably be hooked up with a fish before you know it. Watch some videos on fishing for largemouths with a Texas rig or Carolina rig. I much prefer the Texas rigs when fishing artificial!
When Is the Best Time to Fish?
When I first started fishing freshwater I never gave a thought to moon phase, time, or anything else. I still caught bass. Today I’ve learned a bit and I would head out in the morning around 7 am. and stay until I got tired. After a rain-shower can also be a good time to catch bass. I had more success in the mornings than I did the evenings, but I’ve caught fish after 5 pm. too when I raced down to the lake after work and casted for an hour before driving home for the day.
Gear – The Essentials
Rod and Reel
I don’t think there is any ideal bass rod/reel combination for me. I’ve used just anything I had until I bought a decent baitcasting reel by Abu Garcia that I like a lot to this day. You can catch these fish on any rod and reel, so I’m not going to give recommendations outside of the reel above. Most of the fish you catch will be in the 2-4 lb. range, so any reel with a 6 foot rod with light action or medium-light would be perfect. .
Live bait hooks (minnows) – These hooks by Gamakatsu are excellent for using large live minnows or other small fish they love.
Texas Rig hooks (plastic worms) – These Gamakatsu hooks are the perfect size and strength for catching smaller fish all the way to 10 lb. largemouths if you’re lucky enough to hook into one.
Largemouth Bass Fishing World Record
The all-tackle world record for this fish was caught in Georgia State. George Perry was fishing in Lake Montgomery, a lake just off the Ocomulgee River in south Georgia when he hooked into the world record largemouth bass on June 2, 1932!
The record has stood for 90 years! This massive lunker tipped the scales at 22 lbs. 4 oz. and was caught on an artificial lure called the “creek chub fin-tail shiner lure.” Another source reports that it was the “Creek Chub Wiggle Fish” lure. I checked and Amazon doesn’t carry them. Here’s a page with photos showing some a guy has collected. Apparently the fin-tail shiner was a 4-inch lure that look like chubby little brown fish.
Due to a very weird tenet of the World Fishing Regulations, a guy in catching a 22 lb. 5 oz. largemouth did NOT get the world record because his fish was not at least 2 ounces more than the record! No kidding. This kid from Japan has now tied the world record. Largemouths are an introduced species in Japan and the government is trying to get rid of them!
Florida Largemouth Bass Record
The Florida all-tackle largemouth bass record belongs to Billy O’Berry who caught the fish over 30 years ago. The lunker weighed in at 17.27 pounds and was caught while Bill fished in Polk County in 1986.
Largemouth Bass Fishing Laws in Florida
The laws governing largemouth fishing in Florida are simple enough. You can keep 5 fish per day. There is no size limit. You may keep only 1 fish per day that is over 16 inches long.
HOOK AND LINE fishing only with this species. No snatch hooks. No nets. No spearing. No multi-hooks. Singular hook only with live or dead natural bait.
Florida Fishing License Requirements
Here is our page covering Florida Fishing Licenses.
Get the Florida Fishing App
If fishing from 3 to 200 nautical miles off the coast of Florida, Georgia, South or North Carolina, you can use this mobile application to stay up to date on the fishing rules on the Atlantic Coast.
How to Cook them?
This is one of the best tasting fish you can catch in Florida in my opinion!
I usually gut them, scalle them, and throw them in a frying pan with butter on the bottom. I fry it with a loose-fitting lid on top. I may add onions, garlic, and salt. I usually eat the fish right off the bones and I find it delicious. You can also put it in an oven in a Pyrex glass or metal pan covered with foil and some holes in the top made with 3-4 stabs of a fork or knife.
Before you cover the pan add a lot of butter in the bottom so it doesn’t stick, put butter in the chest cavity, add onions, veggies, broccoli – anything you like really. Add some pepper and even a bit of lime or lemon. Seal it up. Make the holes.
Cook on very high heat away from the heat source. So, if broiling – put pan on bottom shelf. If using bottom burner, put pan on top shelf. Pre-heat oven for 5-10 minutes. Put fish in. Should be done in about 7 minutes.
Check it after 5 minutes. Ensure middle flesh is done and flakey. Mmm, I’m making myself hungry thinking about it!
Along with bass, some other fish I love to eat in Florida are: sheepshead, redfish, snook, seatrout, tripletail, eahoo, and snapper!
- IUCN Redlist – The International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
- Florida FIshing Regulations 2021-2022 (PDF download)
- Florida State Largemouth Bass Regulations (PDF)
Image credits: Various government agencies, Unsplash, Graphics we created.