Live Shiners For Lunker Largemouths
Most avid anglers know that Florida is one of the top spots in the bass world for giving up 10-pound plus largemouths. But many people who have never fished the Sunshine State mistakenly believe monster bass swim in virtually every lake, river and stream, and are comparatively easy to catch. Such a notion, of course, is ridiculous.
Ten-pounders are never easy to come by, even in the prime big bass waters of Florida. But as in every region, there are some specially-skilled fishermen who have the uncanny ability to catch tremendous numbers of giant largemouth bass. Such a man is professional bass fishing guide Johnny Doub, who lives on Lake Kissimmee.
Johnny, age 60ish, is a native Floridian, born in Jacksonville. He caught his first 10- pound largemouth at age 16, and he’s been catching such fish ever since. Thirty years ago he moved to Salt Springs, located in North Florida’s remote Ocala National Forest. He moved to Salt Springs because there are many hundreds of prime, bass-filled lakes, ponds, rivers and streams within a one hour’s drive of his home. During his 20 years of full-time, professional guiding there, Johnny averaged 40 to 50 bass each weighing over 10 pounds every year for his fishing clients.
“Almost all my clients are interested only in catching a big, mounting-size largemouth bass, and there simply is no better bait or lure for consistently taking giant Florida fish than a frisky, wild shiner about 6-inches long,” says Johnny with a wry smile. “Although bass will eat about anything they can catch – and I’ve found eels, snakes, crayfish, bluegills and even small bass in their stomachs – big shiners are their number one preferred food.”
Johnny is emphatic about the use of “wild” shiners, saying all too frequently anglers use so-called “hatchery” shiners, but quickly learn they are not effective.
“A hatchery shiner has been raised in such a sterile environment it doesn’t know what to do when it’s fished in an open bass environment,” Johnny explains. “It won’t swim into cover or weeds like a wild shiner, and it doesn’t react as well when bass are around. I also think some hatchery shiners give off an unpleasant odor from chemicals placed in hatchery tanks that may be repulsive to largemouths.
“Yet a lot of people still use the little silvery hatchery shiners instead of the ‘wild’ ones because good ‘wild’ or ‘river’ shiners are much more expensive. Sometimes, in some places when fishing is good and bait is scarce, they can sell for nearly $30 per dozen. Wild shiners only can be caught from the wild, they can’t be raised in captivity. There’s a lot of work involved netting wild shiners, and keeping them alive. But wild shiners are 10 times more effective than hatchery-raised ones. Wild shiners are so deadly for big Florida bass that if bigmouths don’t take them you might as well go home, because nothing short of dynamite is going to produce more bass for you.”