Cold fronts that regularly sweep through South Florida during the winter can have a dramatic effect on bass fishing.
During and immediately after a front, Team Yo-Zuri bass pro Mike Surman of Boca Raton said anglers have two choices.
"One is to flip heavy cover," Surman said. "Two is to try to get some type of reaction bite.
"That's essentially the only way you can catch them in Florida. They're so used to warm weather, they just shut down. The water is so shallow, it can cool down 10 degrees overnight."
Over the past 30 years, Surman has been one of the most successful tournament pros in South Florida and won countless tournaments.
His victories include the very first FLW Tour tournament in 1996, which was held on Lake Okeechobee during cold front conditions.
Back then, Surman flipped heavy mats of vegetation and that is still a productive cold-front tactic. He especially likes to flip in hydrilla, an exotic aquatic plant that offers bass food and shelter.
"During a cold front, the hydrilla stays warm and they feel secure," said Surman, who flips the middle of a hydrilla mat. "They don't have to go anywhere if they want to eat, but they also don't have to move. They're not afraid of predators, they're holed up in their home, so to speak.
"Hyacinths are my second favorite. There's a canopy over the top and it's open underneath. When the bass are a little more active, they can move around."
Flipping involves dropping a soft-plastic creature bait through the vegetation and, hopefully, right in front of a fish's mouth. Even if they're cold and not hungry, bass can't help but grab the lure.
Twenty years ago, bass anglers used 1-ounce weights to punch through thick vegetation. Now they can use 2-ounce weights.
"In the old days we didn't even have a rod that could hold a 2-ounce weight. Now the rods are so good," Surman said. "I always try to get by with the lightest weight I can use to get through the cover."
That's because Surman, who flips with 65-pound Yo-Zuri braided line, likes a slower fall for his lure instead of having it plummet in front of a fish.
"If it's totally canopied and there are hyacinths on top of hydrilla, that's when I use a 2-ounce weight," he said.
His "all-time favorite" flipping lure is a Gambler Crawdaddy, which looks like a crawfish. In severe cold front conditions, he'll use the smaller Gambler BB Cricket.
"Sometimes that little Cricket is easier to get into that real thick cover where they are," Surman said. "There are all kinds of little grass shrimp and crawdads in there, so downsizing is definitely a good thing to try. But if I can get them to bite the Crawdaddy, I'll use that."
In the Everglades, Surman said there is not a lot of vegetation to flip, so he uses a square bill crankbait and makes it bounce off rocks, downed trees and other structure.
"That works all over the country," said Surman, who used a Hardcore Crank 2+ lure with great success on a recent visit to the center canal at Everglades Holiday Park. "It bangs into the rocks, then goes up on its side until it starts tracking again. That's usually when you're going to get a bite."
He fished the crankbait on 12-pound Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon line to help the lure get down and used a Witch Doctor 50G crankbait rod that he helped design. It's half fiberglass and half graphite, so it's lighter than the old all-fiberglass crankbait rods.
Surman noted that fishing is usually much better two or three days after a front because the water is warming and bass have moved out of the thick stuff and started feeding.
He locates the fish by making long casts with a Gambler Big EZ swimbait. Once he finds them, he'll pitch a Texas-rigged Fat Ace into holes in the grass or fish a wacky rigged plastic worm in open water.
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