Over the last several years, I’ve developed a trolling approach for largemouth bass that’s produced excellent results in North Florida’s Rodman Reservoir, and I’m confident it will work elsewhere.
As a saltwater guide on Amelia Island, I Simply do not have the luxury of fishing Rodman on a regular basis to keep track of the largest concentration of bass. Consequently, I approach the fishery as I would king mackerel: I slow-troll to cover water.
The baitfish I use are wild shiners, the gold standard for Florida trophy bass fishing. I fish these on a 10-to 25-pound class, 7 1/2-foot spinning rod and a 4000-series spinning reel filled with 20-pound moss-colored braided line. Simply attach a 1/0 or 2/0 kale hook to the braided fishing line using a palomar knot. Nose hook the shiner and deploy at 40 feet, and the second at 60 feet or farther. Slow-troll using an electric trolling motor. Don’t use a float: You want the shiner to dive a little, bumping the tops of submerged weed beds where they’ll wake up bass hiding down there. Once a strike is detected, free spool for a count of 15, then cross their eyes!
There’s something else I do that I feel makes a difference. My boat is equipped with twin Power Pole stake anchors on the transom. While slow-trolling in weedy areas, I put the Power Poles down just deep enough to “tickle” submerged weed. This stirs up a variety of freshwater life, creating a chum- ming effect for lake bass.
While slow trolling, I keep my eye on my GPS/sonar combo, watching for deep holes and ambush points in the river channel that snakes through Rodman Reservoir. The most bites seem to come when we troll over the top of a shallow weed bed and into a deep river hole. After a strike, I engage both Power Poles into the bottom and freeline shiners back into the hole. Sometimes, that technique uncovers a whole school of fish.
On one occasion, Jim Maughon had cast his wild shiner right into a shallow weed bed where it immediately became tangled in the weeds. Engaging his reel, Maughon snatched the wild shiner into the nearby open waters of the deep hole where a bass of Jurassic proportions grabbed the easy meal and retreated back into the weeds.
After setting the hook, Maughon had all he could while fighting both tangled weeds and a giant of a Rodman bass. Netting Maughon’s bass at boatside revealed 20 pounds of hydrilla and 12 pounds of Rodman bass.
You can also mix artificial lures into your slow-trolling pattern. During early morning hours, try a frog pattern Devils Horse or No. 9 black and silver Rapala. Nine-inch black plastic worms with a blue tail rigged Texas style with a 1/4-ounce worm weight slowly retrieved at the foot of the cypress stumps and deep weed beds are a popular pattern. For rigging lures, I like to attach a 6-foot section of 20-pound flourocarbon shock leader to the braided fishing line using back to back uni-knots.
Rodman in Focus
Planning a trip to Rodman Reservoir? After securing six dozen wild shiners from Howard’s Live Bait (325-546-1213) in Orange Springs, the Kenwood Landing offers easy access to the main lake. If you are new to the lake I would definitely recommend a combo GPS/sonar so you can identify the river channel and also save waypoints when trophy bass are found. Simply run south from Kenwood Landing for a couple of miles until you see where the old river channel intersects the barge canal and snakes its way to the dam. When there’s a good bite taking place, look for concentrations of bass boats, they’re often right on that channel.
On some occasions we’ve started slow trolling right where the river joins the barge canal, while on other trips we have run almost right up to the dam before trolling along the edges and drop-offs of the deep river channel. I have also had good luck shiner fishing where the old river channel is located from the Kirkpatrick Dam to the Cross Florida barge canal. Many trophy Rodman bass fishermen believe this is the best area for trophy size bass. The Rodman lake record was taken in 2000 and weighed 17.2 pounds. Rodman Pool is drawn down every 3 or 4 years to enrich the lake bottom.