Shiners are the easiest and most common way to catch Florida bass. Most of the guides use them even if they would prefer to be using artificial lures and the reason for this is that live shiners consistently get bit by big bass. For whatever reason, the Florida strain largemouth bass is a lot more difficult to consistently catch with lures than the northern strain largemouth bass, especially the bigger, trophy-sized bass.
For many anglers that visit from up north, they have a very hard time fishing in Florida with their same techniques that they use up north. For the most part, anglers that do better in Florida will fish slower, they use live bait and they really take advantage of the peak bite in the morning and evening.
To consistently go out and catch largemouth bass from morning to night 7 days a week, most of the guides have turned to fishing with live shiners. You don’t always need live bait to have success in Florida, but it is by far the best way to have success day in and day out. So, if you only have one day to bass fish when down in Florida on a vacation, you may want to give shiner fishing a try. If you have multiple days, you may want to try live bait and artificial lures so you can see for yourself why shiner fishing is so popular in Florida for largemouth bass.
Proper Handling of the Bait
Live shiners are not very hardy. They will die fairly easy if you are constantly casting them and you will need plenty of oxygen in the livewell to keep them alive. Many anglers keep their livewells running constantly and even use additives to help keep their shiners lively. When casting shiners, make sure to use more of an underhand flipping motion or even a sidearm cast. The cast should be more of an easy lob instead of a hard cast.
Let the Bait do the Work
The more you wind the bait in and cast it back out, the better the chance that your shiner is going to die. Lively shiners tend to do much better than shiners that are half dead and barely swimming. Let the shiner do most of the work. You can anchor, drift or even slow troll live shiners for bass.
Slow Trolling Live Shiners
Many of these fishing guides will slow troll live shiners to cover more water and find big bass. With the trolling motor, just set the speed at one of the lower settings and troll with your shiners on a single hook and no weight or with a bobber, hook and no weight. Stay near cover and you’ll catch some of the biggest bass of your life.
Hooking the Shiners
Most anglers hook the shiner beneath the bottom lip and then up through the nostril. That is the easiest way to rig them to keep them alive longer while also giving yourself the best chance for getting a good hook set into the bass. Some anglers will also tail hook the shiners, which works great if you aren’t moving the bait a ton.
The Bigger the Better
While this isn’t always the case, the bigger shiners tend to produce better results, especially for bigger bass. The biggest problem with going bigger is the cost. You may spend up to $20 a dozen or more for the real big boys. The bigger shiners will typically give you the best chance of hooking up with a 10 pound Florida Bass.
Proper Tackle & Equipment
Depending on the type of cover you are fishing and the size of the shiners you are using, you may end up using anywhere from 17 pound test line to 40 pound test line. Medium to heavy action rods are recommended with big enough reels to hold plenty of heavy line. Spinning rods will work, but many anglers prefer using their baitcasters. If you are using multiple rods, you may want to set up a clicker reel on your rods because some of the hits can be quite aggressive. A clicker reel gives you time to get to the rod without the fish feeling any tension from the rod. Anglers use shiners with bobbers, drop-shot rigs and even free-lining for bigger shiners. Some anglers still use balloons as bobbers, but balloons aren’t good for the environment so we encourage anglers to use bobbers instead of balloons.
Make Sure You Get a Good Hook Set
These bass are big and they have hard mouths. 5 pound bass are common down here and at any point, you may hook up with a bass in the 7 to 10 pound range, so be sure to bring your hook set.