Most know Orlando for its theme parks, such as Disney World or Universal Studios. But the city is also home to more than 100 lakes. These house a variety of freshwater fish with one particular that entices anglers from all over the world to visit. That’s right, we’re talking about Bass fishing in Orlando.
The lakes within and around the city offer both numbers and size when it comes to Bass fishing. Often enough, it’s not even a question of whether you’ll catch something, but rather how many and how big. In this part of Florida, beating your personal best is common for most anglers and the waters are nothing but world-class.
In this article, we’ll try and present Orlando’s Bass fishing scene in its full glory. We’ll cover where to go, when to come, and what gear to use. So if you’re itching to catch the most popular freshwater fish on the planet, stick with us and you’ll find out how.
What kind of Bass can I catch in Orlando?
While Florida is home to several types of Bass, in Orlando it’s all about Largemouth. They’re the largest member of the Black Bass family, easily distinguishable from their relatives by the upper jaw which extends beyond the eyes.
Like other members of their family, Largemouth Bass are intelligent, elusive, and great fighters. They’re highly adaptable and it’s been theorized that they can learn to avoid a lure as soon if they’ve been hooked by it once. These qualities make them one of the most prized freshwater fish and a target for anglers throughout the US.
Orlando’s lakes are notorious for the big Largemouth Bass hiding in them. In some of them, the fish commonly reach 8 pounds, with some even exceeding 10 pounds. And even though they don’t boast a lot of stamina, when Bass get this big, you can count on one heck of a fight.
As a side note, there are also Sunshine Bass in some of the lakes near Orlando. They’re known as Hybrid Striped Bass or Wipers elsewhere. While you’ll sometimes target them if they’re available in the lake you’re fishing in, they’re typically not the main draw in these waters.
When is the best time to go Bass fishing in Orlando?
Orlando, much like the rest of Florida, features year-round Bass fishing. Of course, each season has its own patterns, with some producing bigger fish and others more numbers. But what’s certain is that there’ll always be a chance to hook into some Bass.
With this in mind, it’s safe to say most anglers prefer fishing outside of summer. That way, you’ll avoid the relentless Floridian heat, which even Bass aren’t huge fans of. But more importantly, Bass enter their spawning seasons in spring and fall, before which they’ll feed relentlessly. You’ll often find them close to shore during this time, making it easier to lock onto the bite.
What this means is that you’ll have a better chance at a bigger number of fish during the colder months. However, summer is still a great time to fish if you can handle the heat. It’s actually the season when you’ll have a good shot at reeling in trophy-sized Largemouth. At times, you’ll see big ones bite even during the hottest parts of the day.
Where can I catch Bass in Orlando?
Considering there are over 100 lakes in the Orlando area, the number of spots where you can fish for Bass is immense. We can’t even begin to name them all, so we’ll instead focus on a few popular fisheries in and near the city. Take a look…
Conway Chain of Lakes
Situated just minutes south of Orlando, the Conway Chain of Lakes is your closest ticket to excellent Bass fishing. It consists of two lakes and four ponds, all interconnected. Lake Conway is the largest in the chain, and it typically offers the best action.
While it’s possible to catch Bass on Lake Conway year-round, the fishery really comes alive during the colder months. It’s when you’ll see schooling fish amidst feeding frenzies, turning the lake into a Bass fishing hotspot.
Schooling Bass are usually smaller in size, reaching 2 to 3 pounds. But what they may lack in bulkiness, they make up for in numbers, as it’s possible to reel in dozens of these fish if you hit the waters at the right moment. Of course, bigger Bass have also been caught along the chain, so it’s not all small fish.
Butler Chain of Lakes
If you head west of the city instead, you’ll only need about 25 minutes to reach the Butler Chain of Lakes. The chain is composed of 13 different lakes, all featuring crystal-clear waters and excellent Bass fishing. Among them, it’s again the largest in the group, Lake Butler, which draws in the most anglers.
Lake Butler’s bottom is filled with sinkholes. These provide a staging area for Bass, making the lake a great fishery whenever the Bass move deep. Since there’s an abundance of shad swimming about, you’ll often see Bass chase them near the surface, creating productive topwater fishing conditions.
There are also grass beds and vegetation to which Bass move in spring and fall, so you’ll always have somewhere to explore. You’ll just have to be stealthy, as the waters are clear and the fish therefore easy to spook. Often, the best fishing days on the Butler Chain of Lakes are cloudy ones.
Harris Chain of Lakes
With the large Lake Apopka serving as its headwaters and another seven lakes completing the chain, the Harris Chain of Lakes has countless spots where you could reel in some fish. To add to that, this Bass fishing treasure trove lies less than an hour away from Downtown Orlando. For day trips, these lakes are a fantastic option.
It’s possible to catch Bass in all lakes making up the chain. Lake Apopka has plenty of decently sized Bass but trophies are somewhat rare. For bigger Largemouth, anglers usually hit either Big and Little Lake Harris, Lake Eustis, or Lake Dora.
There are two main patterns when it comes to fishing this chain. You’ll usually either find fish in the lakes or the canals connecting them. Then, if you’re fishing around the spawning season, you’d look for eelgrass and other vegetation where they stage. In the summer, Bass will be lurking near shell beds and different offshore piles. Oh, and you might also run into Sunshine Bass in these waters, just to give you a little more variety.
We saved the best for last! South of Orlando, you’ll find the epic Lake Tohopekaliga, called Lake Toho for short. Its waters consistently rank among the best Largemouth Bass fisheries in the US.
Why is the lake so famous, you wonder? Well, because of the sheer number of trophy Bass you’ll have the chance to hook into here. Catching specimens in the 8-pound range is a normal occurrence in the lake, with even bigger Bass occasionally gracing anglers with ferocious battles.
Close to Lake Toho’s shores, you’ll see extensive flats, with beds of bullrush and hydrilla. It’s often around these that the fishing is concentrated, especially in spring and fall. Alternatively, you can explore creek mouths, as well as deeper waters if you’re visiting during summer. The unofficial lake record, standing at 17 lb 1 oz, was caught in the tributary Shingle Creek, which rises in Orlando.
And Many More!
Of course, as we already mentioned, there are numerous other lakes to explore if you’re aiming to fish for Bass in Orlando. Johns Lake, for example, is an excellent trophy fishery. So is Lake Kissimmee if you’re willing to drive a couple of hours. Near it, there’s also Lake Weohyakapka, also known as Lake Walk-in-the-Water.
All in all, when it comes to locations, you’ll never find a shortage of them. You can even hook up with one of Orlando’s Bass fishing guides and have them recommend where to fish. After all, they know the waters and the fish patterns the best.
Orlando Bass Fishing Gear, Bait, and Tackle
Now that we’ve covered a few destinations to visit, it’s time to delve into what makes Bass bite in Orlando’s waters. Of course, the main objective is to find where the fish are, but having the right gear and bait makes all the difference once you locate your target.
Your rod and reel setup can vary depending on what size fish you want to target. In general, you can use rods between 5 and 8 feet in length, with 7 feet being ideal to give you distance while remaining maneuverable. Go for medium or medium-heavy action rod and pair it with a spinning or a spincasting reel in the 3,000-5,000 class.
While you’ll sometimes use fluorocarbon lines, depending on how you fish and where, many anglers opt for 20–30 lb test braided lines. Remember, you want your setup to be able to stand up to the trophy Bass you’ll be fishing for in Orlando. But if your aim is to target smaller, schooling Bass, you can lighten up on the gear a little.
Baits and Lures
Most Bass guides in the Orlando area specialize either in artificial lures or live bait. So if you’re planning on fishing with one of them and you have a preference when it comes to bait, make sure you choose a guide that offers the kind you want.
Of course, both natural and artificial bait will land you fish. If you prefer live bait, shad and shiners are popular choices. In particular, many anglers like to fish live golden shiners during spring. But generally, both shad and shiners will work equally well, as they’re what Bass feed on in Orlando’s lakes.
When it comes to artificial bait, there are many options. You can use frog and Senko-type baits, you can flip plastic worms or crawfish near vegetation when the fish are shallow. Soft jerk baits and spinnerbaits also work well. During summer, you can use crankbaits or worms, usually on a Texas or a Carolina rig to reach the Bass hiding deep. As for hooks, you can go for sizes ranging from 2/0 to 5/0, but there are no hard rules.
Orlando Bass Fishing Regulations
In Florida, all freshwater anglers aged 16 and older have to obtain a fishing license before they can legally cast their line. This applies whether you’re fishing on your own or with a professional guide. Of course, there are a few exceptions, which you can get familiar with in our dedicated Florida fishing license guide.
When it comes to Largemouth Bass regulations, they’re generally pretty straightforward. You can keep up to five of them, with only one measuring over 16 inches in length. Occasionally, certain lakes may enforce their own regulations, so it’s wise to check if anything works differently before your trip.
Orlando: A Bass Fishing Treasure Trove
And there you have it! We hope you now have a better understanding of just what makes Bass fishing in Orlando and its surrounding lakes so incredible. Sure, some other parts of Florida may offer you more variety in terms of Bass species. But as far as numbers and size go, Orlando is where you want to be. So just find a guide you like and get ready for a Bass fishing bonanza!
Have you ever fished for Bass in Orlando? What’s your favorite season to target these fish? Hit the comment button below and let us know!