If you haven’t had an issue with your local boat ramps closing down and cutting off access to your favorite fishing lake during the pandemic, that’s great. Some of us have not been so lucky. Recently though, the boat ramps on Lake Parker here in Lakeland reopened, and you could tell people had been missing being out on the lake.
Lake Parker is the biggest lake we have in the city of Lakeland. It hosts a few tournaments annually and generally holds some pretty big bags of bass (if you know where to look). This past Saturday, Missy and I decided to drive up to see if the ramps were open. Much to our delight, they were — so we headed out to do some fishing.
It’s always funny when you get back out to a lake that you haven’t visited in a while. Hardly anything looks the same, and it always seems like the areas that you once had great luck in are now gone or changed so much you can’t even recognize them anymore.
For example, Lake Parker used to hold a set of lily pads up at the north end. They were scattered enough to work a swimbait through but tight enough that you could flip as well. We have caught numerous big bass up in that area on the past and thought we’d go see what it looked like.
As I throttled the boat down off plane, I started to look around. There were pads there, but they were not as plentiful as they used to be. However, a whole island full of flat lily pads — the big round ones that lie on the surface of the water — had grown up out in front of where the old pads used to be.
As I surveyed the pads, I saw numerous fish break the surface feeding on shad. This type of fishing is right in my wheelhouse. I grabbed a couple of rods from below the deck and we went to work.
I was able to raise only one bass. Missy must have raised six or seven, but we could not get any hooked up and back to the boat. One giant bass jumped Missy’s swimbait and took it under. She set the hook only to have it pull loose after a few turns on the reel.
While we were not able to boat any of our bass, we knew that we had found some good ones. All of the explosions that we had seen on the swimbaits were sizable fish. It was a shame we couldn’t land any of them, but we know where to look the next time.
We had one other spot that used to be really good as well, more for catching lots of fish than catching big ones. We trucked it over to that area ,only to find out that the vegetation we fused to fish was gone. It simply did not exist anymore. We saw one boat fishing inside on the grass line, but we opted to skip it and finished off the day flipping some cattails around the power plant.
It was a really good day on the water from my standpoint. We did not land any bass but we were able to locate a somewhat new area and also confirm that some other areas were not very good. There are still a few spots we need to check, but we’ll get to them after the water comes back up. With no real rain in Central Florida lately, water levels have dropped a lot. Some of the spots we like on that lake may not be accessible until that water comes back up.
We have two lakes coming up for our fishing club, and I wonder what their water levels look like. I may have to take the boat out for a little recon and to make sure we can even launch there. At least I know what I’m going to do to catch fish: With lake levels down, I plan to just move out to those deeper vegetation lines and get to work.
I hope everyone is enjoying getting out to the lakes and taking part in some fishing. While at the ramp, be smart and be safe. Practice social distancing even with those folks you know. If everyone does their part, we may be able to play a small role in helping to stop or at least slow down this pandemic. Enjoy the water, but be responsible about it.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.