If you were to ask me where the top destination for bass fishing in Florida is I would have to consider the Central Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes pretty high on my list. The Harris Chain of Lakes is a waterway system that leads north to the Atlantic Ocean, through the Ocklawaha River and the St. John's River.
Located in Central Florida about 30 minutes northwest of Orlando the interconnected lakes of the Harris Chain cover approximately 50,000 acres of water and together make up the second largest lake in the State of Florida. The Harris Chain is part of the Ocklawaha River basin, a main tributary of the St. John's River which drains North Central Florida and exits into the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville. A number of small cities and numerous waterfront homes surround the lake making lakefront activities, fishing and boating a favorite activity with locals and visitors alike.
The Harris Chain of lakes are extremely fertile and contain a wide variety of water clarities and colors. The primary cover is Kissimmee grass, eel grass, pepper grass, lily pads, reeds and cattails. The clearest water is in the canals and spring areas. The water color in the main lake is stained with limited visibility, especially in the summer months when algae blooms are most common. In recent years, the water clarity of the lakes has greatly improved as water officials allowed lake levels to fluctuate naturally with annual rainfall. Flushing in high water and wind action during drought sweeps the shoreline and allows native grasses to re-grow.
A regular stop for the Bassmaster tour in the early 70's and 80's the Harris chain was a favorite among touring pros because of it's ability to produce trophy bass. The Harris chain peaked in the late 80's when Submergent vegetation in the form of Hydrilla could be found throughout the chain. At the time the Harris chain was considered to be the number 1 trophy bass fishing destination. Aggressive weed control and stable water levels hurt the chain for about 10 years but the last 7 years have been excellent as can be seen from the past two Bassmaster tournaments. Trophy bass were abound as the Pros caught multiple bass in the 11 lb range. Local tournaments are proving just how well the chain is doing with top weights for 5 bass limits being in the 17 - 19lb range. Techniques for the Harris Chain of Lakes can range from flipping visible shoreline vegetation to carolina rigging main lake ledges. Rattle traps, crankbaits, texas rigged worms and topwater buzzbaits are also effective techniques.
Although live bait can be used on this chain I prefer using artificial lures. Techniques for using live bait are typically trolling shiners through the various canals that are on the chain. But because of the chains deeper water, numerous ledges, brushpiles and shoreline vegetation the use of artificial lures can be much more rewarding as well as challenging.