With virtually the entire nation tightly in the grip of a polar express, the only escape for a bass fisherman in metro Atlanta was to pack up and head south. And, Levy County, Florida seemed the perfect destination.
Roughly 90 miles north of Tampa on the west coast of the Sunshine State peninsula, it offered three great angling destinations. But, it is far enough off the beaten path to avoid running into hoards of other anglers.
With that in mind we loaded up the boat, hitched it to the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado (which had just been named the North American Truck of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit) and drove south on Interstate 75.
As it turned out, the weather made sure that fishermen would be scarce. The January cold blast dropped the temperatures in the Ingles – Yankeetown area into the mid-20s at night and low 40s during the day. Not ideal bass fishing conditions.
First stop on our odyssey was the Waccasassa River in the central portion of the county. We chose it because it is a small river, with plenty of shoreline trees to knock down the 20- to 30-mile per hour winds we encountered.
The Waccasassa rises at Blue Spring in Bronson, Florida and flows 29 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it picks up the flow of the Wekiva River that is an 8-mile spring run from Wekiva Springs.
The only boating access to the rivers is at the Waccasassa River Park, just downstream of the junction of the two rivers. Even this far upriver the Waccasassa is a tidal stream. At low tide it barely can handle a bass boat.
The largemouths in the river top out at around 5 pounds, but are fairly abundant. The shore is lined with cypress trees and knees, creating plenty of likely holding places for the fish. Also, the river has a surprising amount of rock on the bottom.
Local anglers most often tempt these bass with live wild shiners fished under corks. The bait is drifted along the bases of the cypress trees. When a bass takes the bait, it’s best to give him three or four seconds before setting the hook. That allows him to get the big 4- to 6-inch minnow in his mouth.
From the boat ramp, it is about 0.7 mile upstream to the junction with the Wekiva. The flow coming in from the right is the Wekiva, while the Waccasassa continues to the left.
For more information on fishing the Waccasassa River for largemouths, Capt. Jim Keith of Saltwater Assassins Charter Fishing is a good source. Though he spends most of his time guiding saltwater anglers out of Cedar Key, he also knows the freshwaters of Levy County.