As we expand the areas that we cover here at Dock Talk 365, I am excited to introduce everyone to Rick Southerland. Rick has the unique perspective of being an Oklahoma angler that now lives and fishes in Florida. Lots of cool discussion here including Rick’s favorite waters, use of spinning tackle, love of topwater and Florida gators.
How long did you live in Oklahoma?
I grew up in Oklahoma and lived there until 2012. Growing up there, I learned to fish there. My father and grandfather taught me how to catch all species of fish, but I’ve always loved the aggressiveness of largemouth bass.
We’d fish all over the state, The Great Salt Plains, Canton Lake, Lake Eufaula, Lake Keystone, Arbuckle Lake, Lake Texoma, to name a few.
Besides the lakes mentioned above, one of my favorites was The Blue River. It is stocked every fall with trout. They have two trout derby’s there every year. I’ve won a couple of them. They have a men’s division, women’s division, and a youth division. One particular thing that I liked was that several local businesses would donate prizes for the derby and the derby would make sure that every child would win something. It was so awesome watching the children’s faces when they got their prizes.
What have been the biggest adjustments from being an Oklahoma angler to now fishing Florida?
I’ve been in Florida since 2012. I’ve had to adjust from deeper water lakes in Oklahoma to more shallow water in Florida. Structures are another change. In Oklahoma you have a lot of rocks and stumps that you target where as in Florida you will target more on cover and vegetation. Temperatures are different as well which changes spawning times.
What is your personal best Florida largemouth since being there?
My personal best largemouth since being in Florida was a 8lb 14oz female that I caught on a bed at my boat dock. Interesting story on that one. I used to live on a residential canal on Lake Harris here in Central Florida.
It was February of 2015, and the bass were in their spawn. I woke up on a Sunday morning made a cup of coffee and stepped outside on the back porch. There were a couple of anglers on a boat on the canal behind my house. So I walked down to my boat dock to see how they were doing. I seen the big girl sitting on the bed right behind my boat dock!
The anglers said, “she won’t bite. We’ve been trying to get her to bite for over three hours.” They continued on to the next dock, so I went in and grabbed my Carrot Stix rod with a Gambler 10 inch ribbon tail worm in June bug color.
First cast, they were right, she wasn’t having it. Second cast, same result. On the third cast, I pitched it on a little clump of grass beside the bed and gradually slid it off. It got her attention and POWWW!!!! She grabbed it. I brought her in, and the anglers couldn’t believe it. She was bigger than we thought.
I wanted a picture of my personal best, but everyone in my house was asleep, so there I was carrying a 8 plus pound fish into my house. I knew my wife would’ve been upset with me bringing this giant fish into the house, so I woke up my daughter who was shocked to wake up and see that huge fish in my hands. She got up took my picture and I safely returned her to her hole behind my boathouse.
What are your favorite bodies of water to fish for largemouth bass in Florida?
Lake Harris would have to be my favorite. Lake Harris is on the Harris Chain of Lakes. Of course being my local and closest lake, it is the lake I fish most often. So I know and am familiar with it. Not only that, but Lake Harris offers everything from shallow flats with hydrilla and lily pads, to deeper water and cypress trees. Lake Harris also has a lot of residential canals that are great for the spawn.
Second would be Lake Istokpoga. Istokpoga has never disappointed. It is a shallow water lake with lots of cypress trees and stumps. The crappie fishing on Lake Istokpoga is amazing as well. Istokpoga has that “in the woods” feel. There’s not a lot of recreation on the lake besides fishing.
Third would have to be West Lake Tohopekaliga, aka Lake Toho. Lake Toho is always putting out large quantities of huge bags of bass. The Marina and ramp at Lake Toho are amazing. You might have some issues with airboats in the area, but the fishing is second to none.
I see a surprising amount of spinning reels with your Carrot Stix rods. When do you go to the spinning reel in Florida waters?
I love a spinning reel! It is what I grew up using, so that comfort and familiarization is one of the main reasons I use a spinning set up more often. I use a baitcasting reel for pitching and flipping. A baitcast reel is quicker for making multiple pitches and flips, and it has more torque and power to get the fish out of deep cover.
Other than that, it’s spinning for me. A spinning combo is more sensitive and you can twitch or move your lure better with a spinning setup. I love love love topwater fishing, so being able to twitch it is vital to my method. Spinning setup works it much better for me. I will still use the heavy line and adjust my drag and have no problem getting them to the boat. I use a Okuma Trio spinning reel and a Quantum Smoke reel. Both are very affordable and durable.
I can tell you like to fish topwater. What are your favorite Florida topwater baits?
I’m the topwater King…LOL! I brought that style from Oklahoma with me to Florida. Most Florida anglers use soft plastics like flukes and swimbaits. I do use them. Gambler makes a swimbait called the Big EZ which is a real easy swimbait to use that produces big fish.
However, I’m a popper fan. Being able to let that lure sit on the water and twitch it between stalls drive the fish crazy! The poppers I use have rattles which also adds the sound that you want. The most important part is the rear hook has to have the feather on it! If you loose the feather off the rear hook, you might as well get rid of the lure or get a new feather hook.
There are three poppers that I like to use. The first is my favorite and least expensive. It’s the Storm Rattling Chugbug. It has a narrow profile so you can “walk” it across the water. Also it has a lot of little rattles which make it real noisy. The hooks are pretty good, but that’s the only modification I occasionally make to the lure.
Next would be the Booyah Boss POP. Large profile with a good lip to get a good deep sounding pop. Has larger rattles and the hooks are very good as well. My third favorite is the KVD Big Splash. Very similar to the Boss Pop, but you can’t find it as easy. Has the same deep lope sounding pop with excellent hooks.
What are your favorite Carrot Stix rods for topwater fishing?
Hands down favorite rod is the 7ft medium heavy action Carrot Stix Wild Wild Pro Series Rod. The Pro Series is equipped with American Tackle microwave guide system. The microwave guide system uses micro eyes that are titanium inlaid which increase your cast distance as well as manage your line slack for accuracy.
Using poppers around lily pads, accuracy is very important. The Pro Series Rod in medium heavy action also has a good “backbone” to power the big ones through with the sensitivity to be able to twitch or pop the lure effectively. Add the fact that Carrot Stix are much lighter than most rods so you can cast all day without feeling fatigue makes the Carrot Stix Rods a perfect match for me.
What is another one of your favorite methods for the bodies of water you fish in Florida?
Another method that I like to fish here in Florida is worm fishing. Especially spawn time being a good worm fisherman is a must down here. I like to Texas Rig them or just fish them weightless.
I like to use the Gambler ribbon tail worm in Junebug color. It imitates a bluegill. There are Cypress trees in most of the Florida Lakes. I will use the worm and cast right at the trunk of the tree and work it through the root system. A lot a bass will hide out in the root system.
What is your favorite Carrot Stix rods for this style of fishing?
Once again my favorite rod to fishing this style is the Carrot Stix Wild Wild Pro Series. I don’t want to scare the fish by being too close, so having a rod that can accurately cast to the base of the Cypress trees or on spawning beds beds is a must. Then, the rod has to have a good enough backbone to wrench them out of the roots before the bass wrap you up in the root system. In order to do that the rod also has to be sensitive enough for you to feel the bite and set the hook before getting tangled up. The Pro Series offers all the qualities of doing so.
How long did it take you to get used to Florida gators?
how long did it take me to get use to the Florida gators!?! I’m still not used to them…LOL. I could tell you all kinds of gator stories. Gators are a popper users nightmare! Not the big gators so much. It’s the little ones that are more of a nuisance. They are not scared of anything, and they will grab your lure in a heartbeat. They are fast too! You always have to be on the lookout for small gators. The large ones tend to stay away.
Who are all of your sponsors/pro staff companies?
Carrot Stix Rods
National Anglers Association
Being a Prostaff team member gives you benefits to each company that is not available to the public. Not just the discounts and new products, but being a Prostaff representative has also helped me get more involved in the fishing industry.
I help Carrot Stix Rods every year with the ICAST Show here in Orlando. Last year Glo-Pro Lures sponsored me in fishing the FLW ICAST Cup last year which paired me up with a member of the industry and a member of the media. I showed my media representative how to use a Gambler Big EZ, and he caught a fish over 4 pounds. We ended up finishing 21st place. Another great way my sponsors have helped support me in this amazing fishing journey!
Thank you Rick. Fantastic information for anyone who regularly fishes Florida or may be headed there for a vacation. Especially if they are fan of spinning tackle like I am. Rick posts on Instagram @southerlandoutdoors and YouTube.
Read More about Carrot Stix Rods: Choosing the Right Carrot Stix Rod with Chris Wetzel