FLW co-angler Spencer Howerton grew up in Weaverville NC. He moved to Florida 5 years ago with his girlfriend to learn how to fish Florida. “I had an opportunity and I took advantage of it,” said Howerton. “I had this goal in mind to come and learn how to fish Florida bass.”
I had the occasion to fish with Howerton at the recent ICAST Cup on Lake Toho in July. The FLW organized the Cup to match teams of pro anglers, company reps and media members for a three-hour adventure on Lake Toho. We fished from a Stratos XLE Bass Boat with Evinrude G2. It was a honey of a ride and was made possible by Howerton’s good fortune.
“I am blessed,” said Howerton. “I have met a lot of friends since moving to Florida. When I first moved here I met a man named Joe Clements. As it turned out he owned Toho Marine and Outdoors. When I found out I was going to do this event I needed a nice boat to use. I called Joe and he was kind enough to let me use his new Stratos.”
Howerton suggested that the G2 got a bad rap early in the year. “I think there were a few issues, but they fixed them. I will tell you what, that motor is really really great. Scott Martin and I travelled together this year and we was always joking that we would run three-fourths of the river and use only 10 to 14 gallons of gas a day instead of 28 and 34 gallons of gas being used by other competitors. That Evinrude is the real deal. I am not just saying that. I don’t own one. I was riding with a guy on Eufaula one day and the guy says, ‘Dammit I gotta’ get me one of those. I am getting tired of being passed.’”
As we lined the Status up for the take off Howerton began educating us on the summer bass on Toho. “We have a hot summer day in July,” stated Howerton. “When you get in the heat of the day in the summer these Florida bass do not like direct sunlight. They are going to get out in the cover and stay covered up. They are in the mats under the vegetation. They are going to hunker down.”
He based our morning strategy on that belief that the bass would certainly be hiding out later on. “That first light and the last light is your bite,” advised Howerton. “You have an hour to an hour and a half window, if you are lucky, in the morning. You normally want to throw a lot of topwater, a lot of moving baits. This time of the year the bass will feed on the bluegills that are eating the insects off the top of the water.”
Sure enough, as we cruised the grass-lined shore, we heard a lot of smacking sounds as bluegill ate insects floating on the surface. Howerton used that knowledge of feeding bluegill to choose a lure for the morning’s adventure.
Expecting the bass to go back under the vegetation later he wanted to feed them something the same color as those bluegills with the expectation that the bass would be eating the gills’ in the morning.
“I had good luck here on Toho earlier in the summer throwing a Zoom Magnum Speed Worm in June Bug color. I like to peg the weight down. I use about a 1/8-ounce tungsten ring. I like the ring because it has a little tube, a little sheath inside, so it doesn’t cut your line on the hook set. Peg it down on a 5/0 Trokar Superline Worm Hook.”
A good choice the Trokar is. Trokar hooks are designed with three edges on a unique triangular point. Those three edges have been surgically sharpened for perfect penetration. “I really like that Trokar. It doesn’t seem like you have to set the hook so hard to penetrate that thick jaw of these Florida bass.”
Howerton rigs the Magnum Speed Worm weedless by skinning it back and skin hooking it. “You can use a couple of retrieves,” instructs Howerton. “You can bring it back in a sputtering fashion on top or you can fish it subsurface with a little weight or even slow it down and let it sink more in the water column. You can also fish it like a traditional worm and hop it across the top.”
Howerton is a big believer in varying the retrieve. “If you get hung up on one pattern you can die by it. You might find a certain time during the day when they are chasing the bait, but when they slow down you need to slow down. Basically you have to be able to adapt. That is one of the things I have learned as a co-angler on tour. You can’t just stay with one thing all day long. It is like betting on nothing but black in a roulette game, its one shot. You have to be able to adapt and change the way you work it. Sometimes you gotta’ twitch it and sometimes it’s a steady retrieve. This morning they seemed to like it on a steady retrieve.”
Howerton credits much of his success to the FLW and the anglers he has had the opportunity to fish with. “When you get in the back of the boat and fish behind names like Steve Kennedy, Scott Martin, Roland Martin and Deon Hibdon, you are fishing with the best in the world.”
“When I wanted to learn Florida fishing I came here and joined FLW,” said Howerton. “The $45 membership was the best thing I ever did, it changed my life. I came here and started fishing with these outstanding men and women in local tournaments. Yes, there are women who fish, and dad gum good women, who might just kick your butt.”
For anyone with an inspiration to professionally bass fish the FLW provides one of the best opportunities out there, according to Howerton. “You get to know the people, you get to learn the history of the sport and you get to learn from them individually. You get to learn how they do things. You get to learn what they know about a lake that they have fished for 10 or 15 years. It is learning the little subtleties that you may not get fishing the farm pond with your dad, on some tobacco farm in NC, like I did.”