Though overshadowed by trophy largemouth bass, black Florida crappies are abundant and grow large in many shallow lakes. Local anglers call 'em "specks," short for speckled perch, and baitshops often run contests for the largest fish each week. Lake Tohopekaliga near Orlando is one of the top fisheries right now, housing thousands of pound-class fish, with occasional specimens over two pounds.
Winter fishing in Florida typically isn't deep jigging, spider-rigging, or bobber watching, it's hand-to-hand combat as big crappies move into dense beds of jumbo lily pads and American lotus for their prespawn feeding.
To present jigs or crappie minnows in that dense cover, use long poles like Shakespeare Ugly Stik Crappie Poles, which measure 12 or 13 feet, or B 'n' M's Buck's Original Jig Poles, available from 11 to 16 feet. Spool with 10-pound mono to work around the tough pad stalks.
It's critical to be stealthy in the shallow vegetation, so a long pole allows you to reach out and drop a tube jig or minnow into cup-sized pocket among the pads. When the cork goes down, haul 'em up and out. It's a fun and effective way to work this dense cover and catch some of Florida's finest specks.
Contact: Capt. Randy Dumars, 407/908-8498, orlandofishingguide.com; experiencekissimmee.com.