Cox Says Warming Trend Should Set Harris Chain on Fire

Published on 01-31-2023

By Pete Robbins
Much of January saw Florida blanketed with a layer of cold air, but that never lasts long, and with a major warming trend on tap John Cox said that the Harris Chain’s bass fishing is about to explode.
“It’s been cool, but with a long spell of 80 degree weather here, they’re starting to pop up on beds,” he said. By the time the Big Bass Tour contestants launch their boats for three days of competition starting on February 10th, some of the bass will have completed the spawning ritual, but there will still be many more waves to come up in the ensuing weeks. “When we have this type of extreme warm-up, when the water heats up so quickly, I tend to target deeper bedding areas. Those include deep pads, thinner grass lines and reeds in those same areas.”
Cox, a master technician and the sport of bass fishing’s “Iron Man,” added that he’d try to spend as much time with a bait in the water, avoiding the time-suck of the locks, but he recognized that “the whole chain has been really good the last few years.” Accordingly, some anglers might gamble on getting away from the crowds. Most tournaments go out of Big Harris and Little Harris, and “lots get won there,” but he added several other lakes in the chain to the places he’d check out. The quality, quantity and variety of vegetation determines how the fish position themselves. For example, Griffin might not have as much grass as it did in past years, but what is there is healthy and should concentrate the bass in tight spaces. It also has lots of good, clear water. His two primary lure choices would be simple: A MaxScent General in junebug and a Berkley Power Worm, black with a blue tail.
At the same time, Cox recognizes that additional populations of fish may not get hit quite as hard. Those bass that have already spawned, as well as those that have yet to move shallow, are susceptible to anglers skilled with offshore tactics. A Berkley Warpig lipless crankbait or a Stunna Jerkbait are great tools this time of year in the Sunshine State, and Cox would also be certain to have at least one Slobberknocker vibrating jig on the deck of his boat, likely with a Power Stinger as a trailer. If your shallow game isn’t on point, turn the boat in the other direction.
“There are so many fish in the chain right now,” he said. “It’s been really healthy the past few years.”
That should translate into lots of fish – and big fish – brought to the scales, but while smaller specimens may result in hourly checks, no bass is safe to take the overall top honors. Last year Terry Free claimed the grand prize with an 11.17 pound behemoth, beating out three other trophies that eclipsed the 10-pound mark but nevertheless fell a few golden shiners short of weighing enough. The year before, 2021, was one of the rare years where no one topped the 10 pound mark, although a 9.99 pounder was remarkably close, and seven more fish over 9 pounds gave the winner a run for his money. In the four years prior to that, there were always at least two 10-pound-plus fish weighed in, and in 2020 there were a remarkable four of them, plus two more over 9 pounds. This means that following the live leaderboard is beyond critical – a big fish that earns big money one hour might be worth far less an hour later or an hour earlier.