This is an interesting question. Understanding a little bit about our phosphate pits compared to natural Florida lakes will help you improve the results of your fishing them. They are very productive.
Most Florida lakes are shallow, and range from round to somewhat oblong. The manmade phosphate lakes are cut from stone, and are deep, with lots of edges, ridges, and even channels. The bottom is a far cry from the typical flat bottoms on many natural lakes.
These structures are all a good thing for Florida Largemouth Bass. There are highways to travel, ledges from which to ambush prey, and humps to hide while they rest. Good electronics help you learn these complex structures, but a simple bottom-finder works well too.
Tackle for Fishing the Phosphate Pits
As far as tackle for rods and reels, you can use the same gear you use for redfish, trout and snook.
A simple 7-foot medium-action power rod with fast action will work great for most of the artificial lures you will throw at the fish. One noticeable exception would be an angler that uses mostly crankbaits. They are designed in a way that benefits from a slower action rod as opposed to a fast action. Another would be if you’re “flipping” jigs most of the time you might choose what some anglers call a ‘flipping’ stick, which offers even more backbone and is heavier powered than what we use most of the time.
Overall you are safe using the same basic spinning tackle or bait-casting equipment we use for speckled trout, redfish, and snook for those chunky phosphate bass. And remember you are working structure so if you think you are retrieving too slowly, slow down the retrieve. The fish are waiting quietly most of the time to ambush bait. They might see it go past them five times before they get motivated enough to grab it and run.
Line and leader for fishing the pits is the same, with a twenty-pound braided line and twenty or thirty pound fluorocarbon leader rounding out the combination. I personally love to use a Texas-rigged plastic worm with a bullet weight as my choice of default lure. I fish anywhere in the lake my bottom finder shows structure and crawl and bump them on ridges and rises and wood and junk. You are almost sure to catch fish this way.
I would use a larger profile worm 7” to 10” long, and in a few different colors: June-bug, red shad, purple or metallic blue for flash and contrast, as well as a few natural colors like watermelon and pumpkin-seed.
The next bait would be crankbaits, and since the phosphate pit lakes are deeper (some have 40 feet depths), lures that run from at least 4’ to as deep as 20’ (or more, really) all work well.
The other favorite of so many pro anglers is the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap. It is a lipless crankbait that can be worked anywhere from the bottom of the lake to the top.
Something that I have had success with using a Rat-L-Trap is the yo-yo technique, which is merely working it through the water column up and down like a jig. You might want to have a few sizes and colors in the Rat-L-Trap. I always start with the 1/2 oz and seem to have good results. Outside of that, spinnerbaits, jigs and all the other bass baits will work. Even topwater lures will produce amazingly if you see schooling bass or your working the shallower water at the edges of the phosphate pit.
You can even call the FWC and see if they could guide you to the latest good bass bite in the phosphate pit lake and what the hot artificial has been. To the best of my knowledge the FWC manages the phosphate pit lakes and nobody knows more about them then their biologists.
Captain David M Rieumont
The Online Fisherman Inc.
Captain David M Rieumont
You can check out Captain David himself from his incredible and very popular Patriotic Angler podcasts. They cover every bit of fishing you can imagine, and there are new ones being created constantly. David and his team remain one of best resources any fishing community has anywhere in the country.