It was just about this time last year that I slipped down to Florida for some bass fishing on Lake Toho with Orlando-area guide Steve Boyd. We spent a couple of days working for big fish with live shiners. I don’t fish live baits often, but this turned out to be a lot of fun.

First, the baits are big. Florida’s native golden shiners get up to 10 or 12 inches long. The ones we fished were about 7 or 8 inches, the kind of big baits that seem to almost guarantee a big bite.

The shiners are fished about 3 feet under a bobber. Toss one into a likely spot and wait. After a while you might see the bobber twitch and the shiner start skittering around on the surface. Even before the strike you can tell a bass is stalking the offering.

Eventually, the bobber might just go down and stay down, or the shiner might disappear in a smashing surface strike. In either case, I’d tighten up on the fish and hammer the hook home before the shiner could be fully swallowed.

Most of the double-digit bass caught every year in Florida are caught on shiners. Not by us at that time, though. There were lots of 3-pounders, and our biggest was around 5 or 6. I called that luck of the draw and went home happy.