Main Photo

Austin Springer holding up a 7 pound bass.

I mentioned recently to Jim Reed, a Director with the Friends of Istokpoga, that I wanted to include up-to-date information on bass tournaments in this area scheduled to take place in the next 30-days. He has been sending the information out monthly to tournament directors, as well as including it in the F.O.I. newsletter and he graciously provided the following information.

“Here is a list of bass tournaments in Highlands County which have requested exemptions for the period between 4/1/2021 and 4/30/2021 on Lake Istokpoga. The information is provided to FWC from bass tournament directors.

Tournament directors have until the day before their tournament to schedule or make changes to their tournament exemption. This exemption allows the tournament participants to have an exemption from fish limits, but not bag limits, while participating in the tournament. All fish are required to be handled as stipulated in the permit, while doing everything possible to ensure a live release. Any dead fish are normally provided to a charity, such as a homeless shelter.

More information about black (largemouth) bass fishing tournament exemptions can be found here: https://myfwc.com/license/freshwater/bass-tournament/.

Many of the bass tournaments listed below are coordinated through local fishing clubs. Please reach out to the group specified for additional information. Weigh-ins are typically open to the public.”

Saturday, April 3, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. Toho Marine Fishing, Istokpoga Park, first light to 3pm. 60 participants.

Saturday, April 3, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. South FL Bass Club, Windy Point, first light to 3pm. 30 participants.

Sunday, April 11, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. Tampa Pro Bass, Istokpoga Park, first light to 2pm. 100 participants.

Sunday, April 11, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. American Bass Anglers, Istokpoga Park, first light to 3pm, 30 participants.

Sunday, April 11, 2021 – Lake Placid. Highlander Tournament Trail, Lake Placid Public ramp, first light to 2pm. 100 participants.

Saturday, April 17, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. West Volusia Bass Anglers, Hendersons Fish Camp, first light to 3:15pm. 50 participants.

Saturday, April 17, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. Bass Assassins of Polk County, Istokpoga Park, first light to 2pm. 70 participants.

Saturday, April 17, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. Big Reel BassMasters, Trails End Fish Camp, first light to 3pm. 30 participants.

Sunday, April 18, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. West Volusia Bass Anglers, Hendersons Fish Camp, first light to 3:15pm. 50 participants.

Sunday, April 18, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. Xtreme Bass Series, Istokpoga Park, first light to 3pm. 50 participants.

Sunday, April 18, 2021 – Lake June-In-Winter. Mr B’s, H. L. Bishop Ramp, first light to 3:15pm. 22 participants.

Saturday, April 24, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. American Bass Anglers, Istokpoga Park, first light to 3pm. 20 participants.

Sunday, April 25, 2021 – Lake Istokpoga. American Bass Anglers, Istokpoga Park, first light to 3pm. 20 participants.

Tournaments without Florida State exemptions:

Saturday, April 24, 2021 – Lake Jackson. Sebring Elks Lodge #1529, Elks Lodge Ramp, first light to 2pm. Open tournament.

For those of you who enjoy tournament fishing, there is no shortage of tournaments scheduled for the month of April. I’m sure there are other tournaments scheduled that I’ve missed so if you’re a tournament director and you’d like to have me add your tournament schedules, please let me know. (I’m only looking for tournaments held in Highlands County).

For those of you who do not enjoy fishing tournaments, it’s always nice to know when and where tournaments are being held so you can attend the weigh-in’s or avoid the congestion on the lake or at the ramp.

I’d also like to add that it is important for all fishermen and women in the state of Florida to be aware of the state regulations’ regarding largemouth bass.

Anglers with a current Florida State fishing license are allowed to keep 5 largemouth bass with no minimum length but only one fish over 16”.

Many anglers may be unaware that only one fish may be over 16”, unless they are in possession of an exemption certificate.

It’s pretty obvious that our lakes, Lake Istokpoga in particular, have a lot of fishing pressure, and yet they still produce well enough to be listed in the Top 100 Lakes in the United States.

Friends of Istokpoga provide a great deal of history, as well as up-to-date information on the lake. Single memberships are only $10.00. For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Bass fishing has been steadily improving as we move from the final winter month of March into the first spring month of April.

Local resident Austin Springer had a good day off work on Lake Jackson last week with two bass weighing over 6 pounds and another tipping the scales at 7 pounds. Austin is pretty well-known in Highlands County as a strong tournament competitor.

Editor’s note: Don Norton, often referred to as “Red”, is a retired bass fishing guide, custom rod builder and tournament bass fisherman. He was the owner of two local fishing tackle stores, REDS in Avon Park and REDS II in Sebring, and in addition to previously writing for Highlands Today the NEWS-SUN and the Coastal Angler, he also taught evening classes at the South Florida State College in Avon Park on bass fishing techniques and custom rod building. Don lives in Golf Hammock with his wife Lexie.