With many locales buried in snow or blasted by arctic temperatures, winter has taken hold. It will be quite some time before the tulips pop up or the dogwoods bloom. Here in Florida, however, it’s unmistakably spring.

I realize that as I merge on to I-95. Immediately surrounded by RVs, I curse the seasonal traffic. Yet I was once a visitor myself. Visions of monster bass danced in my head as I tried to sleep, leading to an annual spring pilgrimage. Yes, once January 1 rolls around, winter has left the minds of anglers traveling to the Sunshine State.

Maybe you’ll be one of them. In the event that you’re considering a trip to bass fishing’s original sacred ground, I’ll help get you started. With places like Headwaters Lake, the Harris Chain, Orange and Rodman all competing for your attention, it’s hard to know where to start, or what to throw. Your time is limited. Let me help.

Location, location.

The first challenge in your journey will be deciding where to go. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once, I should know. Given the massive number of water bodies around my Central Florida home, I find myself resisting travel. But every bass angler must consider the area around Palm Bay.

The famous fisheries there – Stick Marsh, Garcia, Headwaters and more – got their reputation through results. Thanks to a strong catch-and-release history, big-number days are possible (an uncommon trait of many Florida waters). Even on a bad day, you can expect to catch a dozen or more bass from most of the lakes, and your chances at a 50--fish day are better here than any other major waterbody.

Palm Bay is not the place to chase a 10-pounder, for the most part, though they exist. More often, 6- to 8-pound fish take the honors for trip lunker. But the numbers of 3-pounders can be stunning. Combine this with the relative remoteness of these fisheries – giving a true old Florida feel – and it’s hard to beat this area for a road trip. Potential downsides: the Palm Bay area lacks a bit in lodging, compared to the resort areas around Central Florida. Also, this part of the peninsula is much more subject to winter winds than other places, due to close proximity to the ocean.

Moving westward, we come to the famous Kissimmee Chain. Here, you feel as if there’s a bass under every lilypad. Development lacks around these lakes, and there’s plenty of connected water, giving lots of options depending on weather and preferred methods. Kissimmee continues to rank as one of the best fisheries in the state, but a massive expansion of hydrilla has limited the amount of fishable water on Toho. For years, bass anglers have clamored for reductions in spray effort, and now we must deal with the outcome when hydrilla is left to run wild outside of its historic range. Invasives are just that, making for a frustrating day on the trolling motor.

West of this area a long, straight line of lakes running from Lake Placid to Clermont hug what is known as the Lake Wales Ridge, an area of Florida featuring arid scrub habitat. The small waters in this region are often deep and extremely clear, making for a real “blue lagoon” feel when fishing. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is dink habitat, either. Many of these water bodies compete with the well-known fisheries for a place atop the Trophy Catch list. These small waterbodies make great destinations during questionable weather, as wind isn’t an issue and cloud cover usually helps the bite.

The Harris Chain attracts lots of visitors each year. Rightfully so, this chain of lakes continues to crank out big tournament bags and features everything from offshore grass fishing to flipping mats. Lake Apopka attracted a great deal of attention in recent years, but should be taken off the radar for most bass anglers this spring. Strong spray efforts by the St Johns Water Management District resulted in a total fall-out of hydrilla there a few months back. This is reported as an effort to increase plants in the long run; hydrilla being aggressively managed to allow more native plants to grow, a key goal in the revitalization of the long-troubled lake. Managers didn’t consider bass anglers much in the meantime, I’m afraid.

The rest of the chain should be good, as usual. Lake Beauclair has been hot, and Griffin is always a spring favorite.

Moving north, skip the St. Johns River and instead head to Rodman Reservoir or Orange and Lochloosa lakes. Rodman will not have draw-down this year, thanks to some of the plants coming back there after years of little growth. Managers want to keep water levels stable to give eelgrass its best shot. Orange Lake is heavy with hydrilla currently, making navigation a challenge, but continues to produce more “teener” fish than anywhere in the state. I’ll be spending some considerable time there, but won’t overlook neighboring Lake Lochloosa. Here, grass is also making a comeback, fishing is easier and less crowded, and 10-pounders lie in wait.

Finally, if the weather cooperates for a panhandle trip, Lake Seminole should be on every basser’s bucket list. The history here is amazing, and the bass fishing has been pretty darn good as of late. Add in the bonus of stellar panfishing to scratch your fish-fry itch, and Seminole makes a great long-weekend trip for many Southerners. The habitat looks good from recent social media shots I’ve seen, showcasing sizable numbers of 4- to 7-pound bass.

This compilation should get you on your way. Next week, we’ll outline the best methods for Florida bass fishing. Each season, I trim my tackle down further, resulting in a half-dozen methods that continually produce under a vast array of conditions. I’ll throw in a couple “double-secret” tips, too, like the ONLY topwater to have, and why you should never use the term “green pumpkin."

See you then.

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)