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Southern Open- Lake Toho/Kissimmee, FL Jan 28-Feb 1

Posted by admin on February 1, 2013

Notes from the Boat with Stephen Browning
(images by James Overstreet and B.A.S.S.)


Practice: I started my practice for the Southern B.A.S.S. Open on Lake Kissimmee. Research showed me that the majority of the tournaments in the past two years have been won down on Lake Kissimmee. Looking at the long range forecast, I could tell we were in for a front that would bring strong North wins and cooler temps. However, the weather for practice was typical sunny Florida with some 10-15 mph Southern winds.

Day one of practice I ran some inside grass and pads that would be protected from the Northern winds. I used a variety of baits for covering water as well as for pitching around pads and mats. The baits included a Chatterbait, Live Target Bluegill Wake Bait, Live Target Golden Shiner lipless and a War Eagle Spinnerbait in hopes of finding an area that had some numbers of transition fish. We were a few days off boatGold.jpgthe full moon and I was thinking "keep moving and searching, may run into a good bedding area". After a few hours of unproductive areas, I switched gears and decided to get up close and personal with some pads and mats. I used a Z-Man Zinker for the pads and a Z-Man Punch Craw for the mats. My first bite in the pads was an 8 pounder. Man I thought this was a start to the right deal. After getting a few more bites in the general area, I began to look for similar protected water with pads for flipping. The bite wasn't on fire, but I did manage to find a few other areas that had some potential. I needed some hydrilla close by the pads, for there to be some fish. The mat bite really never materialized for me on this practice day, but I felt like the mats would play a big role when the front came.

Day two I decided to hit Lake Toho. If I could put something together here, I wouldn't have to worry about locking down and could use my entire time fishing and not running/locking. I started with the same mind set as I did down on Lake Kissimmee. I wanted to fish some areas that have a history of schools of fish. Fishing some shell beds early and then get on the move and look for beds and cover some of the inside grass areas. The day started off as a complete dud. I did find a few buck bass on beds, but nothing over the two pound mark. I covered a variety of areas as well as a variety of baits and nothing seemed to gel. I did manage a few bites on the Live Target Golden Shiner lipless bait and a Jewel Swim Gem swim jig. The swim jig did produce several bites in a protected area that I was sure would have some tournament potential. Overall practice day two wasn't very good, producing 7 bites from daylight til dark.

Day three I went back to Kissimmee. The cover down there was just better looking than that at Toho. I switched gears and started off flipping pads. I had three bites in a stretch that would be iffy depending on how hard the wind was going to blow during the tournament. The pads were semi protected at best and the water clarity was just fair. I had a few bites on the swim jig and a Chatterbait as well during the morning. I went and checked several areas for bedding fish. I did find several areas that had clean beds during Mondays outing. You guessed it, not a single bedding fish was found. Although I did have a few more Zinker bites in the pads as the day went on. Twelve bites total on the day. I was feeling a little better about my practice after I had a four pounder snag itself in some pads.

Overall my practice was tough for the weather conditions. Water temps climbed into the upper 60's and I knew the bite was on somewhere. I just wished I would have spent all three days down on Kissimmee. As those who have fished Florida waters before, you know there is a lot of unproductive areas due to silted bottom and just not the right mix of grass. Bring on the derby, I'm hopping the few decent areas I found will get better during the tournament.

img_4673_boatLaunch.jpgTournament Day One-I was boat 57 day one. I was wishing to make the second group in the lock that morning. I decided to pass up the couple of areas in Toho in hopes of getting to Kissimmee faster. The lock was a complete mess. Boats stacked up like sardine, the steady North wind had everyone pushed together trying to get through. I managed to get in the third lock and was on my way down in a short time. I started in the area where the Eight was caught. In the first twenty minutes I had three in the box for a whopping three pounds. Not the fish I was looking for but I kept thinking a big one would show up at any time. The wind was blowing a steady 15 out of the NW and made boat control a little noisy. I couldn't put my trolling motor to low in the water because of the hydrilla and my prop would blow out on occasions. Seemed like the early bite was all I could muster up. I missed two bites. Only one that looked like it would help. As the day went on, the bite got tougher for me. I spent the last half of my day flipping mats in hopes of a big bite. I ended up catching one on a Chatterbait in between some mats, one of those freebies. I ended up getting three more bites while flipping the mats. The bad thing was I landed only one. In all, I had ten bites. That was my goal. I figured if I had ten bites and landed them I would have a decent day. I just forgot about the landing part.

Tournament Day Two – Flip flop the takeoff order and I was off and running some 137 boats latter. I decided to skip the early lock, avoiding the mayhem, and spend some time in the areas I found on Toho. The water temp had dropped 9 degrees from practice and the bite was nil. I headed to Kissimmee with a img_5005_boatcrowd1.jpglot of fishing time still ahead. I had to check in at 4:45. After checking out several areas, I could tell what I had found in practice was going downhill and fast. Most of the water had muddied up due to the north winds and it left me scrambling. My intention was to flip mats and pads, thinking that weather should have the fish pushed up under the cover and holding tight. Many mats and pads latter, my day was over. One bite and one miss was all I could muster up. This was one of the worst tournament days I can ever remember. Seemed like the harder I tried the tougher fishing was. I overheard a guy in the lock claim he caught fish in the last hour that were 20-30 feet in the middle of the mats. Said he had to use a 2 ½ ounce weight to get his bait through the mat.

Looking back I should have spent all my time on one body of water until I found a positive area and pattern. I have been fishing these tournaments for sixteen years and I will continue to make mistakes. Another day of practice would also been handy, but I was working for Triton Boats in Birmingham over the weekend. I will say this...My equipment was flawless. I wish I could say the same for my bites to catch ratio on day one.