Toho next stop for Florida anglers
ATHENS, Ala. – The Florida Division 6 of the American Bass Anglers Weekend Bass Series will hold its third tournament of the season April 5, 2014, on Lake Tohopekaliga and the Kissimmee Chain of lakes south of Orlando, Fla.
The anglers will launch at Kissimmee Lakefront Park, located at 250 Lakeshore Boulevard in the town of Kissimmee, Fla. Anglers may begin fishing at 7 a.m. or safe light. The weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. Registration begins at 4 p.m. April 4. To register for this tournament, see www.americanbassanglers.com/proddetail.php?prod=795.
To enter, anglers fishing the Boater Division pay $200 with co-anglers paying $100. In addition, ABA members enjoy these other these other benefits:
- No more dual membership to fish the Weekend Bass Series.
- No more credit card processing fees for tournament entries.
- Liability insurance requirements have been reduced to an acceptable level for weekend anglers.
- Increased payback at divisional events from 20 percent of the field to 25 percent of the field.
Anglers fishing the Boater Division may weigh in up to five bass, each at least 12 inches long with a signed exemption permit available at registration. Co-anglers may weigh in up to three bass. The anglers may fish anywhere in the Kissimmee Chain as far south as the Highway 60 bridge at the southern end of Lake Kissimmee. Anglers will need a Florida fishing license to fish this event. For Florida fishing license information, see http://myfwc.com/license or call 888-347-4356.
In addition to cash prizes for top finishers, boater and co-angler competitors fishing this tournament and WBS events throughout the season may also win hefty bonuses from such sponsors as Triton Boats, Mercury Outboards, Royal Purple, MotorGuide and T-H Marine. See the manufacturer web sites for specific details on how to qualify for these bonuses.
At the end of the season, the best WBS anglers from across the nation will fish the 2014 Ray Scott Championship, slated for Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Ala., from Nov. 15-18. The champion boater will receive $100,000 and possibly up to $50,000 in Triton Gold Bonus money. The co-angler champion will win $50,000 and possibly up to $25,000 in Triton Gold Bonus money.
As a special Ray Scott Championship bonus, the Boater Division and Co-Angler Division champions will each receive entry fees and sponsorship into the one of two professional bass fishing series of the angler’s choice. The sponsorship includes entry fees into three professional events and sponsorship support. This sponsorship will put the champion within striking distance of one of two professional bass fishing championships.
One of the best systems in the nation for producing huge largemouth bass, the Kissimmee Chain of lakes ranks Number 22 on the 2013 Bassmaster magazine list of the top 100 best bass lakes in the United States. Each year, the lakes produce numerous fish in the 10- to 14-pound range. Any cast at any spot on the system could entice a double-digit bass on any day.
Lake Tohopekaliga, affectionately known as Lake Toho or West Toho, anchors the northern section of the Kissimmee Chain. On the outskirts of Orlando in Osceola County, Lake Toho covers 22,700 acres and stretches for 13 miles with a maximum width of four miles. Most of the grassy lake drops to less than 12 feet deep, although some deeper holes drop to about 25 feet deep including a dredge hole near Lakeshore Drive.
The closest lake to Orlando, Toho offers easy access, but it also receives the most pressure. Despite the pressure, it can produce incredible catches of giant bass. In 2001, bass pro Dean Rojas, pulled up near the mouth of Shingle Creek, which feeds into Lake Tohopekaliga from the west. While flipping grass beds with soft plastics, Rojas landed a 10-pound, 13-ounce fish on his fourth cast. He finished that first day of the tournament by setting a one-day record with five bass weighing 45 pounds, 2 ounces – for an astonishing 9.02-pound average! Rojas won the tournament by also setting a four-day record with 20 bass weighing 108 pounds, 12 ounces.
The rest of the chain sprawls over more than 100,000 acres of central Florida wetlands. Lake Toho connects to the 5,500-acre Cypress Lake through a lock on the Kissimmee River. Lined with rocks in many places, the Kissimmee River also connects Cypress Lake to the 14,500-acre Lake Hatchineha. As the river flows southward, it connects to the 44,000-acre Lake Kissimmee before heading farther south after passing through a lock at Highway 60. The Kissimmee River eventually flows into Lake Okeechobee.
Much of the system remains a marshy wilderness in a sea of matted grass punctuated by open water. Since matted vegetation dominates the cover and thick reeds blanket most shorelines, most anglers fish weedless baits such as jigs, frogs, swimbaits or flukes. In the deeper water of the river, anglers can throw crankbaits, jerkbaits and swim jigs.
During an April 6, 2013, tournament on Lake Tohopekaliga, Pete Saraf of Kissimmee, Fla., won the Boater Division with a five-bass tournament limit weighing 19.44 pounds including a 5.71-pound kicker. Saraf caught most of his fish in two to four feet of water in Cypress Lake on a swim jig tipped with a twin-tailed grub. Mike P. Morgan of Winter Haven took tournament lunker honors with a 7.54-pounder.
In the Co-Angler Division during that tournament, Ike Gray of Kissimmee, Fla., landed a three-fish division limit going 12.09 pounds. He capped his catch with a 5.78-pounder that earned the division big bass title. Gray caught most of his fish on a Skinny Dipper fished around shallow Kissimmee grass.
For area information, contact the Kissimmee Convention & Visitors Bureau at 407-742-8240. On line, see www.visitkissimmee.com. For more information on this tournament, call Billy Benedetti, tournament manager, at 256-230-5632 or ABA at 256-232-0406. On line, see www.americanbassanglers.com.
About American Bass Anglers: American Bass Anglers is committed to providing low cost, close to home tournaments for the weekend angler and at the same time offer each competitor an upward path for individual angler progression. For more information about American Bass Anglers, the Weekend Bass Series, the American Fishing Tour or the American Couples Series, visit www.americanbassanglers.com.