UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir


Toho: 5 Factors to Consider

The Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury on Lake Toho will give the 154 pros in the field a taste of a lake that is relatively unfamiliar compared to places like Lake Chickamauga or homey Okeechobee, where the Tour has made recent or frequent stops.

Naturally, many factors will affect the outcome. We singled out five factors that we believe will have the greatest impact on anyone who fishes the Kissimmee Chain this week, from veterans such as Andy Morgan and Cody Meyer to rookies such as William Kemp and Braxton Setzer.


1. The Lock

Cypress Lake, Lake Hatchineha, Tiger Lake and Lake Kissimmee are all only accessible to competitors after first traveling through the lock at the bottom of Lake Toho. Though the water-level drop between Lake Toho and the rest of the chain is small – 2 feet or less – the lock is equally tiny, holding only about 17 boats at a time. So, as takeoff gets under way and the field streams south from Big Toho Marina, each competitor will have some math to do.

In ideal conditions, with no other boats in the equation, local stick Blake Smith believes that a boater can make it from the launch marina at the north end of Toho to fishing grounds in Kissimmee in about 35 minutes – of course, contending with 154 boats isn’t ideal.

“If you were the 70th boat to take off, you would almost certainly have to wait three cycles for the lock,” says Smith. “That means it would take you at least an hour and 30 minutes to get to the bottom of Kissimmee.”

Van Soles, FLW Tour rookie and a veteran of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, says that time management will be critical.  

“The first 25 boats will be able to run right down to the lock and get through and get fishing in the lower end of the chain,” says Soles. “But, if you’re boat No. 70, you have to have a few spots in Toho to fish in the morning, otherwise you would be wasting a lot of time.”

Luckily, everyone expects that getting back through to weigh-in shouldn’t be as much of an issue. Due to staggered check-in times and the fact that many pros will be coming back through a little early to leave some time before the hard deadline of weigh-in, it’s unlikely that any pro should have to wait more than two cycles to lock back into Toho.

The last problem that the lock could create is impossible to predict, but important to note.

“Cypress and Hatchineha can both be affected a lot by the water coming in through the lock at Toho,” says Smith. “But, the water level is also managed for reasons other than the boat traffic. The water level right now is high and consistent, but if it falls or they push a lot of water out of Toho that can really affect the bite.”

Predicting how the bass in Cypress and Hatchineha will react is tricky for even the most knowledgeable locals. So, depending on what the South Florida Water Management District decides, some surges or stumbles could result.


2. Sprayed Grass

Just like at Okeechobee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) uses herbicide to control the grass on the Kissimmee Chain. Depending on where and when the spraying occurs, it can really impact the fishing.

“The day before the B.A.S.S. Southern Open [in January] I went out and caught almost a 40-pound bag from one area,” says Smith, who didn’t fish in that event. “I went over there a few days later, and it had been destroyed [by spraying] in under a week.”

“I’m not a big fan of it,” Soles adds. “For the people who’ve grown up here, we’ve seen our fishery get rearranged a lot.”

Scott Martin also believes that spraying could be a factor. He’s seen its effects on Okeechobee.

“I really wish the FWC was more in tune with the tourism and the tournaments,” says Martin. “I know they have to spray, but they often aren’t smart about the areas they spray. I think the fishermen and the spraying could get along a lot better.”

Regardless of how environmentally correct the spraying is, there’s a decent chance that it could impact the event in some way if part of the field finds that its fishing grounds has “gone dead.”

Van Soles also notes that the spraying could challenge the anglers in a more subtle way. Despite the fact that there are plenty of places on the Kissimmee Chain to get out of the wind, muddy water will kill a bite there as quickly as it can on Okeechobee. Because of the increase in decayed plant matter on the bottom that results from spraying, some areas of the lakes can stir up quickly. Thus, while anglers always have to be cognizant of muddy water in Florida, parts of the Kissimmee Chain are now more susceptible than in past years.


3. Offshore Cover

Most every lake north of Florida has brush piles, but they usually attract less controversy than the brush piles in Toho and Kissimmee do. In the last few years, the practice of illegally planting brush has exploded on the Kissimmee Chain, resulting in a fair amount of controversy on fishing forums and some mainstream media coverage.

Because of the season, it’s not likely that the system’s deep brush will factor in, but that’s not the only brush to consider.

“A few guys might find shallow brush piles in 6 to 7 feet of water,” Smith says. “If they [the brush piles] are positioned right, they might hold fish that are transitioning in and out from the spawning grounds.”

What’s more likely to factor in is another type of offshore cover: deep grass beds that anglers target with lipless crankbaits, ChatterBaits and swim jigs. Prespawn and postspawn fish stage on these deeper grass beds, especially where shells or similar material creates a hard bottom. A wad of heavy prespawn fish especially could factor into the finish, but exposure to the wind in those areas could cause them to muddy up more quickly than protected shallow areas.


4. Crowding

Because of the Kissimmee Chain’s configuration and the hurdles associated with getting to Lake Kissimmee, Toho will certainly see a lot of fishing pressure, but our panel of pros is split on how that will influence the outcome.

“I think every lake except for Hatchineha has the potential for crowding,” says Smith. “I think Toho will get swallowed up. I think a lot of guys might stay in Toho, and that could burn them.”

Soles has a different opinion.

“I’m a strong believer that you can win on Toho in the spring,” he says. “Toho probably gets less pressure than the southern part of the chain in general. I figure a lot of the field will make the run to Kissimmee, which will fish smaller than the rest of the chain.”

Regardless of their disagreement about Toho, both locals believe that some crowding will occur, and that mental toughness and the ability to do things a little differently, or to concentrate on more specific parts of the system where crowding isn’t such an issue, could be key. We see tournaments won from pressured areas of Okeechobee all the time, and the same thing isn’t out of the question for this event.


5. Bedding Bass

The potential to catch some giant females on beds is in the forefront of every fan and angler’s mind this week.

“If the weather remains consistent, I think a nice wave of fish will move up across the entire chain. I think it will be the main spawn,” says Martin.

Smith isn’t so sure we will see the “main spawn” thanks to a cold winter, but he’s in agreement that anglers should find plenty of bedding action.

“This is really looking like the first time of the season when all the factors to have a big spawn are aligned,” adds Smith. “I think there will be an overwhelming number of fish that move up.”

Soles believes that while the ability to catch a kicker-class bass or two off a bed will be key, nobody will be able to rely solely on bed-fishing for the win.

“There will definitely be some spawning fish caught,” he says. “But, I think people will have trouble catching spawning bass four days in a row.”

Tags: lake-toho  flw-tour  jody-white  pre-tournament  2015-03-05-lake-toho 


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