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Roaming Kissimmee with Douglas

Roaming Kissimmee with Douglas
Josh Douglas

Hailing from Minnesota, Josh Douglas is in his third year on the FLW Tour and looking for his first FLW Cup qualification. Were it not for a disqualification in the final event of the year at St. Clair in 2018, Douglas would have sailed into the Cup. After a tough start to the year at Rayburn, he’s planning to get back on track at the FLW Tour event presented by Ranger on Lake Toho.

As he’s camping up near Lake Hatchineha and spending the day in Lake Kissimmee, Douglas started off by running down to meet me so I could look in on his final morning of practice without messing up his afternoon logistics too much.

 

Florida is always a challenge for folks who aren’t born and bred in the Sunshine State, but Douglas has actually amassed quite a bit of time in the state, and a lot of it on Kissimmee. On top of that, he broke through with a top-30 in the Tour event on the Harris Chain last year, so his odds might be pretty good this week.

After idling out from the ramp, Douglas turns south and makes a short run to a bay that seems to feature every type of aquatic vegetation ever invented.

 

Setting down inside of the outer Kissimmee grass edge, Douglas picks up a vibrating jig and begins to work some hydrilla he marked earlier in practice. In no time flat, he connects with a chunky keeper to get the day started.

 

After tossing the starter fish back, Douglas explains that he’s chosen Kissimmee over Toho in part because of his experience on it, and partly because he thinks the average quality is just a tick better than on Toho.

“I think the bucks are just bigger,” says Douglas. “Obviously there are giants, too, but there are giants in both lakes.”

As Douglas continues to fish his way through a mix of pads and submerged vegetation with a worm and a vibrating jig, he talks a little more on how he sees the tournament going down.

“This tournament worries me a bit,” says Douglas. “I think Toho might go buck wild on bed fish – we couldn’t have better conditions for it. I’ve never fished a tournament here when there’s been a warm front, it’s always been a cold front, so I feel like we’re lucky to have it.”

 

Easing back into some shallower pads and Kissimmee grass, Douglas explains that he’s not quite certain of the status of the spawn. Though a small bass nips his swimbait as he fishes along, the numbers and level of aggression he’s seeing from the buck bass don’t match his expectations for a full-on spawning wave.

After a few more casts up near the bank, Douglas cranks his Evinrude and heads back out.

 

Idling out between a few other anglers, Douglas keeps an eye out for hydrilla on his Lowrance graphs. Despite hailing from the north, Douglas has a ton of electronics expertise, and it can show up even in Florida and on the most visual of fisheries. After marking a little grass for later, Douglas points the boat toward some buggy whips and cuts the motor.

 

Douglas picks up a big weight and starts flipping, eventually covering the stand of reeds without a bite.

All morning, he’s been pretty unconcerned with things. He hasn’t had the ideal Bryan Thrift practice (finding 20 spots with schools of 4-pounders), but it hasn’t been a bad one. He knows the warming water is going to keep things changing.

“Today my goal is to find something everybody else isn’t fishing,” explains Douglas. “But, it is Florida, and sometimes you have to be in the good spots with everybody.”

 

Putting down the flipping stick, Douglas swings back into his submerged grass and fires around a lipless crankbait and a vibrating jig before starting to flip some pads. Though he hasn’t moved far since the start (and it’s a bit past 9 a.m.), Douglas doesn’t think that’s a negative – he says that knowing the entire area is valuable, because if you do find them, they can have a tendency to move with the weather.

“I think Florida is starting to fit my style a lot more,” says Douglas. “Before I was all run-and-gun. Now, I try to have water in every corner of the lake for if the wind blows and have confidence that they’re going to bite eventually.”

 

Douglas already had his rods on the deck when I got boarded in the morning, and he didn’t add to them all day. Basically, he has a solid array of Shimano and G. Loomis equipment loaded down with Florida staples like stick worms, swim jigs, vibrating jigs and flipping setups. Florida is one of the easier places on tackle, as what you can effectively fish in the grass is a bit limiting right off the bat, and many of the tried-and-true baits are that for a reason.

 

Moving on, Douglas runs south some more before pulling off the main lake into a boat lane and setting down in another area loaded up with flat pads and everything else. He gets a bite pretty quickly on a swimbait and then a bite that feels pretty legit flipping a mat. It’s good enough feeling to garner a waypoint, but Douglas doesn’t think the game has changed yet.

 

After fishing a bit more, Douglas makes another short move to a similar area. Therein, despite murkier water than he would like, he gets a flipping bite and halfheartedly swings on it. Unfortunately, after flipping all the other mats around that bite, he’s still got just the one to show for it. 

 

Douglas looks the part of a veteran pro, and though he’s had some standout success on Tour (his third-place finish on Kentucky Lake is a highlight for sure), he really hasn’t been fishing tournaments for that long. Growing up in Minnesota, he fished every chance he got, but it wasn’t until he got married that he got his first bass boat. Once he had his boat, things opened up, and he’s been hard on the tournament trail for about 10 years. Once a bartender and a guide, he’s now an actual pro angler, and he guides on his home lake of Mille Lacs when he’s home.

“I’m never afraid to go back to bartending,” says Douglas. “It was fun. I met a lot of cool people. The jobs I liked were places that closed at like 9:30. Then I could be on the lake early and guiding.”

 

After picking up a swimbait and winding some in the pads, Douglas cranks up and idles through the shallows for a bit before taking off. Turns out, the dirty water wasn’t exactly the ticket, and it’s time to move farther south.

 

Setting down off the bank, Douglas eyes up some isolated pad clumps with hydrilla in between. Alternating between a vibrating jig and a worm, he picks his way through some of the most classic Kissimmee cover available. Unfortunately, there aren’t any bites to be had and it’s nearing noon. After fishing one last clump of pads, we head to the ramp.

 

The last several hours of practice will offer the warmest and sunniest weather of the pregame period, and Douglas wants to make as much of it as he can. So, after dropping me back at the ramp, he cranks back up and rolls out again to try and find a gold mine of Florida strain bass.

Tags: jody-white  pre-tournament  2019-02-07-lake-toho 

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