UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Potomac River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

A 30-Piece Puzzle with Four Pieces Missing

A 30-Piece Puzzle with Four Pieces Missing
Jason Johnson

The whole time I was down in Florida during the FLW Tour opener on Lake Toho I felt like I was trying to put together a 30-piece puzzle with four pieces missing. The weather was right, the water temperature was right, the thousands of acres of vegetation looked right, but one thing was wrong: the fish!

I showed up in Kissimmee knowing that a strong warming trend was occurring through practice and a full moon was in effect. The spawn should have been the ticket. I spent the first day of practice covering water inside the grass lines that rim the lakes. I got a few decent bites that day and tried to expand on that pattern.  

Day two of practice was one of the worst days on the water I’ve ever spent. A big fog rolled in on Toho and made covering water quickly very difficult and dangerous. I just couldn’t seem to find a bass – only pickerel. I pitched to isolated reeds and pads until my arm was tired, but without success.  I then locked through and ran to Lake Cypress to check a shell bed in the middle of that hydrilla-rich lake. No luck there, either, so I headed back toward Toho. On the way up the canal I noticed all the current and told Josh, my practice partner, that I should be able to catch some along the riprap bank there. I spent the rest of the day throwing a ChatterBait and worm, again without success. 

That night I thought about it and figured the only water I hadn’t explored to that point was very shallow and near the true bank. Day three of practice seemed to arrive quickly and we were greeted with another dense fog. I pushed my Ranger through the thickest stuff you can imagine and finally started getting some quality 3- to 5-pound bites up in super-shallow water around isolated pads mixed into the Kissimmee grass. I really started getting fired up to the point that I literally was calling where I was going get a bite. I ran the whole west and east side of Toho, putting a waypoint on my GPS for each fish I shook off. I honestly felt the fish were coming to my areas. That night, I commented to Cody Meyer that it was ironic that a deep-water guy – me – might be fishing shallower than anyone else that week.

When Thursday morning rolled around, I get to the ramp early to launch and meet a videographer from the “FLW” TV show to get miked up and discuss how I was feeling. The strange thing was that I wasn’t nervous at all. I’ve fished so many tournaments over the years that I was prepared for this moment. What I wasn’t prepared for was what was about to happen after the tournament began.  

I pulled into my primary area and before Jeff the camera guy could get the camera going I instantly had a 4-pounder blow up and inhale my Zoom Speed Worm. I set the hook to fight the fish and just as instantly it came off. Two casts later a 3½-pound bass blew up on the worm and I put it in the boat. My co-angler then catches a 2-pound fish and loses another. It gave me confidence in what would turn out to be a dying pattern.

I had at least 15 bites that day, but they just wouldn’t commit completely so I went to the scales with three bass for 7-7. The water on Toho dropped during our off-limits day between practice and competition – as I figured out from some of my super shallow spots – and I was left high and dry. On the second day of the tournament I ran some of the same water, but spent some time in deeper hydrilla and peppergrass. I only managed four fish that weighed 6-6, which amounted to an undesirable finish of 126th place – definitely not the way I wanted to get started.

So, here’s where the learning part comes in: I found out later that several guys with high finishes were fishing the same current areas I had stopped and checked. I think it must have been the timing.  I hit those spots early on day two of practice, but anglers were stacked up on each side all down the canals, the mouths coming in and going out of each lake and at the bottlenecks. Others were fishing offshore, which is what I typically always try to do, but because I thought they would be spawning I didn’t look for them out deep.

So be it; I can’t wait to try for redemption next time. I’ve still got a lot to understand about those Florida lakes, but I’m trying to be a sponge and absorb it as quickly as possible.

Next up is something I’m very excited about – Smith Lake, stop number two of the FLW Tour. I’ve already stripped off all my heavy Seaguar Smackdown braid and re-spooled with Seaguar Tatsu and InvizX fluorocarbon ranging from 6- to 12-pound test. Giant prespawn spotted bass await. I have five spinning rods rigged and can’t wait to see fish on my electronics and know 100 percent that I’m fishing areas where they’re still holding.  

From what I’m hearing, Smith is on the rise, which will put some bushes in the water and there will be some largemouths caught. I think it could be just like the last time we were there, with several guys flipping bushes and docks for largemouths up the river while the other half  runs and guns for spotted bass gorging out deep on the blueback herring.

Whatever happens, I can promise you I won’t make the same mistake that I made at Toho of being closed-minded and not trying to find the fish that suit my strength.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Tags: jason-johnson  jason-johnson  blog 

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