Preparing to do battle on Lake Tohopekaliga

After several months of planning and preparation, the bass tournament season is set to kick off for me this week on Lake Tohopekaliga down in central Florida.
The first FLW Tour event of the year starts tomorrow (March 5) and based on the predictions of some anglers, the records could be in jeopardy as giant female largemouth bass move up to spawn.
The all-time professional tournament one-day catch record was set at Toho by Dean Rojas in a Bassmaster event back in 1999, when he brought a five-fish, 45.09-pound limit to the scales.
Conditions at Toho this week are very similar to what they were at that event, so who knows what we’re going to see this weekend?
Typically, Lake Toho is not the same kind of bass factory that Lake Okeechobee is—another Florida lake that has hosted several big events in recent years.
But while the numbers of fish are not as high, the potential for big fish probably is better. I’m talking bass more than 10 pounds.
I will guarantee that there will be a few caught this weekend. For whatever reason, bass get big in this system.
There are several reasons for the big predictions on Lake Toho this week. Because the winter has been relatively cold in Florida this year, there hasn’t been a major bass spawn yet.
The spawning cycle happens differently here than in other parts of North America because fish will spawn throughout the winter if conditions are right. But there haven’t been any big waves yet (so I’ve been told).
Second, there is a full moon happening this week and for whatever reason, that usually influences the bass spawn.
And finally, it is hot down here this week, water temperatures are warming rapidly, and that is causing fish to move shallow. The conditions should make for a great tournament.
Part-way through my practice, the fishing has been decent. I’m excited for the tournament to start, but there is always a lot of anxiety with the first tournament of the year and with fishing in Florida.
The thing down here is that you need to catch a big fish or two each day to bring in a good limit. It’s tougher to catch a limit of solid fish here (usually if you get a bigger-than-average catch, you’ll have a kicker fish or two topping five pounds).
So you need to get those quality bites and put them in the boat.
My strategy is to cover water and fish based on the conditions each day while keeping my eyes peeled for big fish sitting on beds.
Hopefully, I can get off to a good start to the season. The past two years, I’ve struggled at the first event of the season in Florida and basically shot myself in the foot to make the year-end championship.
The FLW Tour consists of six tournaments and we get points based on where we finish at each event. At the end of the season, the top 40 anglers in points qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup, where we get to fish for a $500,000 first-place prize.
Last year I had a strong finish to the season and ended up 64th in points—after bombing in the first two events.
My brother, Ben, travelled down to pre-fish with me for this tournament so we’ve been having a great time fishing together. He had the biggest fish of the week so far up to the boat, but it got off before he could grab it (probably a six- or seven-pounder).
You can follow the results online this weekend at www.flwoutdoors.com

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