KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Half of Terry Scroggins' face was an ear-to-ear grin as he bounced around Anglers Alley, less than 24 hours before the start of the Sunshine Showdown presented by Allstate Boat Insurance — the final event on the 2007 Elite Series.
Scroggins is always smiling, but there was a little extra something about him as he greeted fans and signed autographs. Not only is he fishing the first Elite Series event in his home state, but he won a BASS Southern Open on this exact chain of lakes in March of this year.
Most of the anglers perusing the Alley said the fishing was tough, if not impossible, but surely Scroggins would have something nice to say. Without breaking his smile, the pro summed up the fishing conditions in one word.
"Terrible," he said with a little bit of a chuckle, "or challenging, or however you want to say it nicely. It's by far as bad as I've ever seen it."
Scroggins said Toho and the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes are all plagued with an over-abundance of hydrilla, which makes it hard to move around to the areas that are usually hot spots, a water clarity that is way off color and a complete lack of current.
"You combine those three things in September and you can get ready for one tough tournament," he said. "As much as I love this place, I hope we never come back here in September."
Usually tough circumstances add to a local's advantage, but Scroggins denied having a leg up. Chris Lane, who lives in nearby Winter Haven, Fla., was a little more forthcoming.
"The good thing about fishing your home water is if what you found in practice doesn't work, you've got something you can always go to in the back of your head," Lane said. "And that's the only advantage because everything else is pressure, pressure, pressure. Everybody thinks you're going to do well and wants you to do well."
Lane was one of the few anglers who said they were happy with practice. He said the bites will come almost randomly and they will come in bunches.
"I've got about five or six spots that I've got marked and I'm going to milk run them," he said. "I'll hit them two or three times a day if I've got to."
Scroggins also talked about schools of fish, saying this is one of the few tournaments where quantity is more important than quality.
"There are two or three places where the fish are schooling at and there are five or six guys on those places," Scroggins said. "Those guys are going to be hard to beat because they'll be able to catch a limit four days in a row."
And the reality of the situation is that no matter how hard the fishing is, there are few anglers who can afford to take this tournament off. This is their last chance at amassing Angler of the Year points and it could decide their future as a pro, their berth into the Classic, or for Skeet Reese and Kevin VanDam, Angler of the Year.
"I'm tickled to death that I don't have to catch one to make the Classic," Scroggins said. "If I was in a position where I had to catch one or I was trying to get myself into the Classic, man this would be a nail-biter right here.
"To come down to the last event and have it be so tough … It's going to be nerve-wracking for a lot of guys."