KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Twelve years ago, bass fishing history was made when Dean Rojas caught a limit of five bass weighing 45 pounds, 2 ounces on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. He went on to win the Florida Bassmaster Top 150 with 108-12. In 2013, fishing fans will definitely be watching the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open, Jan. 31-Feb. 2, to see if lightning will strike again.
At stake is a big payday, a trophy, critical points that could pave the way for a Bassmaster Elite Series career and a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic on Alabama's Lake Guntersville.
The first Southern Open of the season has been historic the past couple of years. In 2011 on these same waters, Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle picked up his first B.A.S.S. career win. Last year, on the Harris Chain of Lakes, Chris Lane earned the win and kicked off one of the greatest seasons in B.A.S.S. history as he went on to claim the 2012 Bassmaster Classic trophy.
Lane is back in 2013, using the tournament not just as a potential paycheck and path to next year's Classic, but as a tune-up for this year's championship on Oklahoma's Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, Feb. 22-24. The longtime Lakeland, Fla., resident now lives in Guntersville, Ala., but remains a pre-tournament favorite. He's looking forward to the competition.
"This event looks like it’s going to be a good one. My best guess is that it’ll shape up to be a classic Florida tournament," Lane wrote in his weekly Bassmaster.com column. "At this time of the year, there are always some fish on the beds, so there will be a few guys at the top who’ll really catch ’em. They’ll figure something out that’ll put them ahead of the field. Big winning weights are pretty much the norm."
An unusually warm winter in Central Florida has nature working overtime, resulting in plenty of early spawning activity, but a cold front is predicted to pass through the area the night before competition begins, dropping early morning temperatures into the 40s. That could certainly slow the action.
No matter the weather, though, fishing fans know what is possible on these waters and will be watching to see if records fall. Rojas' single-day mark of 45-2 is daunting, but not safe if someone can locate a batch of big female spawners, just as he did in 2001.
Also potentially in jeopardy is Byron Velvick's record catch of 83-5 over three days at California's Clear Lake in 2000. An angler would need to average almost 28 pounds a day on the Kissimmee Chain to eclipse that mark. It is likely catches that big and bigger will be made. The question is whether one angler can do it for three consecutive days.
It could happen! Stay tuned.