LAKE WALES, Fla. — The bass are further along in the spawning process at the Kissimmee Chain than they were on Florida's Harris Chain last week. And that's a bad thing in terms of catching fish during the Bassmaster Elite Series Citrus Slam, presented by Longhorn."I suspect that about 80 percent or better have already spawned," said Shaw Grigsby, who is from Gainesville, Fla. "We're a little further south (than last week), and they're a little further along. There's just not a whole lot left."
And that's likely to make this event even more wide open than it was last week, when there were major shifts in the leaderboard every day. The tournament started out at Mack's Camp Thursday, under clear skies and 57-degree temperatures."It's going to be one or two big ones and some peanuts," Gerald Swindle said. "Typical post-spawn Florida blues.They're in transition, but they didn't travel far, if that makes sense. If they get out on the edge of that grass, like in a couple of weeks, we can hammer them."But they're caught up in a lot of that vegetation between the shoreline and the outside edge of the grass. They hang up in there, and they get in those little holes. It's not like they're spawning, so you can't just pitch in there and catch them.They get lethargic. You're going to go out there and catch you five that weigh about 6 or 7 pounds, and somebody is going to catch an 8-pounder. That's where all the weight is going to come from this week."Last week you could catch some 4- and 5-pounders. You can't do that here. It's going to be a 9-pounder or a 9-incher. There ain't a lot in between."The key last week at the Harris Chain was fishing slow. If you slowed down, you could take advantage of bass ganged up in certain areas. This week on the Kissimmee Chain, it seems like every bass is operating solo."I think it's a little tougher here, because the fish aren't grouped up," said Cliff Pace, who finished second at last month's Bassmaster Classic on South Carolina's Lake Hartwell. "It's been 'one bite here, one bite there' for me."Although there's lots of water available to fish in this chain, which includes lakes Kissimmee, Toho, Cypress and Hatchineha, Pace doesn't believe much of it is productive right now."I think it's going to fish relatively small," he said. "There are some areas that have better water quality and better concentrations of grass.
"I do think it will be easier to catch them on a moving bait than it was at Harris. I'm just trying to keep my head screwed on and cover the right water."Grigsby thinks the 109-pro angler field will be divided equally between Kissimmee and Toho — about 40 percent each."The other 20 percent will be scattered around," Grigsby said.
Grigsby agreed with Pace's and Swindle's assessment on the current state of the bass in the Kissimmee Chain.
"If you waited another two weeks, the majority would probably be in a summertime pattern," Grigsby said. "Right now they are just scattered."It makes it a lot tougher to really dial in. There will be a good sack or two. And there will be some guys who will struggle to catch 6 or 8 pounds."I think there will be guys that can catch five. It's catching that big one that will be the difference. Can you find that?"If the weather continues to warm (as predicted) this week, the topwater bite could turn on; right now anglers are doing some sight-fishing on spawning beds, and they are throwing spinnerbaits and topwater lures — like frogs — in lily pads and other aquatic vegetation. A Texas-rigged worm is also popular. But nothing seems strong at this point."It will help if the weather warms up," Swindle said. "That topwater bite will get a little better, and you can draw them up out of that stuff they're buried in."
The field will be cut to the top 50 after Friday's weigh-in. Last week the top 50 cut weight was 21 pounds, 7 ounces.
"It's going to be about 19 or 20 pounds this week," Swindle said.Weigh-ins begin daily at 4 p.m. at Mack's Camp. They are free and open to the public.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Citrus Slam on the Kissimmee Chain, from Lake Wales, Fla., March 13th–16th, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4 p.m. ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. ET.