The finale of the 2007 Elite Series on Lake Toho was a high point for my season. Fishing Florida during one of the hottest and slowest times of the fishing season might not seem like a great combination, but it's worked for me over the course of my career.
Both of my BASS wins have come late in the season on Florida waters. Last year I won the Wild Card event on the Harris Chain, and it qualified me for the Elite Series.
Whenever I encounter waters with lots of vegetation and tough conditions, I like to come up with a couple of ways to catch the bass there. In the mornings, when the light's lower and the bass are more willing to chase their food, I like to fish a lure that will cover a lot of water and generate some reaction strikes.
One of my favorites is the Lucky Craft RC 1.5 designed by Rick Clunn. It's a great little crankbait that casts well, runs true and has a square bill that helps it to shed vegetation. It works best around scattered grass and when the bass are in the mood to chase.
I'll stick with the crankbait until the action stops or I start to see a lot of gar surfacing and gasping for air. That usually happens after the sun gets up on the water.
That's when I reach for a Carolina rig.
At Toho, I was Carolina rigging a no-name junebug worm behind a 1/4-ounce sinker. Since the water was shallow (4 to 7 feet deep), I didn't need anything heavier, and heavier weights tend to bog down in the grass anyway. I think they can even disturb the weeds too much and actually cause bass to avoid your weight.
The key to the Carolina rig bite at this time is to fish the bait extremely slowly. Like the old saying goes, if you think you're fishing too slow, slow down even more. You almost need to deadstick the bait when it comes into contact with a clump of weeds.
At Toho, some of the best catches of the tournament were coming from the co-anglers in the backs of the boats. It makes a lot of sense. Even though they didn't have the first shot at the fish, the co-anglers who were fishing really slowly and crawling or dragging a plastic worm behind the boat were getting bites that the pros were missing.
Even though a lot of pros like to use light line in the clear water you find on a grassy lake, I like to use heavier line, like 16-pound-test. You'll need it to get good fish out of the grass.