Wind woes impact final day

After two days of warm, calm conditions, the final day of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on the Kissimmee Chain saw an approaching cold front shave off several degrees in air temperature and roil the lakes with strong east winds. Florida pro Scott Martin said the west sides of were blown out, but there was another challenge that was less intuitive.

Noting that he had trouble finding the spawners he was hoping to target, Martin said the wind so jostled the shallow vegetation that the usual spawning patterns were disrupted.

“The wind was blowing those lily pads so much, those stems were shaking back and forth,” Martin said. “The bucks (smaller males) were in there, but those big females don’t like to be in those pads when the stems are moving around like that.”

Halfway through Friday

More than halfway through the day and having spent time around a third of the anglers, it seems as if today’s productivity is down.

That’s typically the case anyway. But the weather change has had us thinking that Katie was going to bar the door at some point.

From what I’ve seen that hasn’t been the case. At least to this point.

We do know that this fishery has provided some key times when the fish just show up and start to eat.

Day 1 that period was early. Day 2 it was later in the day. What we do know is that at some point that 30- to 90-minute window will open for some of these guys. When it does someone will walk away with an Open trophy and Classic berth.

Lot of time left for these guys. Expect to hear some late-in-the-day heroics come weigh-in time.

Top bait breakdown

The Top Lures gallery will be published to the site early next week, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a breakdown by category.

Texas-rigged soft plastics are the front runners with 10 mentions. That includes straight-tail worms, creatures and stickbiats. No surprise there, considering the slender profile of those soft plastics easily penetrates the matted surface of the thick vegetation in play here this week. 

Jerkbaits came in second with six times in the lineup. That’s not surprising either. The interviews proved what we all learned earlier in the week. That was, jerkbaits were—and are today—the ideal choice for windy conditions. In the productive offshore areas, jerkbaits mimic the baitfish being fed upon by the more active bass. 

Crankbaits also accounted for six mentions. That was a bit surprising, considering the depth of the lakes. However, square bills and shallow runners were the players. 

Traditional leadhead jigs came up four times. And specifically, swim jigs. That was an ideal choice for the suspended fish along the windblown grassy areas. 

Toyko Rigs and bladed jigs had three and two mentions, respectively. 

Three keepers for Swindle

Gerald Swindle has just added a keeper to his well. We think he has three now.

It’s a good sign for his switch. He’s been here an hour or so without a sniff. But that one may have started something. Soon after his co-angler set the hook on something. He didn’t keep it. So we assume it was a pickerel.

The spot at least has some life to it.

Meet the Tokyo Rig

I just finished up transcribing the tape for the top lures gallery that’ll go up on the site early this week. There is a first in the lineup. It’s the Tokyo Rig. At least three anglers are using the rig, including Patrick Walters, who is a frequent user of the pre-made VMC Tokyo Rig. Here’s the skinny on the rig.

The Tokyo rig takes a conventional rolling swivel, adds a wide gap hook to it, and then also extends a wire out from it. Some come with a weight already on that wire and the end bent to keep it from coming off. The VMC version comes without a weight — you add it according to the wind and depth conditions. A soft plastic trailer is added to complete the rig.

Guess again if you think a drop shot is more effective. Sometimes the changeup is just what the fish want, especially in pressured waters, like we have on the Kissimmee chain this week. The rig is at its best in submerged vegetation, like milfoil. All it takes is flipping the Tokyo Rig into the vegetation, let it rest and give it a shake.

Like anything else, look to see more of the Tokyo Rig as it gains more notoriety on the Bassmaster Tournament Trail.

Kissimmee grass

Gerald Swindle is fishing an area that many equate to standard Florida fishing.

It’s a huge area filled with lily pads, Kissimmee grass, pepper grass and hydrilla underneath it.

Somewhere in that maze of vegetation is the perfect mixture of those things where a big largemouth is likely sitting. Figuring out that combination is key to these Florida fisheries.

Scott Martin told us yesterday that he could almost call his shot when he found one of those perfect mixtures.

I doubt he told Swindle. But it’s more comfortable watching him try and figure it out than what the off shore stuff offers.

When the wind is not your friend

Andy Crawford just phoned in a report from the water, and specifically about the wind. He said that according to the Predict Wind app the direction has shifted to the east with sustained winds of 20 mph.

"It's miserable. I'm having a hard time just holding and keeping the camera steady," he said. 

Now, Andy is no slouch when it comes to handling a camera. He's a Cajun dude used to fishing — and shooting photos — inshore and offshore back home. And he's one of our best on-water photogs. 

The takeaway is unknown at this time, other than the wind is now a player-or the key factor-in this tournament day. And it will continue shifting to the north with the temperatures holding steady in the low 70s by takeout time. 

Has it blown out the shallow water spawning bite? Has the better action shifted offshore for the wind-driven current bite? Either way, it's 10 a.m. and change is inevitable. 

Swindle's Thursday mojo

Gerald Swindle was breaking in his new Phoenix boat when he passed a grassy spot that sparked his instincts.

“It was the only place around with grass so I went back.” 

That was a good idea. He went back to the spot, put a GPS waypoint on it, stood up and made a quick cast. The result? A fish he estimated to weigh 7 pounds. As he reeled in the catch there were more fish that size following it. He quietly left the spot. He went back on Wednesday without any luck. 

“Today (Thursday) I went back and decided to just settle in,” he said. “I caught a pretty good one and then decided to stay.”

The payoff was a two-hour flurry of action. He decided to leave and go elsewhere, another good move. The good fortune continued at the next spot, where Swindle culled twice. 

“When they decide to feed it can get right.”

And right it did. The payoff was a limit weighing 18 pounds, 2 ounces, which when added to his Wednesday total of 12-11 gave him a total weight of 30-13.

A sitting spell

Gerald Swindle had a prolonged sitting spell in his boat while we bobbed and tossed in the waves of Toho.

We figured he was making some rod changes, and we would soon be moving. Swindle didn’t disappoint.

After rigging a few rods from the casting and flailing about from the big water, he’s moved into the shallows and is now making most of his casts underhanded to a variety of vegetation. It could be the move of the day.

My boat driver Lamar Chisolm said the area he just pulled into was one of the hottest spawning areas last season.

If that proves true today, Swindle could find the sack he needs while not having to fight the waves and wind of the big water.

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