Open: Kissimmee lay of the lake

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Garrick Dixon

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A favorable moon and January daytime high temperatures in the 80s on Lake Kissimmee. The sum of the whole is what every bass tournament angler wishes for this time of year.

Or do they?

Preliminary reports from the anglers revealed the bass scattered offshore, at midrange, and near the spawning areas. One thing is certain. The fairytale waves of double-digit largemouth flooding the shorelines have yet to show up. Some attribute that to an unseasonably warm period prior to the tournament and throughout December. Like most of the country there has not been a well-defined winter. The big bite is there, of course, because this is the Kissimmee Chain where they flourish.

What is to come? We shall see this afternoon when the pros weigh in for the first day of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open. Here is what some anglers had to say about the lay of the lake yesterday.

Scott Martin
Clewiston, Fla.

His take: “There are a lot of ways to catch fish. Water temperatures are around 70 degrees which is perfect. I think the bass are in all stages of the spawn but more toward prespawn. I think if they do spawn this week that it’ll be the first good wave of fishing moving up. There are a lot of fish staging out in the middle of the lake. With five different lakes to fish the field will be evenly split between them all, because the fish are biting really well. This week there will be some big bags weighed in the 25-pound range. That is based on a variation of flipping, casting baits into the grass and some sight fishing.”

Brian Latimer
Belton, S.C.

His take: “The lay of the lake is it’s totally what you would not see during January in central Florida. There is no evidence of any fish that have made the move inland to spawn. There is 72-degree water, but they are just not moving much. Where there are fish there are a lot of them grouped up. There are no random fish where you can stop on a spot and pick one up."

Brandon Palaniuk
Rathdrum, Idaho

His take: “It’s fishing tougher than what I expected. This is the first time I’ve ever been here without a cold front either rolling through or forecast to come. You would think there are fish everywhere. It’s like they still have not made that push. There are some up shallow and others out deep. It’s shaping up to be a typical Florida tournament during January. They are going to be in one concentrated area. There will be a bunch of boats in that given area, and that is where most of the action will go down.”

Carl Jocumsen
Graysville, Tenn.

His take: “In 10 years of fishing here during January I’ve never seen the weather like it is now. It’s always been a progression of cold fronts and then warm ups. Not just the latter for a long time. The key factor is rising water temperatures but earlier in the year. If it was a February full moon, then it would be game on. No doubt. With this one I don’t think the fish have acclimated to the warmer conditions, sooner. Everything I have learned in Florida says the bass are waiting for a major cold front to trigger them to spawn when it warms up. I believe that is holding them back, even with the full moon. I believe there will be fish caught every different way that you can imagine, which is going to be good.”

Brandon Cobb
Greenwood, S.C.

His take: “I haven’t found enough fish to be dialed in, but there is one thing that is surprising to me. Usually when you have a cold front in Florida and then a warming trend and a full moon the fish are on the move. I have been looking for that but haven’t found any. The few females that I have caught were out deep. The water temperatures are in the mid-70s but they aren’t there. The wind blew very hard last week and Kissimmee is very dirty, much more than normal. For that lake it’s got them in a bit of a funk.”

Brandon Lester
Fayetteville, Tenn.

His take: “We all know what should be happening but it’s not. The water temperature is right, the moon is close to right, the water looks right. It gets better every day. The thing about Florida is that it could happen overnight. I haven’t yet seen any on beds. I am seeing more fish up shallow, cruising around. We are getting warm nights, and there are more signs every day that it’s coming. How awesome it would be if it happens this week?”

Chad Pipkens
Lansing, Mich.

His take: “it should be a lot farther along considering how warm it is. But when you go up shallow you just don’t see a lot. I haven’t had a good shallow water practice. There are a lot of fish out deep and there is a ton of grass out there. It makes them hard to find. You can go for miles without getting a bite and then catch one. To me that says the fish are moving quite a bit. The main thing is they are making full use of that thick grass offshore, feeding on shiners, and it takes longer to find them. But they are there.” 

Brandon Card
Knoxville, Tenn.

His take: “I think they should be spawning any time. It’s very similar to what happened last year at the first Elite Series event on the St. Johns River. Practice was brutal and then it started getting warmer and they were there. It could happen anytime. If they don’t move up it’s not going to be up to is potential, but this is the Kissimmee Chain and there will be 25-pound-plus bags caught. Just not by a lot of guys.”

Garrett Paquette
Canton, Mich.

His take: “We are having a really big warming trend right now that generally has the fish moving shallow. I think it will be a junk fishing tournament. There are fish scattered everywhere, from offshore to midrange to very shallow. It’s hard to find a huge school of fish, or stay in one area and wait for them to come, like we usually do here in January. The thickness of the grass has them everywhere, and that makes them hard to pinpoint.”

Harvey Horne
Bella Vista, Ark.

His take: “The fish are scattered. You can’t pinpoint any one thing they are doing. The thick grass makes them challenging to pin down. We are looking at water temperatures that are higher than normal for January. I think the fish began spawning in December. There hasn’t really been a well-defined winter here, just like across most of the country. There will be fish caught any number of different ways.”