Tournament anglers fishing the second day of the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes were greeted with overcast skies and intermittent rain as the dawn broke on Big Toho Marina.
Severe thunderstorms that rolled through around 4 a.m. on the leading edge of a cold front had tapered off to a drizzling rain as boats were sent on their way. Many of the tournament leaders felt the lack of sunny skies would hurt the sight-fishing game. "I left two 8-pounders on the beds yesterday, one I hooked and lost and one I couldn't get to bite," said Terry Scroggins, in third place after Day One with 25 pounds, 5 ounces. "Those fish are real sensitive to light, and with this front coming through it backs them up.
Even though they don't feel the cold they feel the pressure and it backs them off the beds and into deeper water. They were just starting to come in on the beds yesterday afternoon, and I think this front will be enough to hold them off." Scroggins still has some good offshore stuff, catching 20 pounds on Day One before he moved into the shallows to sight fish late in the day.
The lack of good light will hurt anglers fishing the deeper beds because they can't see the fish. Scroggins drew a late launch time for the Day Two, so he's hoping the sky will clear up and let some sun through by late in the day. Gerald Swindle, in first place after Day One with 30 pounds, 13 ounces, felt the early morning low-light levels could be to his advantage.
Swindle is fishing roughly 800 yards from Scroggins. "The areas we're fishing are offshore and triggered by feeding frenzies, so you get an early low light feeding frenzy," Swindle said. "Then it gets sunny and slick like yesterday and the bite slows down, but with clouds and the rain, it could extend that feeding frenzy. With the clouds and the rain, it might play to our advantage."
Larry Cahan, who sits in fourth place with 24 pounds, 9 ounces, is on bedding fish in Lake Toho and feels the low light is going to make sight fishing in his area extremely difficult. "It's probably going to hurt me a bit," Cahan said. "I caught all my weight fish sight fishing on the beds. I'm hoping I can catch some of these fish just casting in the area, but it's going to be tougher to catch the bigger fish because you can't see them.
Hopefully, drawing a late flight will get me some sunlight in the afternoon."
A teen takes a swing
Sixteen-year-old Dustin Bozeman has been fishing most of his life. Two years ago he decided to pursue his dream of being a tournament fisherman, so he entered some local tournaments to hone his skills. Now that he's old enough to meet the minimum age requirement to enter a Bassmaster Open event, he decided it was time to improve his fishing by sharing time on the water with the pros by entering as a non-boater.
"It's kind of weird being in the back of the boat, but it's a learning experience," said Bozeman, who brought only one fish to the Day One weigh-in. "It was all right though. I just didn't get many bites, but the one bite I did get, I caught, so I feel good about that." Bozeman fished Day One with Kyle Smith, and has drawn Casey Ashley on Day Two.
"I'd like to fish in the pro division a couple of years and then hopefully move up to the Elite Series," Bozeman said.
Pros like new Elite Series postseason format
In the past, Elite Series anglers vying for Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year honors followed a set format that took the top 12 point leaders after eight events, adjusted their points to make a closer race, and then competed in the two-event series to determine the winner.
A new format for determining Angler of the Year honors was announced this week that will give the title to the points leader at the end of the regular eight-event season. Instead of a postseason series, the top eight anglers in points and four more anglers that are voted into the event by fans on Bassmaster.com will fish the two-event All-Star Week in Alabama. "I think it's a great idea," said Bobby Lane. "It keeps adding up and gives you more to shoot for at the end of the year. We're moving in the right direction.
" While Davy Hite enjoyed the late-season format, he's really excited about the tournament series going back to crowning Angler of the Year honors based on the points leader at the end of the season. Hite won the honor twice under that format. "It's fair for everyone.
You know the rules when the season starts, and everyone has the same number of points, so you get rewarded for being the best fisherman that year and it still gives the top anglers a venue to showcase themselves," said Hite.
Does shirt color matter? It does if you're superstitious. Five of the top six anglers on Day One were wearing either yellow or blue shirts. The guys wearing yellow were all fishing Lake Toho, while the anglers wearing blue were fishing Lake Kissimmee.
Looking to meet your favorite Elite Series anglers and get your picture taken with them? At the morning launch, when boats are dropped in at the ramp, the most consistent area to get a one-on-one with a pro is outside the public bathroom near the ramp.
At the afternoon weigh-in, the best spot to run into your favorite angler is in front of the release tank, where bass are taken after the weigh-in to be released later in the afternoon on Lake Toho.