Road Less Traveled

The hot spots might just be too hot to produce the winning pattern in the Sunshine Showdown presented by Allstate Boat Insurance, a local BASS official says.

 Jim Hooven, president of the Florida Bass Federation Nation who is organizing the volunteer effort for the event, says low water levels and high water temperatures along with high fishing pressure on several of the tournament lakes — Toho, Cypress, Hatchineha and Kissimmee — could make an off-the-beaten-path area the place to be this week.

 "I think the guy that's going to win it is going to find something that's isolated away from the world," says Hooven, who lives about an hour west in Lakeland. "I don't think it's going to be in the local hot spots.

 "Toho is tough right now. I think it's gotten more pressure this year than it has in the last five years. You've got low water conditions and the water temperature is around 85 degrees at noon, and the bass are not excited about moving too much. You almost have to put a bait in their mouth to get them to bite."

 George Celi, a Federation Nation angler who's been competing in tournaments the past 15 years, agrees that fishing is not up to par."Fishing is kind of tough right now because it's so hot," he says. "I think, as far as heavy bags, there won't be as many coming in."With the limited practice, I think they'll be able to find fish. But I don't think they'll necessarily find fish significant enough that they think they can win this event. I think the majority will head south.

 "Toho has a lot of hydrilla on it and it's not that difficult to catch a limit of fish under the hydrilla, but we're talking 10 or 12 pounds. There's some better stringers coming out of Kissimmee."That requires a run of approximately an hour, but it's what Celi believes most of the anglers interested in winning will do.

 Celi, who lives near the launch site on the north end of Toho, says the water temperature is starting to drop and fish are starting to school. He believes storms predicted throughout the week should further cool the water and keep water moving in through the tributaries. Hooven, however, says recent afternoon storms have scattered fish.

 "You can find fish on Thursday and not get a smell on Friday if a storm came in the night before," he says. "But a major front could help the overall bite. The only thing the big boys can hope for is a couple cool evenings."

 Both Hooven and Celi say the morning bite is best and then it's time to hit the mats.

 "The toad bite is pretty good in the morning if you're in the right spot, then heavy cover as soon as it gets hot and muggy," Hooven says. "Somebody's going to pick up that flipping stick from 9 o'clock on, and then it's whoever can find mats in real heavy cover and enough water under them."Celi concurs that anglers will need to follow that combination.

 "The early morning crankbait bite is pretty good," he says. "The sun's out and burning at 8 a.m. and that's probably the time the guys will be pulling out the flipping stick. They're going to want to look for the heaviest grass they can find and fish real slow."

 Both give the hometown advantage to Florida natives Chris Lane and Terry Scroggins. Scroggins finished fourth in the 2006 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Toho and won a Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain in March. He also had a fifth on Toho in 2005."I expect Scroggins to be thumping them pretty well," says Celi, who is on the waiting list to be a co-angler in the Sunshine Showdown."I think Chris Lane has a little bit of advantage because it's home water for him," Hooven says. "Scroggins always does well on Kissimmee. He always figures out something."As for the Angler of the Year race, both believe Kevin VanDam will has a difficult challenge in making up his 107-point deficit to Skeet Reese.

"KVD might find a pattern that will work," Hooven says.Celi isn't so sure."I'd have to put my money on Skeet because I'm not sure this kind of fishing is going to fit Kevin's profile," he says.

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