After 11 weeks of nationwide lockdowns, shutdowns and closures, it looks like the Bass Pro Tour has gotten the green flag to fish again. It’s time to hit the road, get back to work and get back to the word we all love in this sport: competition!
The first event back for the Bass Pro Tour is going to be one of the wildest wildcard tournaments ever held. Given the venue, the format, the huge amounts of money being paid and the increased emphasis on big bass in the form of daily big bass payouts, there’s never been a bass fishing competition like the one you’re about to see at the Bass Pro Tour Heavy Hitters event on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.
First of all, it’s central Florida in June, and there’s no historical playbook for this area during this time. While there are oodles of tournament results available for Florida in the winter months, competing there in the summer months is uncharted territory in terms of national-level tournaments. I know I’ve never personally fished a tournament on Toho or Kissimmee in June. I remember winning an Elite Series there years ago in March, but that’s probably the latest in the year I’ve ever fished there.
So this will totally be a new deal for me. I did stop there on the way to Okeechobee in February and looked around with the intentions of fishing the Heavy Hitters original date in May, but not June. I have no idea what the water conditions or grass growth will be like.
The other thing that will make the Heavy Hitters a challenge is the Kissimmee Chain is a vast and complex fishery. There are four lakes to choose from, a river system that connects them all and then the whole locking dilemma.
Originally, Heavy Hitters was supposed to be just 30 competitors, which makes locking a far more viable option. But due to the coronavirus chaos that has changed everything we do, the Heavy Hitters will now be a full Bass Pro Tour field and that makes the locking gamble a bit dicier.
Having just two days of practice is going to compress these factors and decisions even more as well.
Add to that the new 2-pound minimum rule – as well as the big-bass cash awards each day – and now the options for which techniques you want to utilize become even more perplexing. One-pound schoolers won’t get it done, but committing your entire event to a magnum swimbait or monster punching bait just for big ones is a big risk.
Keep in mind the Heavy Hitters is also a points tournament as well: Swing and strike out in this one and your 2021 REDCREST hopes might crash in Florida.
Recently, I’ve been fishing to stay sharp for the Tour restart, but while most of the country has been fishing the postspawn, I’m fishing up here in Michigan where the leaves on the trees are just now budding out and a lot of my focus has been on smallmouth. So to go from jackets and smallmouth in Michigan to summer largemouths in Florida is going to be quite a change.
I’m not normally one to believe in the “locals have a distinct advantage” way of thinking, but I would have to think this Heavy Hitters event will line up nicely for guys like Shaw Grigsby, Bobby Lane and Terry Scroggins.
I’m betting these guys have plenty of hot-weather summer experience on Toho and Kissimmee and know how to utilize it. When it comes to offshore locations and taking advantage of the Kissimmee River’s mysterious flow, these guys will have a home-court advantage.
After a long unexpected break, it’s only fitting that the Heavy Hitters breaks the ice in a big way. It’s time to dial in all my Plano EDGE tackle boxes and get the wheels and reels rolling again!