2019 Lake Toho Preview - Major League Fishing

2019 Lake Toho Preview

What sort of fishing to expect at the second stop of the FLW Tour
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January 25, 2019 • Jody White • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

Lake Toho

Kissimmee, Fla.

Feb. 7-10, 2019

Hosted by Experience Kissimmee  


About the Fishery

Lake Tohopekaliga (Toho for short) is the first of four lakes on the menu for pros in the second stop of the FLW Tour. At the south end of Toho, a lock and a series of canals leads to Cypress Lake, Lake Hatchineha (Hatch) and Lake Kissimmee, which are all fair game for the pros. Connected to Kissimmee, Tiger Lake and Lake Rosalie are also legal waters, and at least Tiger should be accessible depending on water levels.

The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes offers typical Florida fishing, with offshore hydrilla and eelgrass, shell beds, and tons of shallow vegetation to wind and flip. Kissimmee grass and pads are the predominant emergent cover, and hydrilla is the predominant submerged grass.


Last Time

The last time the Tour stopped at Toho, in 2015, retired pro angler JT Kenney ran down to Kissimmee three of the four days and fished for spawning bass in the roots of pads. On one day with bad weather, he plied a spinnerbait in Toho to assemble a small limit. Kenney weighed over 50 pounds on days one and two of the event, but faltered a bit at the finish, with less than 25 pounds on the final two days.

Behind Kenney, some pros found success with a similarly methodical pattern targeting spawning fish, but others did very well fishing current-related fish on shell beds and around the canals. There was a lot of water running through the system at the time, and crankbaits fished around current breaks and shell bars produced a lot of weight.

The most recent FLW event on the Kissimmee Chain was a T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) event held in January 2018. Launching out of Camp Mack, on the canal between Hatch and Kissimmee, Robbie Crosnoe flipped overturned mud mats for 18 pounds and the win.


What to expect this time

Historically, the Kissimmee Chain has produced some of the biggest fish and single-day catches in Florida, but consistency is hard to maintain. A 30-pound bag or a 10-pounder or two isn’t out of the question, but building a big lead or staying consistent all four days is the way to win. In other words, the winner isn’t guaranteed a 20-pound bag every day, but they’ll likely have at least one spectacular day. Tour pro Blake Smith, who calls the Kissimmee Chain home, believes the lakes are doing great now, and he expects the winning weight to surpass 80 pounds given good weather.

Typically, Toho and Kissimmee are fished most in tournaments, with some solid action in Cypress if the offshore hydrilla bite is going. This time around, Smith says the grass in Cypress isn’t what it was, but that Toho and Kissimmee could both produce a win.

According to Smith, one of the real wild cards is new grass in Toho.

“Toho is full of grass,” he says. “In the past for our five years I’ve never seen it with this magnitude of offshore hydrilla. There’s still the same patches of pepper grass and gator grass and eelgrass shallow, but the offshore hydrilla will come into play on Toho – like last year on the Harris Chain. Right now, the whole south end is a giant hydrilla field – it’s unbelievable. Whoever figures out that offshore hydrilla game is going to be in play, without a doubt.”

Because of poorly timed cold snaps in December and January, Smith figures the majority of the big fish have yet to spawn. That could bump weights up and make finding prespawn fish very valuable, especially because there won’t be a full moon at the time of the tournament. If the fish do decide to spawn en masse, things could get abosutely electrifying. 


Baits and techniques

You can expect all the typical Florida stuff to play this time around, with the lean of techniques depending a lot on the weather. Winding swim jigs, Speed Worms and swimbaits through and over grass will work, and vibrating jigs have won a ton of money on Toho as well. As it is anywhere in Florida, flipping and punching is a sure bet for some good fish. Naturally, a Senko or worm worked slowly has won as much money as anything else at Toho and Kissimmee.

Hard baits have a pretty good history on Toho and Kissimmee, too, and not just lipless cranks and prop baits. Diving crankbaits could see a lot of action depending on the conditions, and jerkbaits have a history of success when the fish are more offshore.

Finally, don’t be too surprised if someone drags around a wobble head or something similar on some shell to catch a few bass.


3 critical factors

1. Weather – Like any Florida tournament, the weather is of the utmost importance. If a cold front comes to town, you can expect weights to drop, and adjustments will for sure become necessary. Given good weather, a slugfest could break out.

2. Offshore grass – Toho currently has as much or more offshore hydrilla than Lake Harris did in 2018. If someone can figure out the fish in or around it, they could be set up well for a win — and perhaps some monstrous weights.

3. Giants – Like at Sam Rayburn, the possibility of an 8-pounder or better is very real. Catching one or two of those could help a pro ride deep into the weekend.


Pros to watch

Heading into Toho, there are plenty of storylines to keep an eye on. After both finished in the triple digits at Rayburn, the McMillan brothers could use a bounce back and are always strong in the Sunshine State. Standout rookie Nick LeBrun has had an electric start to his career, but Florida is finally a true road test for him – it’ll be worth watching how he does. Finally, it’d be wise to throw an eye on John Cox. The Tin Man has won a BFL on the Kissimmee Chain, but he’s yet to win a Tour event in Florida despite some very close misses and seems overdue for another W.