Gross Grabs Toho Lead - Major League Fishing

Gross Grabs Toho Lead

Georgia pro narrowly ahead going into final day (updated)
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Buddy Gross Photo by Kyle Wood.
February 9, 2019 • Curtis Niedermier • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

We’ve seen some incredible bags weighed in through three days of competition at the FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats at Lake Toho, but it seems like every angler who’s weighed a mega-bag has also had at least one mediocre day.

Complete results

Day three FLW Live  

Consistency has eluded everyone except Buddy Gross. While the Georgia pro hasn’t landed the kind of Florida hawg that it takes to weigh in a mid-20s bag, he’s stacked together quality limits of 21-7, 20-13 and 19-12 to put himself in the lead going into the final day.

With 62 pounds, Gross is up on Florida’s Darrell Davis by just 1 pound, 1 ounce.

Of the 15 fish the leader has brought to the scale so far, 14 have come from one spot on the outside edge of the grass in Lake Toho.

“It’s very precise,” he says. “It’s almost like a little funnel where the wind’s blowing the bait and stuff up in, and it just goes up there and dead ends. They’re just sitting there, kind of hovering.”

Gross figures both prespawn and postspawn bass are moving through this spot. He hit the spot five or six times today, mixing in some other holes and hard spots in the grass in between. No other area produced anything of value until, on the way in, Gross swung by a secondary area he’s been checking on all week. There, he caught a 4-pounder to cap his limit.

“I’ve fished it every day on the way back in, and I’ve been having bites,” he says of the final spot. “They just ain’t been takin’ it. They’ve been knocking it. Today, I didn’t fish it 10 minutes and caught a 4-pounder. I’m hoping there might be some fish that are pulling out to that one.”

Gross has high hopes that with only 10 boats on the water tomorrow and another day of windy, cloudy weather in the forecast, he might be able to cash in on the secondary spot again using the mix of two swim jigs, a swimbait and a Nichols spinnerbait that he’s been chucking all week.

“In practice I caught a 5-pounder, and then I caught a 7 in the general area,” he adds. “So there’s some good quality there. The deal is it was kind of close to where everybody’s been running. I think it kind of had them scattered out. So today there wasn’t as many people running across the top of them. I’m thinking that might be the deal.”

Several anglers behind him in the standings have been improving throughout the week and could likely catch a big bag tomorrow. If Gross wants to hold them off, consistency might do it, but he might also need to finally connect on the one thing that’s evaded him so far this week: a Toho giant.  


2. Darrell Davis – Dover, Fla. – 60-15 (15)

Darrell Davis continues to improve in his quest to get the W in his home state. The Dover, Fla., pro has hauled in 14-5, 20-14 and 25-12 and appears situated to test out Gross’ Lake Toho honey hole on Sunday.

Davis is fishing in an area down south that hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as where some other top 10 anglers are fishing, but angling pressure is still a big factor.

“These fish are spawning,” he says. “Some of the big ones are spawning so shallow that they can’t handle the boat pressure. The other competitors that didn’t make the cut, now that they’re not in there, those fish are moving up later in the day. That’s when I’m getting bit because the fish are starting to do what they’re supposed to do.

“There are only a couple key areas where they do their thing,” Davis adds. “I’m staying on the calmest side, but the whole lake is on.”

Davis is flipping, throwing topwater and winding moving baits. He’s keying on a particular type of bottom and knows exactly where to find it and how to fish the various types of vegetation once he gets there.


3. Josh Douglas – Isle, Minn. – 60-3 (15)  

Today was the toughest day so far for Minnesota’s Josh Douglas. He weighed in 18 pounds to surpass the 60-pound mark and keep himself in the perfect position to tackle Gross on Sunday.

Douglas is making the run to Kissimmee and fishing a two-part program.

“I’m fishing some hydrilla where they’re staging and pads if they move into them to spawn,” he says. “Today we didn’t have the sun. I don’t think it was that cold, but if we can get the sun then I can get those females to pull up with the bucks.”

Each morning, Douglas picks off about 7 pounds worth of bucks to start his day, then chips away at the females with a BioSpawn ExoStick as they move in to the pads. Today, the bigger bass just didn’t show up like he’d hoped, so he spent more time in the hydrilla targeting staging fish with a ChatterBait and Zoom Speed Worm.


4. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 57-8 (15)

John Cox, who continues to battle some kind of respiratory illness, seems to be at his wits’ end with these Kissimmee Chain bass. Nothing worked for him today, and he brought in only 8-11, relinquishing the lead for the first time all tournament.

Cox spent a few minutes fishing Toho this morning to give the faster boats freedom to run at top speed in the canal that connects Toho to the other lakes in the chain (they’re not allowed to pass in the canal) before he pushed his chips in and gambled on Tiger Lake, which connects to Kissimmee via a narrow, winding creek. That venture lasted only about 90 minutes but did produce a few small keepers. 

“It didn’t work. I went down there and saw a couple really big fish blow up,” he says. “I mean, they looked like they were about 9- or 10-pounders. I Power-Poled down and cast all around there and couldn’t get anything. I kind of thought this weather was going to be here sooner, but it’s still nice down there. It still felt right. I felt like any second I was going to catch one.”

Tiger landed on Cox’s radar during practice.  

“The water was still really cold in there,” he says of his first trip in, “so it [the spawn] wasn’t quite ready yet. I caught a really big one and saw some big ones chase bluegills. It had potential.”

Cox describes his return trip to Toho as awful. He spent the rest of the day fishing the outside grass line.

“I ran everything I could in the wind. It’s just hard to fish in the wind. A lot of the stuff I’m doing is a real precise cast.”

He’s not sure what to do on Sunday. Cox says the best days he’s had on Toho have been in the rain, and there’s rain in the forecast, but he liked what he saw on the lower lakes, too.



5. Aaron Britt – Yuba City, Calif. – 57-7 (15)

One spot on Lake Toho got Aaron Britt into the top-30 cut, and one spot is all he fished today. The California pro never fired up his big motor until it was time to return to weigh-in, where he checked in a limit for 12-3.

“It was brutal,” he says. “The wind was blowing straight into it all day. I really thought that I could catch them on that trap [lipless crankbait]. I thought if it was going to hurt anybody it would be the guys in the pads. Apparently, it did not.”

Like yesterday, Britt debated running to some fish he found on Kissimmee, but a 5 1/2-pounder midday changed his mind.

“That basically told me to sit down,” he says. “That was my third fish. Then I only caught two more dinkers after that.

“It’s such a big area,” Britt adds. “It’s 1,000 yards long and 500 yards wide. I don’t think it’s out of fish. I think the conditions changed. It wasn’t necessarily very cold, but it was cloudy and windy, and I think those fish are aimlessly swimming or they’re hunkered down or something. There’s still fish in there. There’s no doubt about it.”


News and Notes


Thrift Kryptonite: Landing Nets?

Bryan Thrift has been gimping around for the last two days due to an errant misstep while climbing into his boat Friday morning. Thrift stepped on the handle of his landing net and rolled his ankle. It appears to be a pretty severe injury, but he says David “Doc” Wootton, a practicing chiropractor, checked it out and deemed it wasn’t broken. Thrift has toughed it out through the pain, accepting some help from friends and anglers to get his boat in and out of the water the last two days, and was able to keep his active streak of consecutive limits in FLW Tour competition alive through one more derby. Thrift, who finished 26th, says he plans to see his doctor when he returns home to North Carolina.


Britt on Live

If you watched Aaron Britt on FLW Live today, you might have noticed some unusual vocalizations, including him repeating the word “huh” frequently at times. Several fans commented on it throughout the broadcast. Britt has Tourette syndrome, which is characterized by “tics,” or repetitive, involuntary vocalizations and movements. The Californian, admittedly, is a unique guy, with his collage of tattoos and a high level of intensity. His story is very interesting, in fact, and if you want to know more, you can read about it in a profile written by FLW contributor Sean Ostruszka that will run in the Spring 2019 issue of FLW Bass Fishing magazine.


24 20-plus

The current total of 20-pound-plus stringers weighed in here at Toho stands at 24. Keep an eye out for a complete breakdown of the catch stats next week at


Early AOY contenders

Ten FLW Tour pros have already earned two top-30 finishes through two events, positioning themselves as early contenders for the 2019 Angler of the Year title. The list includes: Bryan Schmitt, Bryan Thrift, Casey Scanlon, Chad Warren, Colby Schrumpf, David Dudley, Jeremy Lawyer, Joseph Webster, Scott Martin and Terry Bolton.


Top 10 pros

1. Buddy Gross – Chickamauga, Ga. – 62-0 (15)

2. Darrell Davis – Dover, Fla. – 60-15 (15)

3. Josh Douglas – Isle, Minn. – 60-3 (15)

4. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 57-8 (15)

5. Aaron Britt – Yuba City, Calif. – 57-7 (15)

6. Wade Strelic – Alpine, Calf. – 57-3 (15)

7. Scott Martin – Clewiston, Fla. – 54-12 (15)

8. Tommy Dickerson – Orange, Texas – 54-3 (15)

9. Tyler Woolcott – Port Orange, Fla. – 53-1 (15)

10. Joseph Webster – Winfield, Ala. – 51-6 (15)

Complete results