What will the fishing be like for the 51 competitors in the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster's Classic this week on Toho?
Last week's 3-day official scouting period was met by some of the coolest weather that the Sunshine State has seen this year. A warming trend over the first part of the week should have fish moving toward beds, but another front could play a factor in angler success.
The Florida strain of bass is known as an extremely fickle creature. Here one day and seemingly gone the next, Florida's can be hard to catch when the weather changes. Couple this with the fact that location, location, location plays almost as big a factor as a well-defined pattern in Florida and you have the recipe for completely missing the bite.
Patterning fish in Florida doesn't seem to be as easy as it is in other parts of the country. Just because you are whackin' 'em around hydrilla with a lipless crankbait on the east side of Toho doesn't mean you can take the same crankbait, find hydrilla in the same depth on the west side of Toho, and catch them. No, no; it isn't quite that easy.
It almost seems like there are "magic" areas in Florida waters that produce far better than other areas that are almost identical. Why? It's Florida.
Changing weather conditions in Florida can obliterate even the most solid pattern that an angler had dialed-in on the previous day. Fortunately, the reverse is also true; that's why we frequently see an angler on Florida waters go from a zero one day to a hero the next.
Warming weather can cause Florida bass to move and become active like no others I have seen. The fact that an angler scores on a spinnerbait one day means exactly that; he caught them on a spinnerbait on that particular day. It doesn't mean he can repeat the pattern the next day in the same area, particularly if the conditions change.
You can also fish through an area on one day without getting a sniff and the next day the same area produces a huge sack for you. Go figure.
The most stable bite seems to be a post-front, heavy vegetation, flipping bite. Florida's are notorious for burying themselves in or under the heaviest cover they have available and staying there for days. Under these conditions, the anglers that figure out where the fish are located under the miles of vegetation can get wealthy in a hurry.
Northern strain bass seem to be more opportunistic, less affected by weather and bite whenever opportunity arises.
As I write this, sleet and snow are falling, the north wind is howling, and the fishing on the lakes around Central Arkansas is probably pretty good, for the guy that could stand up in the 25-plus mile per hour wind and 26-degree temperature.
The angler that could bear the conditions would probably have an outstanding day. Some of the best days I have seen on the water (where Northern strain bass dominate) have been during some of the most extreme conditions.
Were we in Florida during conditions even remotely similar, we might be lucky to get a bite all day. According to reports from some of the 51 competitors, the three-day, pre-fish period was anything but productive.
So what's in store for this week's Classic? It's all about the weather.
Warming, stable weather will bring out some big sacks. If the area has another front blow through, which could materialize toward the end of the week, look for the weights to drop off. One thing you can count on; one of the 51 will catch enough Florida strain bass to hold up the trophy and a check for $500,000.