Showdown Starts

The 2007 Sunshine Showdown kicked off on Florida's Lake Toho Thursday morning as anglers embarked. Jerry Cunningham

KISSIMMEE, FLA. — As the Sunshine Showdown presented by Allstate Boat Insurance got under way in the heart of Florida bass country, a series of small thunderstorms off the east coast and the corresponding array of hues served to give the blast-off of the final event of the Elite Series a visual appeal.

The appeal was grounded in other things for local favorites, who believe adverse weather from such storms could go a long way in anglers securing good bags.

"The water is so hot right now — there are places where it's 90, 92 degrees — that a good storm could drop the water temperature enough to really fire the fish up," said Preston Clark from Palatka, Fla. "It's a tough bite out there, but this place has got 'em. Somebody's going to bring in a 20-pound bag."

Clark endured a tough start to the season and is coming off of a solid 19th-place showing on the Potomac River last month at the Capitol Clash. He says the best scenario would be for the area to receive four to five inches of rain, necessitating an opening of the flood gates. The subsequent current would do wonders for the quality and quantity of bites, but more realistically, a good strong storm is what's really needed to shake the fish out of their late summer doldrums.

"It's just really slow right now. The fish are not chasing anything right now like they normally do this time of year. If we get a good rain that lasts long enough to drop the water temperature, you'd get a frog bite going, a spinnerbait bite, a Rat-L-Trap bite," said Clark. "Right now the only reaction bite you've got is a flipping bite when you just happen to drop it right on top of his head."

Fellow Florida angler and local favorite Chris Lane, fresh off a fifth-place showing at the Capitol Clash, goes a step further in emphasizing the impact that a sudden rain event could have on the standings.

"If there's a storm moving in, I'm going to my best spot wherever it is on the lake where it's going to hit," said Lane, adding that the area topography allows anglers to get a good read on storms as they move through. "I've got spots all over the lake, so wherever there's rain heading, that's what I'll be looking for."

Lane says in an event where bites area at a premium — and the consensus among the field is that this one is shaping up to be the toughest one of the season — taking advantage of the situation such as a "pop-up storm" is critical.

"You can load the boat in 10 minutes if you get a good storm — one that's intense enough to drop the water temperature two or three degrees at least," Lane said. "It gets the bait up and you can put five fish in the boat that weigh 13 or 14 pounds . That kind of weight can carry you a long way."

Timing is important in fishing the storms according to Lane, in that anglers need to be on location prior to the storm and fish through the rain if at all possible.

"As soon as the sun starts shining again, you've got about five minutes before that bite just goes away again."

Live streaming video of the Sunshine Showdown's daily weigh-ins and real-time leaderboards begin Thursday through Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on ESPNOutdoors.com. Also live on ESPNOutdoors.com, "Hooked Up" with Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders airs at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET Sunday with the full pre-weigh-in show at 3 p.m. ET, leading into the live weigh-in and real-time leaderboard at approximately 3:45 p.m.