KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Bass fishing legend and fishing television host Roland Martin, one of the most well-known anglers in the country returned to the Kissimmee Chain for the Bassmaster Bass Pro Shops Southern Open event this week.
The 70-year-old Martin, who lives in Naples, Fla., and fished Lake Kissimmee and Toho through much of his professional tournament career, showed that he might be a little rusty but that he knows Florida fish well, catching 18 pounds for eighth place during the first day of fishing.
"I knew I had those fish, but I didn't think I could catch 18 pounds," said Martin. "I thought it would be more like 15 or 16 pounds."
Martin, was fishing Lake Kissimmee and had a slow morning fishing what he thought would be his best areas based on what he found during the practice period, but those fish had moved out of the shallow bedding areas. Thinking the fish would probably move to a nearby point, he worked his way back toward deeper water, where he caught most of his fish -- many of them late in the day.
"I got some fish Carolina rigging in deeper water, and then I moved over to some weed lines and caught a four and a six pounder in the last hour, and that really helped. I'm going to concentrate on that some more tomorrow," Martin said. "The real big ones have moved off the beds, so I'm going to get back to that spot early tomorrow and see what I find."
With cloudy weather in the forecast for the second day as a front approaches the area, Martin believes the fish will still be deep. He caught the larger fish working lipless crankbaits along the edges of the grass.
"I've got one spot that has some big fish," Martin said. "I fished it the other day and caught some three and four pounders, and I haven't even gone to that spot yet."
Where are the bedding fish?
When a bass tournament is held in Central Florida during the full moon in January, most anglers expect to find fish up on the beds in shallow water. Florida bass will come onto the beds on the new or full moons and stay for three or four days at a time -- unlike a lot of other states where the fish only come in for a day or two. But with the exception of a few big fish, most of the anglers are seeing only the smaller male bass on the beds right now.
"The big fish are still offshore right now," Florida Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins said. "The only thing I can figure is that the weather has been so unstable for the last three weeks -- it'll be cold, hot, cold, hot -- and even though it was nice and warm today, the fish don't know whether they're coming or going."
Scroggins and first-day leader Gerald Swindle were about 800 yards from each other fishing deep-water patterns. Most of the anglers found water temperatures in the low 60s early in the day, but with air temperatures pushing 80 degrees and a bright sun, the water had warmed up to 67 degrees by the end of the day, which may inspired at least a few big females to move onto the beds.
"They started to show up on the beds this afternoon," said Florida Elite Series pro Bobby Lane, who caught 21-7 pounds, including an 11-8 pound fish, the largest he's ever caught in a tournament. "I saw 30-, 35-pounds of fish laying on the beds today but they wouldn't chase anything. We're going to get some overcast weather tomorrow, so maybe they'll get more active and chase something."
Lane caught his big fish off a spawning bed early in the day while sight fishing with a green-pumpkin colored Berkley Chigger Craw, but is worried about a cold front that is supposed to move through the area and drop nighttime air temperatures down into the low 40s Friday evening.
"We had a big wave show up a couple of weeks ago, but they moved off, and then finally today some fish started showing back up on the original beds. So they were there, they got knocked off and then showed back up this afternoon, so I image they'll hang around until midday tomorrow when the cold front is going to come through," said Lane.
Which lake has the fish needed to win
The top three anglers after the first day of fishing, Gerald Swindle, Trevor Fitzgerald and Terry Scroggins caught their fish in Lake Toho. Bobby Lane, in fifth place and his brother Chris Lane in sixth place, caught their fish in Lake Kissimmee, including the largest bass weighed in so far, an 11-8 pounder. That leaves anglers guessing as to which lake is going to have enough fish to produce the winning weight over three days of fishing pressure.
"It's a three-day tournament, not one day, and that's the great thing about fishing B.A.S.S. events," Chris Lane said. "You can't bank on one day, you've got to do it three days in a row. Somebody's always going to slip and somebody's always going to come from behind, so you need to have an area that's holding enough fish to last through the entire event."
Trevor Fitzgerald caught 29-15 on his first day on Lake Toho, but he's contemplating leaving the area and going to Lake Kissimmee for the second day of fishing.
"I had a couple of fish that moved up onto the beds, and in the area I'm in I can see the bottom, but I think I'm out of fish here on Toho," said Fitzgerald. "I might check it in the morning and see if any more moved up, but if I don't see anything right away, I've got an area in Kissimmee that I feel good about too."
Even tackle thieves can be selective
A mechanic can only do so much without his tools, and the same goes for fishermen. Take their rods, reels or boat accessories away, and they can only be so effective at catching fish.
And that's just what happened on Monday in Kissimmee when a lot of the anglers fishing the Bassmaster Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain had their boats broken into.
"The hotel where we are staying at, there were eight boats that were broken into," said tournament pro David Walker. "Steve Smith and I were parked right next to each other. They cut the locks on my rod lockers and took all my rods and reels, and Steve's rods, reels, electronics and Power Poles. They were really selective and only took the high-end stuff. Some of the others boats they left the rods and reels."
On Smith's boat, the thieves used power tools to remove the bolts on his two Power Pole Shallow Water Anchoring Systems that are attached to the transom, then cut the hydraulic lines. Jimmy Mason also had his Power Poles removed and stolen and because his hydraulic pumps were easy to access, the thieves took them too.
"I had two rods and three reels in my truck, so I had my wife overnight me some more rods and a couple of reels to use in the tournament," said Walker. "But a Power Pole is something you can't easily replace overnight."