Fishing & Boating News
Although the 2015 tournament will be held Jan. 15-17 - only a week different than when it was last year - Van Soles, the 2014 champion, says the Kissimmee system will provide a new set of challenges.
First, Central Florida has received a lot of rain, and the lakes could be as much as 3 feet higher than they were in 2014.
More importantly, the vast mats of vegetation that were there last year have been "decimated" by chemical treatments, according to Soles, who fishes the lake several times a year.
"I'd say there is 50 to 70 percent less vegetation than what we saw a year ago, due to the heavy spraying," Soles lamented. "Nearly everything was killed in Hatchineha, and Kissimmee took the worst hit of the larger lakes. In all the years I've lived here, I've never seen the weeds sprayed and killed like they were the past year."
The Florida pro, who won by pitching a Gambler BB Cricket into matted grass, predicts the changing habitat will affect how bass are caught during the three-day event.
"There are a few isolated areas where you might find some grass to flip, but all the areas I fished last year are totally destroyed," he said. "An angler might be able to catch a limit flipping, but he'll have a tough time putting a five-fish limit together with that pattern alone."
That's not to say the lake won't give up quality catches. Soles said it has taken catches weighing 25 pounds or more to win one-day local tournaments. He forecasts the Southern Open winner will average 18 pounds a day, but wouldn't be surprised if some 30-pound bags are weighed in - providing the weather is stable.
The fish were starting to move toward the spawn in late December, and he anticipates some will be bedding during the tournament. He saw males cruising the shallows, and some of the females he caught were ready to spawn.
The full moon - a time when spawning activity picks up - occurs before and after the tournament, but sight fishing should still be in play.
"A lot depends on how stable the weather is," he said. "With high water and less vegetation, the key will be to find cleaner, warming water."
Due to the lack of shallow cover, Soles thinks the tournament could be won on offshore shellbeds, dropoffs and deeper grass where vegetation wasn't chemically treated.
"I think that's where you will find the staging fish that haven't been disturbed," he added.
Wind could be a huge factor. Without the vegetation to filter the shallows, Soles explained, any persistent wind will dirty up the shorelines and spawning flats.
"An angler will have to monitor the wind and the weather and be cognizant of what the wind will do to those areas each day," he explained.
The tournament will launch each day at 7 a.m. ET at Big Toho Marina. Weigh-ins will be held at 3 p.m. ET at the marina the first two days, with the final weigh-in on Day 3 held at the Bass Pro Shops in Orlando at 4 p.m.
Soles knows his 2014 win will be tough to repeat.
"To avoid the ‘home-lake jinx' I have to fish differently," he concluded. "When the Open anglers get here, they will be amazed at how different the lakes are. They can still catch big fish, but I think they'll have to use different tactics."
To follow all the action, visit Bassmaster.com.
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
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