ICAST Cup: MN Angler Experiences Florida Bass
For this MN guy, it’s a chance to meet people in the industry and have a chance to experience Florida bass fishing all at the same time. The tournament isn’t a big deal. Simply a four hour bass tournament that brings pro anglers, company sponsors and various aspects of the media together during the annual ICAST show in Orlando, FL. ICAST is the largest trade show for the fishing industry in North America. A combination of buyers, pro anglers, companies, destinations, media and others involved in any aspect of fishing from every continent get together for a week of business, networking, new product reveals, etc to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
With the Florida heat in July, the tournament rules meeting started at 6 am at the Big Toho Marina on Lake Toho, which is in Kissimmee, Florida, about 30 miles south of Orlando. The tournament was from 6:30 – 10:30 am. When you feel the intense Florida heat, a good choice in times.
I was paired with two great guys representing Glo-Pro Lures. Rick Southerland is a tournament bass anglers who actually moved to Florida to get closer to great bass fishing. The The company representative was Ron McAtee who is a tournament angler in his own right and has been in the fishing industry for many years. Both men are accomplished anglers and even better guys.
Our strategy was to target shallow water bass with top water. Using about a 6″ plastic with a paddle tail rigged weedless, we pulled them on top of the water or just under the surface through a variety of weeds, both exposed and under the water. It wasn’t long and the water I was working with thick emergent weeds exploded with a nice bass. The bass was in the slop so it was good I was armed with 60 lb braid to yank them out. It was funny, I had set the drag for the reel I was using and Rick, while I was reeling in the fish, cranked it down to almost no drag. I guess that’s how they do it in these parts, but also why we were using 60 lb braid!
With a few bass in the livewell and a few missed bass explosions, I threw to an area where we had a fish come up for our topwater but not react again. I noticed some minnows jumped out of the water where that fish had come up earlier so I casted well past the thick vegetation. With a slow steady retrieve and some intermittent twitches, the water again exploded. I set the hook hard and this time hooked the bass. The fish dove hard into the thick weeds. It was stuck and would not move. I kept the Carrot Stick rod bent hard keeping the fish pinned against the lilly pads. Rick positioned the boat back to the weed patch with the electric and while pulling straight up on the fish, freed it from the weeds. A big bass went nuts, diving under the boat. Ron swept the net underneath the fish and a beautiful four pounder was boated.
We had four fish in the livewell and needed our fifth. It was interesting, about 9:45 am, the life in our shallow water area seemed to disappear. We didn’t see the minnows jumping out of the water, we didn’t see the gar swimming around and the bass went dormant. I was told that when the heat really starts up, which it had, those fish bury down into the weeds. We only needed one more and things weren’t looking good.
Rick was working a top water popper and with about ten minutes of fishing left and the sweat starting to flow, a big swirl and he was hooked up. A minute later, I swooped the net under the 13″ bass and mass of weeds to make it our fifth bass.
Our bag of fish only weighed a bit over 9 lbs, a good ways away from the winning bag of 20 lbs, but did we have fun! Rick is from Florida, Ron from Illinois and myself from MN. So many differences yet because of fishing, so much in common. After fishing a short time in Florida, I have am even more attracted to my home waters of Lake of the Woods. Out of respect, I can totally understand how my fishing brothers from Florida get jacked up about Florida bass.
Fishing has a way to bridge gaps and bring people together. My short time on Lake Toho landed us some nice bass. More importantly, it brought strangers together to celebrate the great sport of fishing.
To learn more about Lake of the Woods, check out the Lake of the Woods Tourism website.
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