Capt. Ethan Hamrick
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Bass Bandits Tournament: Lake Kissimmee June 2020

With one tournament already behind us this month, my grandpa and I headed back out on the water this past weekend to fish another bass tournament.

This time we would be competing in a two-day event on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Lake Wales, Florida. The fishery is made up of numerous large lakes, spanning more than 72,000 total acres. Anglers have many different options when fishing this expansive chain of lakes.

Practice Day

My grandpa and I decided to spend our practice day fishing one of the chain’s smaller lakes, Tiger Lake. This body of water is located just northwest of Lake Kissimmee and is a little more than 4,000 acres. 

We began the day fishing a creek on the north end of Tiger Lake. The two of us quickly caught three small bass around the water flowing out of the creek. We then fished pads and grass on the lakes west side for two hours without much success before relocating to the east side of the lake.

There, we concentrated on fishing boat docks and scattered pads. I skipped a swim jig underneath the structures and around the vegetation, landing half a dozen bass in the next hour. Most of those fish were in the two- or three-pound range. Not giants, but something to go off of.

My grandpa and I spent the remainder of our pre-fishing day. Fishing pads and a canal on the south end of the lake without picking up another strike. We decided to call in a day around 2 o’clock that afternoon and head to Grape Hammock Fish Camp, located on the south end of Lake Kissimmee. That’s where we would be staying and launching from for the tournament.

Although we hadn’t had a great practice day, we had located a few fish and were confident we could catch a decent limit of bass each day of the tournament fishing in Tiger Lake.

Tournament Day

Day 1

The first day of the tournament began bright and early with blastoff. My grandpa and I were one of the last boats to take off. Our plan was to head north up Lake Kissimmee and into Tiger Lake, a lengthy run of nearly twelve miles. We began our run up the lake and weren’t five minutes into our ride when the motor suddenly began to sputter. It quickly came off a plane and just died.

We knew the boat wasn’t out of gas since we’d just filled it up the day before. We speculated that one or more of the cylinders in the engine had been thrown, not allowing the motor to run properly. I tried to crank the engine multiple times after it had shut off but couldn’t get it to fire.

My grandpa and I both sat there in sheer discouragement and disappointment. We’d had high hopes of fishing Tiger Lake and wanted badly to fish there but were unable to do so without a working engine. We were about four miles away from the launch when the motor died. The two of us had no choice but to slowly make our way back to the launch with our trolling motor and fish along the way.

On top of the fact that Lake Kissimmee has been struggling mightily to produce fish over the last few months, we’d never fished that area of the lake before and were simply winging it. For more than three hours we fished grass, pads, and fallen timber without a single bite. At that point, I was running out of hope that we’d even land a fish, much less catch a five bass limit.

Nonetheless, I stuck with it and continued to make cast after cast with numerous lures. Finally, around 9 o’clock, I caught our first bass of the day on a spinnerbait. The fish wasn’t big, but it was a start. Another hour passed before I caught our next fish around some isolated lily pads on a chatterbait. Within the following twenty minutes, I landed two more keeper bass.

With four fish in the live well, we needed one more for a limit. With less than an hour left in the day, my grandpa and I found ourselves in a canal close to the launch, where I caught our fifth keeper. We went without another strike the remainder of the day. However, we’d somehow managed to catch small limit of bass and survive day one of the tournament without a working engine.

We weighed in 10.35 pounds of bass the first day of competition, putting us somewhere in the middle of the standings. We would need an impressive catch on day two to have a chance at a victory or even a top three finish. My grandpa and I regrouped, re-rigged, and came up with a game plan for the final day of competition. 

Day 2

The second and final day of the tournament started out slow for my grandpa and I. Still relying on just our trolling motor, we were forced to fish the south end of Lake Kissimmee and areas fairly close to the ramp. We began the day fishing a few canals, where I caught one decent bass to get us started. 

It was two hours later before I landed our second bass of the day along a line of lily pads on a chatterbait. This fish weighed four pounds and gave us a boost of confidence. We continued to fish that pad line and within the next forty-five minutes, I caught three more fish to give us a limit by 10 o’clock that morning.

We then went over an hour without a bite before working our way into another canal nearby. I used a suspending jerkbait to catch two bass, both of which culled a couple of our smaller fish and helped increase our total weight.

The final two hours of competition, my grandpa and I fished isolated and clustered lily pads, as we slowly trolled our way back to the ramp. I land three more bass before we had to call it a day, only one of which culled our smallest fish. Overall, it had been a decent day of fishing. Given the fact that we could not fish where we wanted to for the second day in a row, my grandpa and I managed a limit on day 2 that weighed 15.45 pounds.

This weight was unfortunately far from what we needed to contend with the tournament leaders. However, we gained valuable points in the angler of the year race and walked away with a 6th place finish on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.

What Worked

My grandpa and I caught fish on two main baits on the Kissimmee Chain. During our pre-fishing day, we caught most of them on a black and blue Strike King Tour Grade swim jig in Tiger Lake around boat docks and lily pads. I paired the jig with a Strike King Rage Craw as a trailer. A swim jig is a super versatile lure and one of my favorite baits for fishing pads and skipping under docks.

Bass caught on Strike King Tour Grade Swim Jig

Since we weren’t able to fish Tiger Lake during the tournament, my grandpa and I had to improvise. We discovered a pattern in Lake Kissimmee that worked fairly well. A white Z-Man Original chatterbait paired with a Strike King Rage Swimmer as a trailer.

This is another of my all-time favorite lures for fishing any types of vegetation or structure. I fished that chatterbait around lily pads and grass to catch the majority of our keeper bass each day of competition.

I also caught a few bass on a Rapala Shadow Rap Jerkbait and a few on a wacky rigged senko. Both of these lures helped us put key fish in the boat on day two of competition.

Rapala Shadow Rap Jerkbait

What Didn’t Work

My grandpa and I were super limited to where we could fish during this tournament. Not having a working motor made it impossible to travel to our desired fishing spot. We were forced to stay close to the launch and use our trolling motor the entire time.

That being said, I think we did the best we could do with what we had to deal with. I probably should have thrown that white chatterbait more than I did. That was the best pattern we figured out and produced the highest quality fish we caught. I’m not sure we would have finished any higher in the tournament, but I believe I might have caught a few more bass if I had fished more with a chatterbait.

Back to You

Thank you so much for reading our latest bass tournament recap. There will be many more to come this summer, so stay tuned.

I hope these tips and techniques can help you catch more fish the next time you hit the water this summer.

Leave a comment down below and let us know what you’ve been catching lately. We’d love to hear from you!

Happy fishing and keep your hooks wet!


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