After not fishing a bass tournament for more than two months due to COVID-19, my grandpa and I were eager to get back into competition. Our fifth tournament of the season was held on Lake Tohopekaliga (aka Toho), in Kissimmee Florida.
The large lake is a part of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, covers over 22,000 acres and stretches over 4 miles long. Neither my grandpa nor I had ever fished Lake Toho before but had heard that it is an excellent fishery. We were both excited to finally get to fish the unfamiliar body of water.
My grandpa and I spent the Friday before the tournament scouting Lake Toho, trying our best to locate several areas that held bass. We put in early that morning at the boat ramp on the south end of the lake.
The two of us started the day fishing in a small cove not far away, but found it to be too shallow. We then made our way back out into the lake’s south end, where we located an expansive grass flat. The area covered nearly an entire square mile and was filled with thick grass known as hydrilla.
There were numerous other boats fishing the vegetation as well, which helped my grandpa and I locate the cover. The two of us spent the better part of the morning fishing back and forth over that flat. We employed white Z-Man chatterbaits and june bug colored ZOOM Speed Worms to catch around a dozen bass in that area. Several of those fish weighed 3-4 pounds and gave us confidence we could catch a solid limit of bass in that spot the following day.
That afternoon, my grandpa and I decided to fish a few more likely areas nearby. We spent a good amount of time fishing shoreline grass and lily pads, but never got a bite. The two of us also fished around multiple fish attractors throughout the lake. We only caught one fish on an attractor but it was a 4 pounder. That fish gave us confidence that we might be able to bag a fish or two off one of the structures during the tournament.
We also fished around a lock on the south end of the lake that connects Lake Toho to the rest of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. I caught a 5½ pounder and a 4½ pounder ten minutes apart beside a single piling next to the lock, while also picking up a couple more strikes.
My grandpa and I ended out practice day by fishing a different section of the same hydrilla flat we’d began our day on. We caught a few more chunky bass that solidified our decision to start the tournament in that area the next day.
Our best five fish on practice day weighed almost 23 pounds! We felt that we had located multiple places where we could catch large bass and give ourselves a chance at landing a good bag during competition.
Tournament Day Recap
The following morning, my grandpa and I began the tournament fishing over the large grass flat filled with hydrilla. However, we weren’t alone in that area. There were more than thirty boats that started the day fishing that vegetation. Although it is a large enough area to share, numerous others boats made it difficult to fish all the best places in the flat that we wanted to.
The two of us both began the morning throwing white Z-Man chatterbaits. We would work the lure over the top of the hydrilla, often letting the bait fall down into the vegetation, then quickly yanking it out. This erratic action is what triggered most of our bites.
The bite that morning started out slow and in the first half hour we had only one strike. At around 7:00am my grandpa finally caught our first fish of the day, a two pounder. We went twenty more minutes without a bite. Then I hooked into a solid bass that immediately got me hung up in a thick clump of hydrilla. I kept pressure on the fish as I made my way towards it. After several minutes of trying to force the fish out of the vegetation, I was finally able to drag the bass to the surface. My grandpa netted the fish, which weighed a little over five pounds and gave us confidence we were in the right area.
We continued fishing our way across the flat, weaving our way in between several other boats in the process. Ten minutes later, I caught our third keeper, that weighed just over two pounds. Not long after that, my grandpa and I had flurry of bites. We quickly caught eight bass out of one small grass patch we’d happen to come across. For ten minutes one of us got a bite nearly every cast. Most of those fish were two pounds or less, but the flurry of bites helped us finish out our limit and start culling.
Then, just as quickly as the bite started, it stopped. The two of us went over thirty minutes without another strike. We kept fishing over the hydrilla flat, hoping for just one or two more big bites. At around 9:00am, I made a long cast straight out the back of the boat and began working my chatterbait through the vegetation. On the retrieve, as I allowed the bait to fall down into the hydrilla, I felt a very subtle tap and set the hook. I didn’t even think I had a fish at first. Then I felt the bass shake its head as it buried me in some grass. Thankfully, I was able to get close to the fish and pull it to the surface. As the bass appeared, my grandpa put the net under it and hauled it aboard. The fish was way bigger than I thought, weighing six pounds and giving us a near four-pound upgrade to our total weight.
We fished across the flat for half an hour more before relocating to a fish attractor not far away. We pulled up to the spot, my grandpa made a cast over the structure and got a bite right away. I grabbed the net as he battled the bass to the boat. As soon as the fish was close enough, I reached down and netted the four and a half pounder. This bass gave us another two-pound upgrade.
We fished the fish attractor for a while longer without success. The, around 10:00am, we headed towards the lock where I’d caught two nice fish the day before. We used a ZOOM Ultra Vibe Speed Worm to probe the pilings and posts around the lock. Unfortunately, I only caught one small fish during the time we spent fishing the structure.
With a solid bag of bass by mid-morning and a lot of time left to fish, my grandpa and I decided to spend the remainder of the day fishing back and forth across the hydrilla flat. For the next four hours we battled wind and an extremely slow bite. We didn’t catch a fish after 10 o’clock and ran our trolling motor until it was dead from fighting the wind. By two o’clock we were about out of battery power and the wind was blowing twenty-five miles an hour. We came back close to the launch and fished a small canal until weigh-in without success.
My grandpa and I were one of the final teams to weigh our catch. We ended up with 20.65 pounds and finished in 3rd place of nearly twenty boats in the tournament. A little more than 25 pounds took 1st place in the event.
Despite the fact that we didn’t win, my grandpa and I were happy with our second-best finish of the year so far. Any time you can catch over twenty pounds of bass, it’s a good day.
We had success in practice and on tournament day fishing over submerged hydrilla. Our primary bait both days was a white 3/8 ounce Z-Man Original chatterbait paired with a white Strike King Rage Swimmer as a trailer. A chatterbait is an excellent lure for fishing any type of submerged vegetation. The bait can be ripped through grass fairly easily and its vibration often draws fish out of the cover to strike.
We also caught a few bass on a ZOOM Magnum Ultra Vibe Speed Worm and a Rapala Shadow Rap Jerkbait. These are also great lures for fishing submerged grass. When rigged weed less the Speed Worm can be worked in thick vegetation without getting hung up. The jerkbait excels when fished around the edges of grass flats, when the water is deeper and the cover isn’t as thick.
The key on Lake Toho is to find offshore submerged hydrilla in 4-6 feet of water. My grandpa and I fished the shoreline grass quite a bite without any success. However, we caught a 20-pound bag on back-to-back days fishing hydrilla.
Bass like to live in that thick cover. It gives them a sense of protection and is an excellent way for them to ambush prey. When given the choice, they will most often choice to hang out in offshore vegetation if it is present.
What Didn’t Work
Our biggest mistake at Lake Toho was not spending enough time looking for additional offshore vegetation on our practice day. Although was found a very effective area, we should’ve tried to locate another place filled with hydrilla somewhere else. The wind and waves made it tough to navigate both days we were there, which is partly the reason we didn’t explore the lake further.
I believe that if we would’ve and could’ve spent time to possibly locate another place similar to the area we caught most of our fish, we may have done better in the tournament.
Overall, our first time fishing Lake Toho was a success. We’re planning on returning to the lake later this summer for another tournament, and I’m already looking forward to it.
Back to You
Thank you so much for reading about our latest bass tournament. I hope these tips and techniques can help you the next time you find yourself bass fishing, or if you ever visit Lake Toho.
If you compete in tournaments and would like to tell us about it, feel free to leave a comment down below. We’d love to hear from you!
Also, be sure to check out our YouTube channel to see footage from our Lake Toho tournament.
As always, happy fishing and keep your hooks wet!