Capt. Ethan Hamrick
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Bass Bandits Tournament: Winter Haven Chain of Lakes January 2020

It was our first bass tournament of the new decade!

The derby was held on the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes in Winter Park, Florida. It’s a chain made up of several lakes surrounding the Winter Haven area.


My grandpa and I hit the water the afternoon before the tournament to pre-fish and try to locate a few areas to catch bass the following day.

Unfortunately, practice didn’t go as planned. We only caught six bass in a little more than five hours, all of which were scattered out. So, we didn’t really have a great game plan going into the tournament.

Day 1

We fished around submerged grass and used hard jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits to catch only four small bass. By 10:30am we decided to relocate. We rode to an area we’d pre-fished. That’s where I landed our fifth bass on a jerkbait to fill out our five bass limit. However, we had nothing but little fish.


By then, it was nearly 11:30 am and we were in need of a couple of big bites to boost out weight total. We moved to another area I’d caught two bass a day prior and began fishing around boat docks with grass nearby.

It was around noon when I finally got a solid strike on a chatterbait from underneath a dock. I was able to land the three-and-a-half-pound bass, which helped quite a bit and culled our smallest fish.


We fished docks for the next two hours hopping for another big bite, but unfortunately never got it.

We spent the final hour of competition fishing in a small residential canal. My grandpa caught one undersized bass on a spinnerbait, but that was it. We were never able to come up with another large fish.

We ended up finishing in 6th place of nearly 20 boats in the tournament with a little more than nine pounds of bass. We weren’t thrilled with our finish but learned from it.

What Worked


All the bass we caught in practice and the biggest bass I caught during the tournament all came on a black and blue Z-Man Chatterbait rigged with a Strike King Rage Swimmer as a trailer. A chatterbait is a great search bait if you’re looking for bass in a new fishery. It gets a lot of bites and tends to catch bigger bass. It’s a great bait this time of year, when bass are in that pre-spawn phase.

We caught most of those chatterbait fish along the shoreline in and around submerged grass and other vegetation. We also caught a few bass on jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits over deeper submerged grass.

What Didn’t Work

We didn’t spend enough time fishing docks, which is where I believe we could’ve caught a couple of bigger fish if we’d have given it time. Also, we needed more time to locate fish and practice and just didn’t have it. But as I mentioned, we learn from every tournament, especially the ones we don’t win.

Back to You

Alright guys, thank you so much for reading! I hope you gained something from this tournament recap and I hope these few tips help you the next time your out on the water.

If you fish tournaments, leave a comment down below and let us know where you’re fishing and how well you’re doing!


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