Capt. Ethan Hamrick
Call or Text 727-242-1672

Outcasts Tournament: Lake Toho [November 2020]

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Last weekend, my grandpa and I opened the 2020/2021 tournament season on Lake Toho in Kissimmee, Florida.

We weren’t able to pre-fish ahead of the derby, but it’s the third time we’ve fished Toho this year, so we had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to fish.

The tournament was held out of Big Toho Marina on the lakes north end. We arrived to the ramp bright and early that morning. After a tough finish to last season, my grandpa and I were looking to bounce back and start off strong this season. Upon everyone’s arrival, all of us fishermen made our way from the docks to the main lake for take-off.

When out boat number was called, my grandpa and I made our way down the lake to our first spot of the morning. We came to a stop over some submerged offshore hydrilla on the lakes south end, where we began throwing an assortment of baits around the vegetation. Twenty minutes passed without any action.

Then, I made a cast directly in front of the boat with a chatterbait. As the bait fell to the bottom, a fish hammered it and I quickly battled the first fish of the day, a near three pounder, into the boat. I placed the fish in the livewell and quickly made another cast to the same area. As the bait was falling, I detected another bite and brough our second fish aboard. For a third time, I made a cast to the same location, once again got a strike and quickly landed our third keeper. I’d gotten bit on three consecutive casts in the same clump of grass.

I went without a bite for five minutes before I picked up a swimbait and let it fall down into the cover. I hopped the bait off the bottom once and immediately got another strike. I battled the fish to the boat where my grandpa quickly netted our fourth keeper, which weighed over three pounds.

Less than five minutes later, I picked up a Texas rigged creature bait and flipped it into the clump of grass. The bait hit the bottom, I gave it one hop and another bass inhaled it. I set the hook and landed the two pounder, giving us a limit. I’d caught five bass in less ten minutes, out of one patch of hydrilla, using three different baits. It felt good to catch a decent limit of fish early on in the day. Unfortunately, that was the last bite I would get from that area.

My grandpa and I slowly continued working our way around the field of submerged grass. Twenty minutes went by without a bite. Then, my grandpa made a long cast out in front of the boat. As his bait was sinking, he detected a bite and set the hook. He battled a three and a half pounder to the boat, where netted it and brought it abroad. That fish gave us a two pound upgrade, as it allowed us to cull a one and a half pounder.

The two of us fished that hydrilla, but caught only a couple more small fish that didn’t help us. We decided to relocate to an area further south, where we fished some more hydrilla, but to no avail.

Around 11am, we started making our way back up the lake. The wind was howling out of the east, making it extremely difficult to fish anywhere out in the main lake. We stopped along the east bank to fish some canals and boat trails, where we still had trouble casting directly into the 20-25 mph winds. We caught a couple of little bass in that area before deciding to make a run further north to a semi-protected cove.

The cove was lined with boat docks, so I changed my technique all together. I decided to slow my approach and tied on a wacky rigged senko. I skipped the worm as far underneath each dock as I could and gradually worked it out. We’d fished about a dozen docks and had made it to the far back of the cove before any action happen.

I skipped my worm under a pontoon boat and let it sink. As the bait was falling, I seen the line jump, felt it get tight, and set the hook. I knew immediately it was a better than average fish. The bass instantly came to the surface and leapt out of the water. My grandpa quickly grabbed the net and slide it under the fish when it was within reach. The bass weighed a little more than four pounds and was a difference maker for us. I gave us more than a two pound upgrade, culling another small fish.

We kept fishing docks and I caught one more fish that gave us a minimal upgrade before we made our way out of the cove. That fish would be the last bite we got that day. We rode up the lake to fish around some lily pads and hydrilla, but were unsuccessful. The wind continued to blow very hard from the east, so we spent the remainder of our time, fishing some of the docks near the boat ramp, but without a bite.

Other tournament boats began to arrive back to the dock and weigh-in began at 3pm. My grandpa and I loaded the boat on the trailer before bagging our fish up and bringing them to the scales. We weighed in 16.02 pounds and were sitting in first place for a while. However, one other team brought in a little more than we had and edged us out by a slim margin. We end up finishing 2nd place to start the season on a very windy Lake Toho. It was a good was to open the season and bounce back after a rough finish last season.

What Worked

My grandpa and I caught fish on a handful of baits throughout this tournament, which is typical when fishing during the fall. However, the two key baits that made the difference for us was a white 3/8 ounce Z-Man chatterbait and a watermelon red Gary Yamamoto senko. I also caught one of our better fish on a Strike King Rage Swimmer, rigged on a bladed hook, which is one of my favorite baits in the fall.

Fishing around that submerged hydrilla, it’s hard to beat a chatterbait. It comes through the vegetation fairly easy, imitates baitfish really well and is a great lure for covering a lot of water. In addition, the Rage Swimmer mimics baitfish extremely well and also covers water quickly. Both baits are great choices when fishing over submerged vegetation.

Link to chatterbait:

Link to swimbait:

Link to bladed hook:

The wacky rigged senko was a key played when we moved up into the cove to fish boat docks. This bait skips unbelievably easy and brings a very finesse approach, as it slowly falls to the bottom. If you’ve fished with a senko before, you know they work. It’s a very simple bait, with very little action, but bass just can resist it.

Link to senko:

A reliable trolling motor is vital to avid anglers. This is especially true when battling strong wind and waves out on the lake. We’ve been running a Minn Kota Terrova trolling motor for more than a year now and it’s by far the best trolling motor I’ve ever used. It’s 24-volts, and 80-pound thrust, making it extremely powerful and able to withstand windy conditions, in addition to cutting through grass and other vegetation with ease. It has spot lock, which allows your boat to remain in a single position, even in the wind. Plus, it has a built in transducer, making it super easier to connect a depth finder to it on the bow of your boat. I would highly recommend this product to anyone who is looking for a dependable, trolling motor and is on the water often. I assure you, it will not disappoint.

Link to Minn Kota Terrova Trolling Motor:

What Didn’t Work

My grandpa and I did a good job of catching what bit and made pretty good decisions throughout this tournament. However, we probably wasted about two hours during the middle of the day when we tried to run further south down the lake. The wind was getting bad at that point and we should’ve just stayed further north all day. I feel like we had a better chance to catch another upgrade on the north end of the lake where there were more coves and canals protected from the wind.

Back to You

Thank you so much for reading about our first tournament of the 2020/2021 season. I hope these techniques can help you the next time your out on the water this fall.

Oftentimes during the fall, it’s hard to dial in on one certain pattern. That’s why it’s important to have a backup plan or two and be willing to change tactics if your current technique has stopped working. Bass are constantly moving around this time of year, so anglers have got to learn to move with them.

Feel free to leave a comment and let us know what tour favorite fall techniques are! We’d love to hear from you!

Happy fishing and keep your hooks wet!   


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