Capt. Ethan Hamrick
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Outcasts Tournament: Lake Toho September 2020

This past weekend, my grandpa and I competed in our final bass tournament of the 2020 regular season with the Outcasts Bass Club.

The derby was held on Lake Toho in Kissimmee, Florida. It was our second tournament on Lake Toho this year. You may remember reading about our 3rd place finish on the large lake back in May. My grandpa and I were hoping the for similar results this time around.

However, it’s late summer and extremely hot. Conditions were different, water temperatures were much higher, and fishing pressure has been crazy high on Lake Toho throughout the last several months. That made for much tougher fishing for my grandpa and I.

Practice Day

The two of us headed up to pre-fish the lake the day prior to the tournament. With calm conditions and brutal heat, we struggled the first few hours to locate very many fish. We caught a few in some offshore hydrilla and a couple more in a residential canal.

However, that afternoon we got on a decent jerkbait bite. We fished suspending jerkbaits outside of shoreline grass and inside boat trails to catch around a dozen bass. Most of those fish we 1-2 pounds, but we did hook a few that we closer to 3 pounds. We felt like we’d figured out a pattern that could land us a decent bag of fish the following day.

Tournament Day

The next morning, we were at the ramp before daylight. My grandpa and I were the second boat to take off. We headed to our first spot, an offshore fish attractor about a mile away. Twenty minutes went by without a bite, so we cranked up and headed to the offshore hydrilla we’d caught some fish the day before.

I quickly caught our first keeper of the day, a two pounder, on a soft-plastic swimbait rigged on a bladed hook. We went almost an hour before landing another fish. Then I caught two more keepers fairly quickly flipping a Texas Rigged Rage Tail Craw into the holes in the grass. Another half hour passed before we vacated that area and headed to the grass line where we’d caught the majority of our fish a day earlier.

It didn’t take long at all for us to fill out our limit. I caught two small keepers on a Bone colored Rapala Shadow Rap jerkbait. Over the next two hours, I landed ten or twelve more bass, working the lure fairly quickly along the edges of the grass and in the mouths of the boat trails. Despite the rapid bite, I struggled to catch a fish over one and a quarter pounds. I finally caught one close to two pounds to give us a small upgrade. However, the large majority of the bass I was catching were the exact same size and did nothing to increase our total weight.

By 11 o’clock that morning, we’d caught over twenty bass, but had only a small five fish limit, with nothing bigger than two and a half pounds. We spent the afternoon running around to several different areas, trying desperately to catch a couple of larger bass. We caught a few more bass in the same hydrilla we’d fished earlier in the day, but none of them helped our weight.

Unfortunately, my grandpa and I never caught another upgrade and were forced to bring our small limit to the scales. We weighed in 9.55 pounds, came in 7th place in the tournament, and dropped out of the top spot as team of the year, falling to second in that category.

Even though we caught a lot of fish, it was a very challenging day to say the least. When you catch nearly twenty-five bass and aren’t able to run into at least one better fish, it’s frustrating. However, every fisherman has days like that. I feel like we did everything we could to try to catch a bigger bass and it just didn’t happen. That’s how fishing goes sometimes.

What Worked

My grandpa and I caught fish on a few different baits, including chatterbaits, swimbaits, and creature baits. However, our primary lure was the Rapala Shadow Rap Jerkbait. The water in Lake Toho is clear for the most part, so a jerkbait was a good option. A lot of people think a jerkbait will only catch bass in the winter and spring. However, summertime can be a great time to catch high numbers of bass on a jerkbait, especially when fished quickly through the water column.

My favorite tackle for this tournament:

Rapala Shadow Rap Jerkbait:

Jerkbait rod:

Jerkbait reel:

Fluorocarbon line:

Bone and light blue were the two main color patterns we used. We focused on fishing the lures fairly fast around deeper grass lines and boat trails. This pattern was great for catching a lot of fish and putting a quick limit in the boat on tournament day.

What Didn’t Work

My grandpa and I spent most of the tournament fishing that jerkbait pattern, which was great for catching a bunch of fish. I don’t really regret using a jerkbait the majority of the time, because I’d had multiple decent bites the day before fishing that pattern. However, we probably should’ve tried a couple of other tactics to try to trigger a larger bass to strike.

We also should’ve spent more time fishing offshore, where most of the larger bass do live during the summertime because the water is so hot up shallow. That was most likely our biggest mistake this tournament. Offshore fishing is where the bite it usually at during the summer and we didn’t spend much time doing it.

Back to You

Thank you for reading about our latest bass tournament. I hope these tactics help you the next time you hit the water. It’s still hot outside, but as summer comes to a close and turns to fall, the weather will begin to cool off little by little. And that means the fish will start biting much better. Se be sure to get out there and give some of these techniques a try on your home lake this fall!  

As you may have figured out by now, my grandpa and I fish in two different bass clubs. Our final tournament of the season in each club, also know as the “Classic”, are both being held on Lake Okeechobee, out of Clewiston, Florida. Lake Okeechobee is huge lake that holds some giant bass. It’s an awesome fishery and I’m really looking forward to those two tournaments. So, stayed tuned for next months tournament recaps! They’re going to be exciting! As always, happy fishing and keep your hooks wet!


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