The nation’s most lucrative bass-fishing circuit is celebrating its 10th anniversary this season with a return to Lake Toho after a seven-year hiatus. And anglers who fished both events will find a much different fishery when they arrive. Along with the effects of multiple hurricanes last summer, the lake underwent a $9 million restoration project in 2004 that included a drawn down and the removal of several feet of muck and unwanted weed growth from shorelines to help improve spawning habitat. Anglers should find plenty of bass in all three stages of the spawn roaming the newly-refined shallows.
“The renovation project ended in June last year, and the hurricanes hit around July,” said pro Terry Seagraves of Kissimmee. “I think the hurricanes were actually a blessing in this case.” According to Seagraves, after renovation and weed removal projects, lakes usually take several months to return to normal pool. During that time, unwanted grasses and weeds will usually sprout in shallow areas. However, with all the rain from the hurricanes, the lake filled quickly before unwanted grasses could be established in newly cleared shorelines.
“The hurricanes changed the grass lines quite a bit, but I like what I’m seeing,” Seagraves said. “The grass looks real good right now.” Seagraves feels that recent cool weather will postpone significant spawning activity until the first of February, presenting the tournament field with all the makings for a wide-open shootout.
Anglers will take off each morning at 7 from Kissimmee Lakefront Park. Wednesday and Thursday’s weigh-ins will also be held at the park at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart Supercenter located at 1471 E. Osceola Pkwy in Kissimmee beginning at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
The community is invited to attend the free Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone, which opens at 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy.
The full field competes in the two-day opening round for one of 10 slots in Friday’s competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for day three, and co-angler competition concludes following Friday’s weigh-in. The top 10 pros continue competition Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest two-day weight.
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers.
The Lake Toho event marks the second stop of the most lucrative professional bass-fishing trail in the world, as the popular tournament series features a $7.6 million purse in 2005, including four $900,000 events and two $1.25 million open events during the regular season. Each event leads up to the $1.5 million Forrest L. Wood Championship and Outdoor Show, which will be held July 13-16 on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, Ark. The prestigious championship features 48 pros, 48 co-anglers and bass fishing’s largest guaranteed cash award – a $500,000 first-place prize for the winning pro. Held in conjunction with the tournament is a world-class outdoor show featuring 140 booths and displays for everything from crankbaits to bass boats.
Coverage of the Lake Toho tournament will be broadcast to 82 million Fox Sports Net (FSN) subscribers as part of the “FLW Outdoors” television program. “FLW Outdoors” airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time on Fox Sports Net (FSN).
The third regular-season FLW Tour stop will be held March 9-12 on the Ouachita River near Monroe, La., followed by the Wal-Mart Open on Beaver Lake near Rogers, Ark., April 13-16. Wheeler Lake near Florence, Ala., will host the fifth tour stop May 11-14 followed by the Potomac River Open in Charles County, Md., June 22-25.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and seven other national tournament circuits offering a combined $30 million in awards through 214 events in 2005. The 27-year-old organization is the purveyor of America’s largest and most prestigious fishing tournaments, including the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, EverStart Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour and Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series.
For more information on FLW Outdoors and its tournament programs, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s largest and most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its tournament trails. Wal-Mart signed on as title sponsor of the FLW Tour in 1997 and today is the title sponsor of all FLW Outdoors events. For more information on Wal-Mart, visit Wal-Mart.com.