The 2014 Bassmaster Classic is still a month away, but the first opportunity to secure a spot in the 2015 edition arrives this week as the Toho Bassmaster Southern Open gets under way in Florida. According to veteran guide Steve Boyd of Florida Bass Adventures, the winner will likely need to average 25 pounds a day.
Boyd said conditions are fairly similar to what they were in 2001 when Dean Rojas caught his record-setting 45-02 sack, but there are a couple of significant differences. For one, water temperatures have not fallen into the 40s at any point this winter, as they did in '01. For another, this event won't coincide with a full-moon phase. Lastly, the water is higher and stained by algae blooms from the consistent high sun, and that will make the big spawners tougher to find on the outer edges of grass lines.
"While some anglers will find bedding bass for this tournament, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that it will be won off of bass that arenít on the beds," Boyd said. "The weather we're having right now will lead to a massive amount of baitfish in shallow-water grass that arenít there right now."
As for tactics and techniques, flipping grass will play a major role, as it always does in Florida. Other options include frogs, swimbaits, speedworms, ChatterBaits, Senkos, Texas-rigged worms and flukes.
Lake Kissimmee has been a hot spot, but he doesn't expect the winning fish to come from there because it'll receive a great deal of pressure and anglers will likely be hampered by high winds.
"I would predict the winning weight will come from a combination of lakes, not just one. Toho has been fishing well and I do know one angler who is competing and catching good limits, but his fish will not respond well once fishing pressure ramps up.
"Iím excited and wish I was competing in this one. There will be a lot of limits and many will get wrapped up catching numbers and miss out on the right lure for catching size. Either way, the Kissimmee Chain will do what it does best."
The accompanying photos show two of Boyd's clients with massive fish they caught during a big move-up that occurred earlier this month. They weighed 10-06 (left) and 9-06, respectively.
"Hardly anyone knew about it because we were having some of the worst weather with very little sunlight. For many of my clients, it was the best fishing they have ever experienced."