For David Dudley in 2008 there was no question of whether or not he would swing on a trophy bass on the last practice day. And during his interview he wasn't shy about letting it known that he yanked a giant off the bed. His reasoning? He probably wasn't going to get there in time to catch it anyway, so why not.
Many felt he was trying to sabotage any angler that pulled up on that fish before he could but there is more to consider. Anglers from all over the world come to Florida for the fish of a lifetime during the winter months and when tournament anglers see any of our lakes on the schedule, it's the first thought they have.
The one downside to being a competitive angler is that a high percentage have never caught a bass over 10lbs and it has nothing to do with lack of skill or lack of effort. My personal best in competition is just over 7lbs. Timing of many tournaments isn't in the favor of anglers being able to target trophy bass unless you fish on the Elite Series or FLW Tour. And during practice most will focus on locating good fish without really wanting to catch the big fish.
So, here we have anglers coming to prefish the Harris Chain hoping for perfect weather and the opportunity to catch the biggest sack of the year. What do they find? Air temperatures in the high 70's, water temps on the rise approaching 70 degrees and bass everywhere looking to make babies!
Every angler asked about pre fish will comment on how they wish the tournament will have been held a week earlier because the fishing is on fire! After the last cold front conditions were perfect for bass to move up in a large wave into shallow water as it brought water temps down to ranges they needed to spawn shallow.
And this is where the decisions that any angler who found these bass would have been faced with. Dedicate time to a big bass on a bed and go full David Dudley, risking others around seeing them or pass up the fish of a lifetime. I'm going Double D's all day! Hoping any big fish will still be there a week out isn't worth passing it up.
The trend leading up to the tournament will not favor high numbers of big bags but will see some big fish caught that will make the big bass competition something to watch. Warm weather will continue pushing fish into areas that will make them difficult to see but for those that stay shallow they will be dissappointed with culling a lot of dinks.
Another trend that will probably cause issue for those relying on site fishing will be consistent fog and cloud cover early in the mornings. Bass will be feeding early and late so patience will be testing for anglers who make the long run into Griffin as they may miss the best activity times.
High water will be another challenge for anglers as warm winter rains have raised water levels as much as 8 inches in area lakes. High water is always a challenge as it tends to put fish in areas that are hard to get to. But for anglers that adjust it could be crucial. There are many overflow type ponds that normally are not accessible but because of recent water increases will be wide open. Shaw Grigsby took advantage of this situation to win here in 2011.
Areas that are expected to produce for this tournament would be the Ocklawaha River into Lake Griffin and Haines Creek into Lake Eustis as both will have current flowing. The canals coming out of Lake Dora will get a good flow of water and bait that will push bass further back into the residential canals that always produce well this time of year.
I would also expect The Dead River canals and any residential canals on Lake Eustis to be productive. But all of these areas will get a great deal of attention so my expectation would be for the tournament to be one off areas that are closer to the launch point and are able to reload bass each day without pressure. Big And Little Lake Harris have offshore vegetation that could be key to located bass that others may not find because of shallow water beds that kept them away from areas of the lake that are in 8-10 feet.
Quite a few years ago I won a tournament on the Harris Chain off one stretch of bank working grass beds in 8 feet of water throwing crankbaits, rattletraps and Texas rigs. I lost more big fish that day than I care to remember but the situation this week is very familiar.
I haven't guided any of the competitors for this tournament but my tips would be fish deeper water areas looking for staging fish that can replenish. I would also recommend fishing close to the launch area and maximize fishing time. Even though warm weather has kept fish active I would still approach the areas with slower, more precise presentations rather than fish for aggressive bites.
Winning weight should be in the 17-19 lb a day range and to make top ten anglers will need to catch a consistent 14lbs a day. Low weights for Florida but it should be a tight competition among the top 15 with places changing daily.
Steve Boyd is a Former Marine and owner of Florida Bass Adventures Guide Service located in Orlando, Florida. For more information visit our site The Orlando Bass Guide.