Lake Toho Surrendering Huge Bass
by Don Wilson
When Kevin Moran and fishing buddy Rob Baker decided to leave Louisville for a week's fishing vacation on Lake Tohopekaliga, Moran had no great expectations.Baker had been fishing the Kissimmee Chain for several years, coming back with tales of catching 11- and 12-pound fish.
Moran wasn't expected to equal such feats. If anything, all he wanted to do was catch a largemouth bass that weighed more than the five pounds -- his personal best. Moran didn't break that record . . . he demolished it.
Fishing Monday with Bass Challengers Guide Service's Eddie Bussard, Moran caught two bass with a total weight of 21-plus pounds -- in just 45 minutes. His feat probably insures Moran will be a legend around Richardson's Fish Camp for years. The day's fishing started fairly routinely but didn't remain so for long. "Kevin caught the first fish -- a five-pounder -- at 7 o'clock. Then at 7:30, he caught the 10-5," Baker said.
Bussard produced a pair of digital hand-held scales and weighed the fish. Moran gulped.
" I knew it was a big fish, but I thought it weighed around eight pounds," Moran said. " When I read the scales, I thought . . . no way!" For the next 45 minutes, Baker said, the pair caught five-, six- and seven-pound fish with almost assembly-line regularity.
Then Moran met Jaws. " At first, I thought it was another six-pounder. It pushed up the bait, blew up on it behind the bobber, and I didn't get a good look," Moran said." Actually, the 10-pounder felt twice the size of the bigger one."
Then the fish went airborne in a series of acrobatic maneuvers trying to dislodge the hook. Moran knew then it was no six-pounder. Most anglers faced with a bass that large would become excited.
Not Moran. " That fish came up and just danced across the water. They both danced," he said. Bussard was impressed.
" He was really kind of cool, calm and collected," he said. "But he fishes a catfish tournament trail in Kentucky and is used to big fish." The guide produced the scales and weighed the fish: 11 pounds, 2 ounces. After posing for some quick pictures by Kissimmee photographer Gary Clark, Moran released the fish.
Fish camp owner Dwight Richardson was impressed by Moran's catch. " We see a lot of big fish. Fred Varner had two nines this morning, but two fish that size, caught in 45 minutes, not real common," he said.
"But the bass have been jumping in the boat this week. One of our guides, Jerry Kipp, had 21 bass to six pounds on a half-day trip." Bussard said the fishing has been exceptional.
"I have had the best two months I've ever seen on this lake. I've probably had seven trips in the past two months where we had more than 10 fish that weighed more than five pounds," he said.
He is fishing open-water hydrilla clumps in an area where the lake is 8 feet deep.
"The big females are staging up there before they go in shallow to spawn, then stopping there again after they've spawned," Bussard said. "We're catching them coming and going."
As remarkable as the day's catch was, it was not Bussard's best on the lake. " A year ago May, I had a guy who caught a 10-2, 11-7 and 11-11 in 45 minutes on a buzz bait," he said.
But not everyone fishing Lake Toho is happy with the bass bonanza.
"I've got speck [black crappie] fishermen who are trying to catch specks but keep getting bass that they don't want," Richardson said.
For Bussard, the fishing couldn't be any better." I think the lake is just at its peak," he said. "During the past year, it's produced the best fishing I've ever seen.
"Last June I caught a 12-9 that is my personal best."
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