College Bass Fishing is Ready Following Weather-Related Disruptions of Schedule on Toho | Sports Destination Management

College Bass Fishing is Ready Following Weather-Related Disruptions of Schedule on Toho

Jan 10, 2024

In a first for the Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI National Championship, the teams will fish for just two days after strong winds and inclement weather forced the cancelation of Day 1. Like last year, the National Championship will play out on the Kissimmee Chain, which will give the anglers plenty of options – takeoff at Big Toho Marina gives teams access to Lake Toho, while Hatchineha, Cypress, Tiger and Kissimmee await below the lock.

Practice has been less than ideal for the locals

The Florida Gateway College duo of Seth Slanker and Jackson Swisher finished 25th in 2023, catching a big bag on Day 1 and then mustering just 8 pounds and change on Day 2. This year, they’re one of only a few teams from the Sunshine State in the tournament, and from the sounds of it, the earlier timing of the event is slowing them down.

“It has been very tough on us; it is not setting up how I thought it would set up,” Swisher said. “Yesterday we spent our whole day in Kissimmee, and this morning, we started in Cypress, and I wasn’t feeling it, so we came back to Kissimmee. I feel like the best place to catch a big bag is Kissimmee, but I don’t know how Toho is fishing. I like flipping, so we’re going to live and die in Kissimmee. We’re going to flip the whole tournament.”

Despite not having a super promising practice, Swisher thinks the weights could still be good for the event, especially if teams find prespawn fish.

“I think it’s still going to take good weight,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to take as much as it did last year, because the fish aren’t spawning like they were. We’ve fished a lot of spawning areas, and we’re not getting many bites, and the bites we do get are buck bass, not females. Depending on how the boys catch them in Toho, I think 20 to 21 pounds a day will give you a shot.”

This is the last try for Swisher and Slanker, who have won in the regular season on Guntersville before, but not at the natty.

“It’d mean everything to get the opportunity to win one,” Swisher said. “We’ve been close in the past, but to get it done in the home state would be amazing. This is our last one, so we’d love to go out with a bang and finally pull one off. I’m really pumped about it. I know what this place is capable of, and no one is ever out of it on Kissimmee. You can pull up on a stretch and just crush them. Most lakes, if you have a bad Day 1, chances are you’re not going to come back. But here, you’re never out of it.”

Gill looking to close college career strong

Fishing the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals in 2023, Campbellsville University phenom Drew Gill had a limited time to qualify for the College Fishing National Championship before the rules kicked him out of the college ranks. Gill needed to make the natty before fishing four Invitationals events. Luckily, he and Evan Fields knocked that out in short order, qualifying at the season-opener on the Harris Chain. Now, with a Bass Pro Tour spot secured, Gill will fish the natty as arguably the most accomplished competitor ever.

Unlike the Florida Gateway crew, Gill and Fields have put in the hours on Toho, looking to play the event a little safe and avoid locking down.

“If it was February again, I would have considered Kissimmee, but it’s such a sketchy bet with so many boats, so I’m in Toho,” Gill said. “This is going to be a very different tournament from last year; without February Kissimmee in play, it’s going to be very different. And Toho is very different itself. I was in Toho last year, and Toho fished a lot like the Harris Chain – very sandy, a lot of places not set up good, a lot of singles around spawning bays on the backside of the spawn. This time, we’re on the front side of the spawn, and this lake is full of hydrilla. It’s spread a lot of the fish out – for a couple hundred yards off the bank, everywhere it is just hydrilla. I assume after the next cold snap they’ll go up and spawn pretty good, but it’s not very easy for them to get up in those normal prespawn places, because they’re choked out with topped-out hydrilla.”

We’ve seen tournaments dominated offshore on Toho before (Buddy Gross’s win in 2019 and Bryan Schmitt’s 2021 victory stand out) and Gill seems to think that may play out again this time.

“It’s going to be an interesting tournament,” he said. “I think you’ll see a lot of different techniques come into play that didn’t last time. Last year, Kissimmee played, you saw a lot of swim worm and flipping stuff. This time, I think you’re going to see more of that traditional offshore stuff play, it’s not going to be quite as dominated by the shallow, emergent grass contingent.”

Figuring on a winning weight in the upper 40s or low 50s, Gill is relying on some team to bust a big bag on one of the days. Who knows, with a little luck, the Campbellsville duo could get it done – which would be a nice sendoff for Gill before he heads to Texas to fully start his pro career.

“I’m really looking forward to fishing this tournament. It’s my last ever college tournament, so I’m trying to soak it in and enjoy it,” Gill said. “It has a lot of opportunity, but due to what I’m fishing now it doesn’t stress me out too much. I’m just hoping to put myself in position so if we get one or two Florida-style bites we’ll have a chance.”

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