The Bassmaster Elite Series makes its return to the Kissimmee Chain on March 13 to the 16th for the Citrus Slam. It will be the first major tournament held here since the 2006 Bassmaster Classic. The Kissimmee Chain covers more than 100,000 acres with its 20 lakes that range from 200 acres to 44,000 acres. Lake Tohopekaliga has always had a reputation for 10 pounders as long as I can remember. Most people catch these giants with wild shiners but the pros seem to be able to catch them with artificial lures. Dean Rojas caught a giant 5 fish limit totaling 45.2 pounds at the event in 2001. Catching 5 bass weighing 9 pounds in one day is just ridiculous but it can happen on the Kissimmee Chain. I expect some huge catches this year with numerous spawn, pre-spawn, and post-spawn giants out there for the taking as long as the weather cooperates. It’s no wonder so many people from all over the world come to fish on this chain. It really is among the premiere bass fisheries in the world.
The five most popular lakes in the chain include: West Tohopekaliga, East Tohopekaliga, Lake Kissimmee, Lake Hatchenia, and Lake Cypress.
West Tohopekaliga (aka West Toho), 22,700 acres
An extreme draw down and muck removal project was completed a few years ago. Approximately 46% of the vegetated zone was exposed for 2 months. The goal was to consolidate bottom sediment, stimulate growth of native aquatic plants, and increase the production of sport fish (aka largemouth bass). The numbers of newly hatched bass increased dramatically the following year. Fishing guides, camps, and fisherman all report increases in numbers of bass caught in the 1.5 to 2 pound range. Thanks to these efforts, the bass population on West Toho should continue to grow for years to come.
East Tohopekaliga (aka East Toho), 13,550 acres
East Toho supports extensive habitat for largemouth bass in the form of bulrush and maidencane vegetation. Extremely good water quality has been documented in the lake and nutrient levels are the lowest out of all the lakes on this chain. An extreme draw down, burning, discing, and muck removal in 1990 helped restore the habitat for bass and other wildlife. The restored areas have been heavily utilized by bass for spawning, rearing, and feeding areas. As a kid growing up in the area, East Toho was the undisputed place to find monster bass but the other lakes are now gaining more popularity. The most popular spots include Goblet’s Cove where Dean Rojas pulled in his monster sack, Friar’s Cove, and Brown’s Point.
Lake Kissimmee, 44,000 acres
A restoration project took place here in 1994 and today the bass populations are thriving. It’s obviously the largest body of water on the chain and provide numerous places to find those giant largemouth bass that this chain is famous for. The most famous spots are North Cove responsible for the Dave Hite’s win at the 2008 FLW event among numerous others, Brahma Island, Seven Palms, and Jack Slough which is where Luke Clausen won the 2006 Bassmaster Classic.
Lake Hatchenia, 14,500 acres
There are just tons of bass on this lake but out of control hydrilla has caused access problems on this lake. A restoration project is scheduled for this lake but lots of bass can be found in clear water patches among the floating vegetation.
Lake Cypress, 5,500 acres
Fishing on this lake improves in April and May when the water released through the flood control canals concentrate the bait fish in this area. It happens the same time every year so the fish are on the schedule.
Information on lakes obtained from Jim Porter’s Guide to Bass Fishing