One word comes to mind when discussing the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.
The conversation quickly turns into where are they, what are they biting and at what time.
The chain is made up of lakes from 200 to more than 40,000 acres. Lake Kissimmee weighs in as the biggest lake at 44,000 acres.
West Lake Tohopekaliga is one of the most popular lakes, and is the host lake for Bassmaster Elite Series events on the chain.
With the numbers of anglers on the lake, and the constant pressure, you have to use varying tactics to find out what the fish want on the day you fish.
"The old adage is, if the fish are active on West Lake Toho, that's the place you want to be," said John Bitter, owner of Bitter's Bait and Tackle in Longwood. "Of course, when they're off, it's really off, but it's the best place to be when they're on."
Other lakes include Lake Cypress, Hatchineha and East Lake Tohopekaliga.
Kissimmee grass and hydrilla are always good places to start your search. The lakes are filled with vegetation and plenty of ambush points. The time of year and the water temperature should be the deciding factors on your tactics.
Using plastic toads and swimming them along the surface through reeds, Kissimmee grass, pads and near hydrilla is a popular method in the spring and summer.
Use a Carolina-rigged or a wacky-rigged plastic worm during the winter and barely move the bait after it hits the bottom. You can slowly drag plastic worms on the bottom as well, moving it about a half turn on the reel every 20 or so seconds. This is where patience will pay off. It's a slow, methodical method but very effective.
There are times when topwater lures, prop baits, spinnerbaits and crankbaits all will work as well. All the normal tactics and baits will produce strikes from time to time.
"The plastic toads and any topwater is a good bait to use," Bitter said. "You can cover a lot of ground. If you use a plastic toad, you can drag it through a lot of weeds and grassy areas."
Shiners will always produce strikes, though most prefer to use artificial lures.
When the fish get on beds, switch to plastic lizards or a Bushhog lure.
Bed fishing is popular, but also controversial. If you catch any fish off a bed, please return it to the water quickly and near the bed you pulled it off. This is increasingly important if you catch the bigger females. Return them to the waters so they can produce more bass.
While a bedding fish can win a tournament or be the trophy fish you're looking for, many angler frown on it. The lack of sport comes into question.
One of the things that helps the chain is the aggressive approach used to manage the system.
"They have draw downs on the lakes, keeping the bottom dried out allowing the natural vegetation to grow better," Bitter said. "It's certainly a good reason the chain is so strong. It's a good tool to keep fish populations up in the lake."
FIVE FAVORITE FISHING SPOTS: PART 2
5 Favorite Fishing Spots: Part 2 -- When it's on, West Lake Toho hard to beat
The Kissimmee Chain's most popular spot is great for bass, but water temperature should factor into your strategy.
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