By Sean Ostruszka
Special to BassFan
It’s happened before, but to say it’s rare is an understatement. And it’s even rarer in these circumstances.
Plenty of major victories have been won on a single spot – be it a grass patch, ledge or tiny creek arm. Despite the inherent risk (and realistic odds of getting burned), some pros have been rewarded by going all-in on a single location.
Buddy Gross did just that en route to his FLW Tour victory at Lake Toho, making cast after cast to the same grass channel no longer than his boat for four days. Yet, to find a tiny magic spot in Florida and have it told up to win is something few would believe, especially in this tournament. The derby was hyped for the potential of a bed-fishing smackdown, and while that never fully came to fruition, kickers of the 8-, 9-, and 10-pound variety were common. There was even a 31-09 bag brought it on day 1 by runner-up John Cox.
Yet, there was Gross, avoiding the temptation to go shallow and simply doing what he does best on what turned out to be a “special spot.”
“I absolutely would’ve never thought you could win a tournament in Florida from one tiny spot like that,” Gross said. “I still can’t believe it.”
Here is a look at how Gross found his winning spot and was able to pull more than 85 pounds of bass from it.
If a lake has grass, rest assured, Gross is going to find a way to catch bass from it.
Of his now 13 top-20 finishes in his career at the upper levels, 12 have come on what would be considered grass lakes (Guntersville, the Harris Chain, Seminole, etc.). Among those finishes are a handful of top 10s in Florida.
Yet, Gross had never fished a tournament on the Kissimmee Chain prior to the Tour event. Thus, he took a day and a half during pre-practice to come down and see how it set up.
With so much vegetation to comb through, Gross says he spent the entire pre-practice time graphing, looking for little irregularities in the forests of green. Sure enough, along the southeast side of Lake Toho he found a stretch of hydrilla that looked good.
“There was a solid line of hydrilla with some clumps just on the outside of it,” Gross said. “I noticed a few small channels between the matted-up solid line and made a note it was definitely a place I wanted to check come practice.”
Sure enough, that stretch was one of the first places he hit on his first day of official practice, and when he came to one particular channel and caught four right away, he knew he didn’t have to fish that spot anymore.
The rest of his practice he kept sampling offshore grass area in Toho and Kissimmee. As the weather improved toward the end of practice, he also decided he’d better start looking up shallow, as well, in case some big females started rolling in with the forecasted good weather.
He found a 10-pounder locked on a bed that heear-marked to run to the first morning of the tournament before going to the stretch of grass on the southeast side.
> Day 1: 5, 21-07
> Day 2: 6, 20-13
> Day 3: 20, 19-12
> Day 4: 26, 23-12
> Total = 20, 85-12
When you lose a 10-pounder to start your tournament, it’s usually a bad omen. Fortunately, it wasn’t for Gross, because that’s exactly what he did.
To his surprise, that big girl he found on a bed on Tuesday was still there come Thursday morning, and even better, she was "ready."
“It didn’t take but a couple flips and I hooked her, but she come off in the reeds,” Gross said. “That hurt.”
After playing with a couple more small bed fish, Gross finally went to his good-looking stretch of grass. Unfortunately, there were a couple other pros who had also liked the spot, one of whom was working his way right to a particular channel that Gross really wanted to hit first.
“I saw him coming and I kicked the trolling motor on high to get to that spot before him,” Gross said.
Yet, to his disappointment, he couldn’t get bit and almost kept working his way down the line of hydrilla. However, being that the channel was only 25 feet long, Gross busted through the mat and decided to make a few casts on the front side.
“Dude, it was on,” Gross said. “I caught four fish in four casts. In practice, they were sitting on that backside because we had some wind, but it was calm that first day and they’d moved to the front.”
The fish weren’t giants, but there were plenty of 3s, 4s and 5s that apparently were sitting on the edges and then trapping bait that swam into the channel. How he knows this is from time to time throughout the tournament he actually watched one do it, waking up on the surface to trap a baitfish against the edge of the channel. No surprise, every time he saw that, he caught one.
After that initial flurry and seeing a few other anglers in the area, Gross made the decision that he’d guard that channel for most the rest of the day. If he did leave, he only went so far as to still be able to run back and beat someone to it if he saw them coming.
On day 2, he once again tried to locate that big female he'd lost the day before first thing. However, Jamie Horton found her just before Gross did, even commenting to Gross as he approached he had seen it (Horton didn’t know Gross had lost it the prior day). Horton caught her (she went 10-14) and Gross immediately ran to his channel. Sure enough, they were still there, and he quickly sacked up another 20 pounds.
Over the final two days it was pretty much rinse and repeat. Gross never left that spot, simply rotating around the channel trying to make casts from three different angles with either a swimjig or a swimbait.
“Any time they stopped biting I’d try and switch the angle and get them going again,” Gross said. “The cast was always the same, right in the middle of the channel, just from different angles. I never got bit closer to the edges for some reason.”
While he worried he might’ve fished out the spot after three days, he knew he hadn’t when he caught his first fish on his third cast on day 4. And he really knew he hadn’t when he caught one on this fourth, and another on his sixth cast. He figures he had the majority of his weight by 9 a.m.
All told, 19 of the 20 fish he weighed in throughout the tournament came from that tiny channel.
“It truly was an awesome spot I’ll never forget,” he said.
Winning Gear Notes
> Swimjig gear: 7’3” Fitzgerald Rods All Purpose Series casting rod, Daiwa Tatula SV casting reel (7.3:1 ratio), 50-pound unnamed braided line, homemade 1/2-ounce swimjigs (white or black/blue), 4" Scottsboro Tackle Co. swimbait (natural shad) or Zoom Z-Craw (green-pumpkin) trailer.
> Swimbait gear: Same rod, reel and line, 3/8-ounce 8/0 Owner Beast Flashy Swimmer hook, 5-inch Scottsboro Tackle Co. swimbait (natural shad).
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – “Coming down in pre-practice and doing all that graphing. There was just too much hydrilla to go through in a few days. I probably would’ve looked at that spot in practice because it did look so good, but I might not have gotten as dialed in on it.”
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