Sports Editor

Have you seen the big ol’ pickup trucks, hauling some of the nicest bass fishing boats, around town, specifically over by the Kissimmee lakefront and the Toho Marina.

That’s because some of fishing’s top professional anglers are in town for a stop on the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) Tour, the FLW Tour at Lake Toho presented by Ranger Boat. It’s the second of seven 2019 regular-season tournaments.

The tournament on the FLW, professional bass fishing’s most lucrative tournament circuit, will feature 170 of the world’s most decorated bass-fishing professionals casting for a top award of up to $125,000 cash in the Pro Division, and is hosted by Experience Kissimmee and the Kissimmee Sports Commission.

In FLW events, 170 anglers compete Thursday and Friday, with the field cut down to the top 30 Saturday and top 10 on Sunday. The winner is determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from the four days of fishing.

Anglers fish for points in hopes of qualifying for the 2019 FLW Cup, to be held on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Aug. 9-11.

This is the sixth FLW tour stop on Kissimmee chain; the last time was 2015 when pro J.T. Kenney took the title.

Pros flock to Kissimmee’s Lake Toho to fish a lake that has earned a reputation for some of the best bass fishing on the East Coast. According to the FLW, in January 2001, Dean Rojas set the all-time five-bass limit record on the B.A.S.S. circuit at the mouth of Shingle Creek on Lake Toho; his limit on Day 1 of that event tipped the scales at 45 pounds, 2 ounces. Rojas went on to win the tournament with a total of 20 bass for nearly 109 pounds.

This weekend’s tournament weigh-ins should be very busy, said former FLW Cup champion pro John Cox. He knows Florida fishing — he has 12 career top-10 finishes in Florida, including including one on Lake Toho and the several other lakes strung along the Kissimmee River.

“If the weather slowly warms up it could be really good fishing. It’s possible to break 100 pounds [in four days] there,” he said.  “I hear the water is still really high at Lake Toho, but the grass bite will probably be pretty good. There’s usually a couple of guys who figure out something in Kissimmee, Cypress and Hatchineha, too. There’s a lot of water to cover, and it’s always exciting when the Tour visits Florida.”

Anglers will take off at 7 a.m. each day from Big Toho Marina. Today and Friday’s weigh-ins will be at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s weigh-ins will begin at 4 p.m.

Prior to weigh-in each day FLW will host a free Family Fishing Expo at Big Toho Marina from 2-6 p.m. The Expo is a chance for fishing fans to meet their favorite anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by FLW sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. The FLW Foundation’s Unified Fishing Derby will be held Saturday at noon and is free and open to anyone under the age of 18 and Special Olympics athletes. Rods and reels are available for use, but youth are encouraged to bring their own. The two youth anglers who catch the biggest fish will be recognized Saturday on the FLW Tour stage, just prior to the pros weighing in.

"We're thrilled to welcome the Fishing League Worldwide Tour to our destination," said John Poole, Executive Director of Kissimmee Sports Commission. "We pride ourselves on our area’s championship bass fishing lakes, which have been home to many marquee tournaments throughout the years. We appreciate the opportunity to host an event of this prestige and impact in the fishing industry, as well as raise awareness about the sport and the opportunities for anglers in the destination.”

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