Morgenthaler, Brown Surge Into Lead on Florida’s Lake Toho
Kissimmee, FL– The area on Lake Toho exceeded the expectations of Evinrude pro Glenn Browne of Florida and Jasper Engines pro Chad Morgenthaler of Illinois.
Whether it will hold up for two more days is the big unknown.
Browne and Morgenthaler grabbed the lead Thursday of the Bass Pro Shops PAA Tour Team Challenge with a five-bass limit weighing 31.89 pounds. Among their catch were 7.98- and 8.41-pounders, all caught in an area they slipped into on the final day of practice.
“We went in there Wednesday and had a good feeling about catching 20 pounds or so, but not 30,” said Browne, who attended the University of Central Florida not too far from Toho’s famed shores. “I think we probably culled 16 or 17 pounds.
“We’re in a good area and probably will beat up on it,” Browne added. “We only made one pass through there, so I don’t think we hurt it too badly.”
Eighteen teams featuring some of the top pros in the sport are competing in the PAA’s season-opening event. The full field will compete all three days, with more than $100,000 in cash and prizes at stake, including a Nitro Z-8 with a Mercury 225 Optimax and T-H Marine Atlas jackplate, Nitro Z-7 with a Mercury Pro XS, and MinnKota Talon shallow water anchors for the big bass winners. Also at stake are points toward the PAA Angler of the Year title and qualification for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic world championship in September on Lake Conroe.
Morning launches are at Lakefront Park in Kissimmee, with Friday’s 3 p.m. weigh-in at the park. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be at 4:30 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops off of International Drive in Orlando.
Right behind Brown and Morgenthaler are TireMax pros Charles Bebber and Chris Wilkerson of Texas with 28.22 pounds. In third place are Spiderwire pro Bobby Lane of Florida and Gene Larew Baits pro Gerald Brown of Oklahoma with 26.45 pounds.
Lane and Brown had the big bass of the day, at 10.59 pounds, which led a parade of 6- to 9-pounders from several pros. Typhoon pro Cliff Pirch of Arizona and Executive Realty pro James Watson of Missouri got on the board first Thursday with an 8.85-pounder, the first reported bass of the tournament.
“They’ll bite if you find them,” said Pirch, who caught the big one on a Yamamoto Baits Senko. “The wind blew about 100 mph and it got harder to see them.”
Watson said he was spooked about taking the first shot at the big fish and gave Pirch the honors.
“I told him I was paranoid about casting on the first one,” Watson said, laughing. “She bit on his third cast after spitting out the bait the first two times.”
Bebber, Wilkinson were hot
It didn’t take long for the Texas tornadoes to put their limit in the boat.
“We had that (limit) by 10 a.m. and spent the day looking,” Bebber said. “The conditions weren’t too good for finding them, but we found a few. We were just picking up a few here and there.”
The pair said they had several other good fish on target but didn’t go for the motherlode Thursday.
“We’re trying to manage them a little bit,” Wilkerson said. “There’s no giants but there are some decent ones.”
Lane, Brown shined late
Brown and Lane, known for his topwater frog skills and sight-fishing abilities, got on some good fish early and then they moved around.
“The big one bit later in the day,” Lane said. “It got a little tougher as the day went along.”
Brown said he’s known Lane for years but hasn’t had the chance to fish with him before in a tournament. All of the pros said the team format has been not only fun, but a learning experience as they combined their strategy and knowledge for one goal.
“It’s amazing,” Brown said. “I knew he knew the lake really well, but didn’t fully realize just how good he is with casting and everything. I’ve really learned a lot this week and it’s been a great experience.”