Pro Buddy Gross of Chickamauga, Georgia, brought a five-bass limit weighing 23 pounds, 12 ounces, to the scale Sunday to win the FLW Tour at Lake Toho presented by Ranger Boats. Gross' four-day total of 20 bass weighing 85-12 earned him the victory by a 4-pound, 10-ounce margin over second-place pro John Cox of DeBary, Florida, and the $100,000 first-place prize.
"I'm ecstatic. It has been an awesome, awesome journey. To beat the competition that we have - it's unbelievable," said Gross, who earned his second career FLW Tour victory. "I came into this event just wanting to cash a check. When I made the top 30, I just wanted stay in the top 10. All I wanted to do was finish strong.
"I got the majority of my weight early today - I'm guessing I had 18 or 19 pounds by 9 (a.m.) and after that it was a grind," continued Gross. "I worked a long time between bites, but I upgraded two more times - maybe three - at my spot. I can't believe this place that I caught these fish at held up - I really believe the Lord just blessed me."
The spot Gross is referring to was on the main span of Lake Toho, just north of the lock at the lake's southern end. It was his most productive area throughout the event, producing 19 of his 20 fish. He described it as a "pocket" in the grass line that was 30 feet wide and 50 feet in, but that didn't break through to the other side.
"It was special because it had two ditches with clumps in the middle, and the fish were sitting in the clumps," said Gross. "There were 20-foot gaps between each clump, and they'd set up in them [the clumps].The first day I caught them, it was in the ditch, but after that, everything was on the clumps."
Though Gross described the area as having two ditches, he said the "ditches" weren't any deeper than the surrounding area. They were just open lanes with no grass. The entire spot was about 7 feet deep.
Gross primarily used a 5- or 6-inch, natural-light-colored Scottsboro Tackle Co. Swimbait on an 8/0-sized Owner Beast Flashy Swimmer and a ½-ounce white custom swim jig with a 4-inch Scottsboro Tackle swimbait trailer of the same color. The same swim jig with a black-and-blue skirt and a green-pumpkin Zoom Z-Craw trailer also came into play. For line, he used 50-pound-test braid on a Daiwa Tatula SV reel. He fished the swimbait on a 7-foot, 3-inch Fitzgerald Rods All Purpose Series extra-heavy rod, but switched to a heavy-action rod of the same length and series for the swim jig.
The top 10 pros on Lake Toho finished:
- Buddy Gross, Chickamauga, Ga., 20 bass, 85-12, $102,700
- John Cox, DeBary, Fla., 20 bass, 81-2, $30,600
- Darrell Davis, Dover, Fla., 20 bass, 78-7, $25,000
- Tommy Dickerson, Orange, Texas, 20 bass, 76-14, $20,000
- Josh Douglas, Isle, Minn., 20 bass, 72-8, $19,000
- Wade Strelic, Alpine, Calif., 20 bass, 71-4, $18,000
- Joseph Webster, Winfield, Ala., 20 bass, 66-0, $17,000
- Scott Martin, Clewiston, Fla., 20 bass, 65-10, $16,000
- Aaron Britt, Yuba City, Calif., 19 bass, 64-7, $15,000
- Nitro pro Tyler Woolcott, Port Orange, Fla., 20 bass, 64-3, $14,000
Full results for the entire field can be found at FLWFishing.com.