This is a fish tale that just has to be seen-and fished-to be believed. Just ask Terry Segraves.
Terry says largemouth bass fishing in Kissimmee, his central Florida home since 1983, is simply some of the best in the world. He backs it up with facts-and lots of seriously heavy hooked fish.
"The single-day tournament record catch occurred on West Lake Toho back in 2001," says Terry, using the locals' term for Kissimmee's Lake Tohopekaliga. The perennially suntanned veteran angler has been a professional fisherman since 1990 and has competed in fabled fishing tourneys like the Bassmaster Classic, the FLW Tour, and Professional Anglers Association (PAA) Tour. "Those five bass weighed in at 45 pounds and 2 ounces. That's a lot of bass in my backyard."
Terry's "backyard" fishing playground offers about 80,000 acres of freshwater fishing opportunities. "We have some of the most natural and pristine habitat in the world," Terry says with pride. "It's a remarkable place with different fishing year-round." Though Terry frequently travels to fish in some pretty special places, he says, "It's always good to get home."
Terry adds that one of the things that attracted him to the area-and to decide to call Kissimmee home-was the proximity of world-class fishing to many of Central Florida's other activities and attractions. "It seems like anything you want is just a short drive from the water."
Along with famed Lake Tohopekaliga, which fronts Kissimmee's bustling, yet bucolic, historic downtown, there's also East Lake Tohopekaliga, Cypress Lake, Lake Hatchineha, and Lake Kissimmee, which, at almost 35,000 acres, is the largest lake in the area. Several of these lakes, and a few smaller ones, are conveniently connected by canals with locks, comprising the upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes-the largemouth bass fishing destination of choice for fisherman from around the world.
Terry, who has started a popular video blog for visiting fisherman, says many of the bass caught in the area will top 10 pounds and that it's not unusual to haul in heavyweights topping 14 pounds. "These big fish aren't just caught by the pros," says Terry, who adds that catch and release is the norm here and that he hasn't killed a fish intentionally in more than 30 years. "We wouldn't have the fishery we have right now if it wasn't for catch and release."
Terry recommends going with a professional local guide. "There's always something biting somewhere around Kissimmee," says Terry. "They know which lake is hot when you're short on time."
Of course, Terry's bait tips are hard to ignore. "There are lots of baits, rigs, and techniques, but...if I was to pick one, it'd be a ribbontail worm. You catch about 80% of your fish on 20% of your tackle." Terry even has a post-fishing "feeding" tip for visiting fisherman-the beloved cheeseburger at Big Toho Marina at Kissimmee Lakefront Park.
Incredibly, that still-standing five-fish limit record set by Dean Rojas in 2001 was almost broken the next day, when Mark Davis weighed in five fish at 41 pounds and 10 ounces! Rojas would go on to be the first to pass the 100-pound mark for the four-day tourney, making him the first member of the B.A.S.S. (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society) "Century Club" that still has very few members.
Historic Kissimmee's downtown waterfront is in the midst of a $30 million rebirth, and much of the new Lakefront Park and more in the area revolve around the water and fishing for good reason. Both new and veteran visitors will be impressed with additional and upcoming options on and off the water-including a new weigh-in area for all those big fish.
Plus, thanks to other activities for the entire family, and varied accommodations and dining options, it's easy to turn a bass fishing trip to Kissimmee into a vacation fit for everyone. And that's no fish tale!