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Toyota Series set to visit Lake Chickamauga for Central Division opener

by FLW Communications 26 Feb 07:06 UTC 27-29 February 2020
Toyota Series on Lake Chickamuaga © FLW Communications

The 2020 Toyota Series will open the Central Division with a tournament next week at Lake Chickamauga, Feb. 27-29, with the Toyota Series at Lake Chickamauga. Hosted by Fish Dayton and the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council, the three-day tournament will feature the best regional bass-fishing pros and co-anglers casting for a top prize of up to $65,000, plus a $35,000 bonus if the winner is a qualified Phoenix Boat owner.

According to Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour angler Michael Neal, who lives on the shores of Lake Chickamauga, the quality of the bass fishing at his home fishery remains at an all-time high. There are loads of 3-pounders in the lake and likely more double-digit fish than in any other fishery in the region. In 2019 alone, more than 100 10-pound bass were caught and recorded at Chickamauga, and many more probably went unreported.

If it's big bass you want, late winter and early spring are ideal times to catch them, which is why the Central Division opener is perfectly timed to be a big-bass slugfest.

"There will definitely be a lot of fish caught, and they'll be all spread out," said Neal, who has five career top-10 finishes on Lake Chickamauga in FLW competition. "The high water will push a lot of fish off the river to get out of the current. They'll be in creeks. That's where they're used to living when the water's up anyway. If it stabilizes and gets back to normal color, there will be guys fishing from 1 to 15 feet. It could be anything from a shallow, 1/4-ounce lipless bite to a 3/4-ounce swimbait bite in 15 feet of water. The weather is going to dictate everything.

"Regardless of conditions, the weights are going to be good," he continued. "Everybody I've talked to that's been out in the last few days says it's not a problem to catch 18 pounds just fishing current and stuff like that. If at least one person doesn't have 30 pounds throughout the tournament, I'll be shocked. If it stabilizes, you'll see more 30-pound bags. I think the lake is as healthy or healthier than it's ever been, numbers-wise especially."

One of the benefits from the rain that's fallen around Chickamauga is that new patterns are in play. Whether or not they'll continue to factor in come tournament time will depend on upcoming weather.

"It depends on the rain," Neal said. "Your normal early spring patterns, as far as umbrella rigs and jerkbaits, could play if it quits raining and the water cleans up. If it doesn't, Rat-L-Traps, spinnerbaits and flipping are going to play."

Anglers will take off from the Dayton Boat Dock, located at 175 Lakeshore St. in Dayton at 7 a.m. EDT each day of competition. The weigh-ins will be held each day at the Dayton Boat Dock beginning at 3 p.m. All takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.

In Toyota Series regular-season competition, payouts are based on the number of participants competing in the event, scaling up for every 20 boats over 160 and scaling down for every boat below 160. With a full field, pros will fish for a top prize of up to $65,000, plus an extra $35,000 if FLW Phoenix Bonus qualified. Co-anglers will cast for the top prize of a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower outboard, valued at $33,500.

The Toyota Series consists of eight divisions - Central, Eastern, Northern, Plains, Southeastern, Southern, Southwestern and Western - each holding three regular-season events, along with the International division. Anglers who fish all three qualifiers in any of the eight divisions and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Championship for a shot at winning $200,000 cash, plus lucrative contingency bonuses. The winning co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower outboard. The 2020 Toyota Series Championship is being held Nov. 5-7 on Lake Cumberland in Burnside, Kentucky, and is hosted by the Somerset Tourist & Convention Commission and the Burnside Tourism Commission.

For complete details and updated information visit FLWFishing.com.

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