If you’re a golfer, imagine trying to win a major tournament after finishing 30th in the first day of competition. That’s how Haines City native Van Soles started, mired in 30th place in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open of the year on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. He was competing against names in the world of bass-fishing legends that resonant as deeply as “Nicklaus,” “Woods” and “Els.” Against names including Shaw Grigsby, Russ Lane and even the legend of bass-fishing legends, Roland Martin, Soles climbed out of that deep hole and won.
Soles’ three-day tally of five-fish-per-day totaled 50 pounds, 15 ounces. He did a lot of things right to win, since all of the fish from extremely cold water. That impressive three-day bag gave him the win in his first B.A.S.S. professional event. All he has to do is fish two more Elite Series events to qualify for the BASSMASTER Classic, the most prestigious of all tournaments.
He also took home the Carhartt Big Bass award of $500 for the largest bass of the event, a 10-7 on Day Two that propelled him into the finals. Soles also caught the biggest bass on Day Three – an 8-14.
According to B.A.S.S. writer Ken Duke, “Soles pitched and punched the matted vegetation with a Gambler BB Cricket (Emerald Blue, Black and Blue Flake and Bowen Silver Shadow) fished on a 3/0 Cobra Flipping Hook behind a 1 1/2-ounce Elite tungsten sinker pegged to the line by a Jethro Baits bobber stop. His line was 65-pound-test Power Pro braid spooled on a Lew's Speed Spool casting reel (7.1:1) and mounted on a 7-foot, 11-inch Halo XXX flipping rod.
Soles told BASSMASTER MAGAZINE that, "I fished the southwest side of Lake Kissimmee all three days, focusing on matted vegetation that had floated up against buggy whips, cattails and Kissimmee grass," Soles said. "The bass were really lethargic and the bite was slower on the last day than on Day Two."
On behalf of VISIT FLORIDA, congratulations Van!
If you’re looking for lunkers, the Kissimmee Chain has been producing big fish even when the mercury plummets. Fishing will only get better as spring approaches.