This is the 3rd year that Toho Marine has held the “Help Our Heroes’” (H.O.H.) Benefit Tournament on Lake Toho. This event has grown every year, and in just 3 years has raised over $35,000.00 to help our “Wounded Warriors” on both a National and Local level. This is all made possible by the great companies and individuals that help to sponsor and promote the event!
Blazer Boats Inc.
Wojo’s Bait And Tackle
Power-Pole® Shallow Water Anchor
Xtreme Fishing Series
Single P Ranch
Airport Chrysler Dodge Jeep Orlando
Pinch A Penny Pool Patio Spa
Account On Us
Big Toho Marina
Mid Florida Corvette Club
Saint Cloud Greater Osceola Chamber of Commerce
Techni ice US
Neal Lazarus and the TSA
Kevin and Lisa Heard
Lakeland Junior Bassmasters
JH Design Unlimited
and many more!
This Tournament has always been a “slugfest” with many of the Florida’s Top Sticks teaming up for their opportunity to show out and take a chance at bringing home “The Big Check.” This isn’t usually a tournament where a limit will do much for your chances at success. This is the type of event where you better “Go Big” if you want to have a shot at the title! Tournament Launch was at 6:10AM, just as the sun was starting to bathe the anglers and the Flag they proudly stood in silence for in a rich red glow. Over 100 teams sped off across the lake ready to put in work. The teams were able to fish anything from the Lake Toho south to the bottom of Lake Kissimmee and everything in between. This is an immense amount of water to cover and includes five lakes as well as miles of canals between each lake.
The hopes of all the teams were high when it came time to start the weigh in at 3:00PM, there were many tales of lost fish and missed opportunities being quietly talked about in line at the weigh in. There were also several teams who stayed mostly quiet and held on tightly to their bags containing the days catch. One of the early teams to weigh in was the team of Mark Lundgren and Santos “Junior” Solis. Their catch of over 31lbs set the bar high for the rest of the teams and many assumed it would not hold through till the end. Last year it took over 34lbs to win and with over 70 teams left to weigh in anything was possible!
In the end there were 14 teams that had brought in bags in excess of 20 lbs! Lake Toho and the Kissimmee Chain had again churned out some giant fish, and big 5 fish limits! Fortunately for Mark Lundgren and Santos “Junior” Solis, none of these other teams had managed to top their weight of 31.55lbs! This giant bag of Florida Bass earned them “The Big Check” for $7,500.00 as well as an added bonus from Joe Clements, the owner of Toho Marine. Joe had made an announcement to “sweeten the pot,” if the winning team had purchased a boat from Toho Marine they would receive an additional bonus of $1000.00!!! Since Mark and Junior had both purchased boats from Toho Marine this meant their total winnings were now $8,500.00!
Mark and Junior reported catching most of their catch by flipping, and slowly picking apart the grass in the areas they were fishing. They employed several baits throughout the day including the TightlinesUV UVenko, Gambler Fat Ace and Medlock Jig with either a UV Bubba Craw or Gambler Mega Daddy as a trailer. Many other teams reported catching their fish flipping as well although others stated they relied on topwater baits for most of their catches.
Rounding out the Top Five were the teams of Robert Branagh with Charlie Coleman who came in 2nd with 26.28lbs for $2000.00.
3rd Place went to the team of Rich Patterson and David Smith who weighed in 24.26lbs for $1000.00.
4th Place was the team of Theron Houston with Edward White, they weighed in 23.18lbs and had 2nd Big Fish of the Tournament with a 8.35lb Donkey! With 4th Place, and 2nd Big Fish they walked away with a total of $1225.00!
In 5th was the team of Jeremy Smith with Jim Folks, their 22.72lbs was worth a check for $500.00.
The Big Fish of the Tournament went to the team of John Durocher and David Tervin, this one fish that weighed 8.74lbs netted them $2000.00!
After a long, hot day on the water, all of the teams were treated to free BBQ, cooked on site by Milton, as well as all of the water and Gatorade they needed thanks to Pete Saraf, and Pepsi Co respectively. While most of the field was busy chowing down the auction started for the guide trips from Bobby Lane, Glenn Browne, and Brian Beville. These all went quickly and left just the raffle and presentation of the checks.
This year Toho Marine had over $11,000.00 worth of products to raffle off, so even the teams that weren’t fortunate enough to cash a check still had a chance at redemption. Highlights of the raffle were a Bob’s Machine Custom Painted “Action Jack” Hydraulic Jackplate, JL Marine “Power Pole,” Electronics from Lowrance, 36v Motorguide x5 Trolling Motor, Minn Kota Talon, as well as a host of other prizes from Denali Rods, Enigma Fishing, Fitzgerald Rods, Mercury, Lew’s, Shell/Penzoil, Tightlines UV, Ardent, Hydrowave, TH Marine and many more! Needless to say there were quite a few people that walked away at the end of the day with a smile on their face! Have to give a BIG “Thank You” to all of the sponsors that donated for this event. Please make sure to help support them as much as they support all of us! Also need to give a special “Thank You” to Neal Lazarus and the volunteers from the T.S.A. as well as the Lakeland Jr Bassmasters and Glenn that came out from very early in the morning to help direct traffic, and stayed until very late to help with weigh in and fish release! The Lakeland Jr. Bassmasters were kind enough to bring their “Live Release” Boat to ensure that everything possible was done to take care of all of the fish that were brought to the scales.
Of course, at the end of the day it was a heartfelt “Thank You” to all of our Service Men and Women that brought us all together. Without the service of those in the Armed Forces, Fire and Police Departments who knows where we would be! As such Joe was thrilled to once again be able to “give back” to those who have given so much for all of us. Joe and Toho Marine donated $10,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project as the culmination of another amazing event.
If you weren’t able to attend this year or years past you might want to go ahead and mark the date on your calendar for next year. The date for the 2017 Help Our Heroes’ Tournament is June 3rd, and the deadline for entry into the tournament will be May 26th 2017. Hope to see you all again next year, tight lines and be safe!