This is the 4th year that Toho Marine has held the “Help Our Heroes’” (H.O.H.) Benefit Tournament on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. This event has continued to grow every year, both in terms of Angler Participation as well as Sponsor Contributions and Donations. In 4 years we have managed to raise over $46,000.00 for multiple Veterans Benefit Organizations on both the Local, and National Level! This is all made possible by the great companies and individuals that help to sponsor and promote the event!
Thank you to all our Sponsors!
|AAA CHEMICAL TOILETS
ALLSTATE – RICH HOWES
BASS ADDICTION GEAR
BASS PRO BIG BASS TOUR
BOBBY LANE FISHING
BOGGY CREEK AIRBOATS
COASTAL ANGLER MAGAZINE
CYNDI LUNDGREN – BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY REALTY
DRAPER LAW FIRM
|FAMILY BOATING ASSOCIATION
FAST BREAK BAIT AND TACKLE
FISHERMANS DREAM CUSTOM RODS
FLAT OUT TUNGSTEN
GLENN BROWNE FISHING
JH DESIGNS UNLIMITED
MACDONALD BAIL BONDS
MID FLORIDA CORVETTE CLUB
PHOENIX BASS BOATS
SINGLE P RANCH
THE REEL DEAL
THE ROD GLOVE
TROPHY CATCH FLORIDA
XTREME BASS SERIES
The Annual “H.O.H” Tournament has always been a tough one to win, the list of Anglers competing in this Tournament reads like a “Top 100” or “Who’s Who” of Tournament Bass Fishing in the State of Florida. There is probably not a single team that enters this event that doesn’t believe they have a shot of winning, and they do their best to get the right 5 bites before the time comes to hit the stage and see where they stand. Over the last 4 years it has always taken over 30 lbs. to win, and even a 20 lb. bag isn’t a guarantee to earn a check! This is not a tournament where you have to worry about points, and most anglers know that anything under 20 lbs. won’t do them much good.
Tournament launch was at 6:15 AM, a little later than usual for this time of year. The forecast was for heavy cloud cover and rain for most of the day. For many events this may be enough to cause problems, but for the H.O.H. it did nothing other than leave a coating of mist on the decks of the boats as they waited their turn to head out across the lake. This year due to the low water levels we had to adjust the tournament waters and exclude Lake Toho since they had closed the locks. This still left plenty of water to fish, as Kissimmee, Hatchineha, Cypress, and miles of canals were still available to fish.
At 3:00 the first boats were due in and the boats were hitting the docks. Flights were spaced out at 15 minute intervals to alleviate congestion at the boat ramp, and this year we opted to do a trailered weigh in to help keep the fish in the water, and as healthy as possible. This trailered weigh in would not have been possible without the help of several volunteers from the Osceola Teen Anglers (O.T.A.). As each boat pulled up to the weigh in area, they were met by a member of the O.T.A. who filled their weigh in bag and carried the fish straight to the scales. There was no waiting in line with bagged fish to contend with and these kids did an awesome job with helping us out!
Early on the teams of Ken Lucas and Danny Lanier, as well as Don Eady and Kenny Bivens posted some pretty high numbers for others to try and beat. Ken and Danny started off with an early lead weighing in 26.34 lbs., only to be quickly bumped from the proverbial “hot seat” by the team of Don and Kenny who brought 29.75 lbs. to the scales and significantly upped the ante! Team after team weighed in, including two previous teams who have won this event. 2015 H.O.H. Champions Terry Frisenda and Joey Thigpen managed to bring in 14.36lbs., while the 2016 H.O.H. Champions Mark Lundgren and “Junior” Solis were clearly disappointed with the 12.94lbs they managed to bring to the scales. It wasn’t until much later in the weigh in that Don and Kenny would be unseated when the 2014 H.O.H. Champions Russ Osborne and Micah Silverman dropped 33.37 lbs. on the scales to take over the lead and hold onto it until the end!
In the end there were 16 teams that had brought in bags in excess of 20 lbs.! The Kissimmee Chain had again churned out some giant fish, and big 5 fish limits! Russ and Micah walked away as the 2017 H.O.H. Champions, and earned the “Big Check” for $6000.00 for their win. Don Eady and Kenny Bivens finished out in 2nd, while the team of Will Evans and Trevor Fitzgerald ended up in 3rd after bringing in 28.34 lbs. Rounding out the Top 5 were the teams of Ken Lucas and Danny Lanier in 4th with 26.34 lbs., and Charlie Harrelson with Logan Murphy finished in 5th with 25.86 lbs. Big Fish of the Tournament, along with $2000.00 was awarded to the team of Tane Crossley and Mike Larson for the 8.84 lb. GIANT that they weighed in as part of their 23.32 lb. bag. 2nd Big Fish was awarded to the Team of Donald Bradley and Jamie Stephans for their 8.75 lb. Giant. As an added bonus they also received 2 free entries into the Bass Pro Shops Big Fish Tournament next year!
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, a Guided Duck Hunt from Fast Break Bait and Tackle in Okeechobee as well as several other items. These all went quickly and left just the raffle and presentation of the checks.
This year Toho Marine had over $10,000.00 worth of products to raffle off, as well as display booths from Lowrance, Power Pole, Trophy Catch, and several others. Cindy Carpenter Joint from “The Reel Deal” and Scott Scarborough from Blazer were on hand to take pictures and video, and Reps from Triton, Skeeter, and Blazer were on hand to answer questions from the Anglers and provide Demo rides. Even though many teams’ days did not go as planned, they still had a chance at walking away with something to put a smile on their faces!
Highlights of the raffle were a Motorguide X5 Trolling Motor, Bob’s Machine Action Jack Hydraulic Jackplate, JL Marine Power Pole, Electronics from Lowrance and Humminbird, TH Marine Boat Alarm, Hydrowave, and a host of rods from Denali, Enigma, Fitzgerald, Halo, and Ark. Reels from Lew’s, baits from Tightlines UV, Medlock Jigs, Bruiser Baits and Flat Out Tungsten and many many more. The raffle actually took almost as long as the whole weigh in due to the overwhelming support from all of the sponsors! 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 Mike Blocher and Team from the Xtreme Bass Series, as well as the Lakeland Jr Bassmasters and Osceola Teen Anglers 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. Also cannot leave out the Murphy and Overstreet Families as they were kind enough to offer up an alternate location to host the H.O.H. Tournament when it became clear that the low water levels were going to eliminate the use of many boat ramps. It is more than likely that without their help and hospitality we would have ended up having to postpone or cancel this year’s event!
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 to the Fisher House Benefit Organization to help with the new housing being built at the Lake Nona Veterans Hospital as well as 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 2018 Help Our Heroes’ Tournament is June 2nd, and the deadline for entry into the tournament will be May 25th 2018. Hope to see you all again next year, tight lines and be safe!