It’s warm and sunny here in St. Cloud, Florida at the Lake Toho RV Resort on the shores of beautiful Lake Tohopekaliga. Commonly known as Lake Toho or sometimes West Lake Toho to distinguish it from its sister lake to the east, East Lake Toho. I plan to spend the next three weeks fishing and exploring to prepare for the 2018 Bassmaster Open eastern division bass tournament here Feb. 1-3. Whether I’m qualified to fish against some of the top ranked anglers in the nation will be clear soon.

A close childhood friend, Richard Hinton, called me Wednesday while on the drive south. We talked for a long time while I made my way across South Carolina. We were making plans to compete in a couple of team bass tournaments this spring on Kerr Lake. He said that after reading my column last week he almost called his boss and asked for the week off to come to Florida fishing. Regretfully Richard won’t be able to make this trip. And he can’t fish with me in the tournaments, or take the trip we were planning to fish on four North Carolina rivers in two days to catch American and Hickory shad during their annual spawning runs.

Richard left this world unexpectedly Thursday. Leaving behind a loving mother and many close friends, he was one of the kindest and most giving men I’ve ever known. Richard will be missed by many. I can’t say much more, but when I win this tournament, it’ll be in his honor. Thanks for the memories Richard. And my thoughts also go out to the family of Mike Wilder, another local gentleman and friend who departed this world the same day as Richard.

Area fishing reports and tournament updates

Kerr Lake was almost frozen over during the recent cold spell. All the boat ramps were unusable so no boats could get out, but they are starting to thaw now. A friend posted a video of himself throwing a crankbait and reeling it in across solid ice. The fish weren’t biting.

Don’t forget the 2018 “Ice Bowl Catfish Tournament” on January 27, launching from Occoneechee State Park. Pre-registration for the event will take place Friday January 26, at the Lamp Lighter in Clarksville Va. from 2 to 6:30 p.m. and the mandatory pre-registration captains meeting will begin at 7. They have a Facebook page with more information.

Next week’s report

Fishing report from Lake Toho in Central Florida. The alligators aren’t out here much yet due to the recent cold weather (it was below freezing some here last week), but I expect that’ll change with the warm weather prognosticated for next week.

Tip of the week

Take a day off (or maybe a week) and go fishing or whatever it is you like to do.

Contact the writer by email at waltbowen@yahoo.com