This is my 5th season on Okeechobee, and getting ready for my final tournament for a while. Okeechobee is a good 2+ feet higher than it was the last few years we’ve been here. The lake is choked out with grass. The low water years caused the grass to grow big and tall along the shore/super shallows, then add the 2-3 feet of water, and you have a jungle. It can be very difficult to get around, fish, and just get a feel for Okeechobee right now. There is a ton of punching and flipping water, with the current conditions. This is probably the worst swimbait bite I’ve experienced at Okeechobee in the 5 years. It’s just really hard to find fishable water where the fish are living, where you can swim a bait around and thru. Add to that, with vegetation that is 3-5 foot high above the water line, it can be really hard to visually see places you want to get in and fish behind the grass lines. I have been poking into various spots a bizzillion times, only to do a u-turn and come out because the magic pool was not indeed behind the reeds….
It’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve had some decent days, and once again, find that I’m having to make adjustments to get it done. I think I can catch 5 fish both days, and hopefully am good for a big bite or two, but without a big bite, I’m talking 8-10 pounds or so….But most guys are struggling too. It’s just an off year, thick mats of grass, that of course make for good punching at times, but so thick you cannot get your trolling motor thru or do anything but flip or throw frogs over it. One of the keys to the swimbait bite for me has always been finding the best bedding areas. This has been the worst year by far, for the amount of beds and being able to see beds.
It can be an eerie feeling, not having much going on to get excited about, going into a tournament. I can catch some fish, but man, I’m just not on ’em and the bigbait thing has been really tough. Okeechobee is in a tough cycle at the moment. Not to say some guys won’t be catching 30+ pounds, because they will, but I will need some super good fortune to get a 18-20 pound sack. I just haven’t got ’em figured out, and I’ve tried to become a puncher/flipper this year, spent days doing it, only to find myself disgusted with the results. The good news is I can fish freely and just go fishing, and usually that is when I fish best and good things happen.