It was brought to my attention from a friend that I didn’t do a blog post about my Okeechobee Everstart tournament. My mind has been busy dealing with all the things of starting back to work at a new job, finding an apartment, finding furniture (I arrived with a coffee mug, and a ton of fishing gear, of course), and just getting settled into a new life and lifestyle. Okeechobee has been in a funky cycle, but don’t let that fool you. I have a feeling the FLW Tour event coming up out of Clewiston is going to be another slug fest. Okeechobee has had really high water, and crazy thick grass. But with cooler nights and days, the grass is thinning out, mats are literally melting away, and things are changing, last I heard and last I fished.
I have a huge open water area I’ve been fishing in the Bird Island/North Shore area that I was fishing last year, that I found a good school of fish holding in. I could not find the jig fish that were loaded on Observation Shoal last year, and the Monkey Box itself, was almost completely choked out, and the areas that were fishable, just didn’t seem to have fish like they normally do. Not to say they aren’t there, I just didn’t find many areas with fish in practice. So to Bird Island, I went. I wanted to throw the 3:16 Sunfish and throw the Magnum Speed Worm in this open water and I figured I could usually get one good bite a day doing it, and come up with 12-14 pounds. I knew I wasn’t on winning fish, so you just go with the best you got. The Magnum Speed Worm, pegged with a 1/4 ounce weight, and a big 6/0 hook can be swam thru the eel grass and hydrilla, but it’s also got this great ‘power Texas Rig’ fishability where you hop, drop, yo-yo and then swim the bait thru the grass. I was killing them on the Magnum Speed Worm, and don’t be shocked if you hook a big one on that bait. I was buzzing the outside edges of some pepper grass clumps with the 3:16 Sunfish, and sure enough, I got one almost 6 pounds to come out and choke the bait. I fished loose, had fun and just made the most of my bites and weighed 14-8 or something, and was stoked to be in the Top 30.
Back to Bird Island. The bite started much slower. I had to grind to get something going. I keep telling myself I need to fish looser in tournaments. There is a great article Gary Dobyns once did about ‘Fishing Chicken’…google it, maybe it can be found. Bottom line, don’t get so caught up in your area or gameplan you don’t bounce if things aren’t going right. I made a good decision to head over to an area I knew had a few fish, and abandoned my best water for a while. Good move. We immediately got into some good keeper fish on the Magnum Speed Worm and I had some boils on the 3:16 Sunfish. I filled up my limit and then bounced back to my good water. The bite seemed to be much better later in the day, and on Day 2 I was a late flight, so had an extra hour to fish. Well, I got a line jump bite on the Magnum Speed Worm as my bait was falling back to the bottom in the sweetest deepest section of some eel grass. I swing, she aint moving, and I knew it was a biggun from the bite and from the hookset. Well, finally after a good 2-3 second tug of war, my rig comes flinging back at me, and my hook is completely opened up and bent out, hook point rolled over and I knew I’d just lost to a beast. Bummer. I didn’t get my big bite on Day 2. Well, I culled a few times and ultimately weighed 12-6 or something, and ended up 29th place for the event.
The Top 10
The Top 10 weigh in was cool to watch. You always learn something when you hear how the guys who really got it done caught ’em. The jig bite was on, just not in the areas of the lake they had bit for me last year, and I didn’t spend enough time (much shorter practice this year than in years past). J&S was clearly an area where the big fish had moved into and the guys that slowed down and pitched jigs and senkos and creature baits in the right stretches, got some big bites. I have never seen a weigh in where there was a tie. Trevor Fitzgerald was looking like he would win, but homeboy pulled out a 9 pounder or something stupid as his last fish, and they tied…but since homeboy had the lead going into Day 3, that was the tie breaker. I can only imagine how Trevor felt. Ouch. I wish the guys fishing the Tour a lot of luck out there. I think it could be an awesome event. The fishing after the tournament was getting better and better, and since off limits, things got kinda cool and cold, and the way Okeechobee flows this time of year, a good cold snap is good because when it warms back up, the fish go nuts. And the big ones moves in.
Want to see something cool, check out the below video. This is Shaye Baker’s Day 2 fishing, getting it done snatching ChatterBaits in some outside grass. I have gotten to know Shaye the last year or so, and I am impressed with his fishing and aptitude toward contributing meaningful content to the world of fishing. Shaye is on his way to a fantastic career in the world of fishing and media, and he’s got a lot of good things brewing at both FLW and BASS, so expect to see his name often as part of the few guys who know how to cover bass fishing, and sharing information—and doing it with style and soul. Shaye finished 11th in the event, and is a solid fisherman too, but is wise enough to realize the challenges of making a living with a rod and reel. You cannot just be good, you have to be exceptional.
Oh yeah, Casey Martin….Congrats to Casey, with a 6th Place finish and a solid showing on Okeechobee. I’m telling you, this guy is going to crush it in 2013 fishing the Tour as a rookie. In fact, FLW is going to be sending a film crew to follow Casey around and document his rookie season, the life on the road and the fishing part. Casey is exceptional. His ability to keep things simple, focus on his strengths, and make gameday decisions is impressive. Casey went out with his flipping and punching rods and got 7 pound bites on Day 1&2 and put them in the boat, and that is the difference between good and exceptional on tournament day. Follow Casey at: caseymartinfishing.com