A fun Florida experience

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

It’s good to be home for a few days after an enjoyable kick-off to the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series season in Florida.

The timing wasn’t perfect but the catches were impressive at both St. John’s River and Lake Okeechobee where we competed. The nation’s unseasonably warm weather has affected Florida, as well, pushing the spawn ahead of schedule.

I managed to have a couple of pretty good tournaments there, including a top 10 finish at Okeechobee.

I didn’t finish quite as high at St. John’s but I still really enjoyed it because of the diversity the water offers.

It’s also a great time to hang out with other Elites at fellow pro Terry Scroggins’ home, which is only 10 minutes from the Palatka take-off. Terry, his mother and girlfriend are great hosts; they put on dinner gatherings each night. Everyone ate well and told a lot of stories.

One night, Paul Elias and I were looking through some old Bassmaster Magazines and had good laughs at the clothes and hats we wore in the 1990s.

Some guys were still wearing jumpsuits back then; and some, including me, wore “sponsor vests” covered with patches. Our hats were those big tall foam-type baseball caps. We thought we looked cool then, but it looks silly now.

It was fun reminiscing with the guys and a big heap of thanks goes to Scroggins for giving us a central place to gather after long days on the water.

This was my first time at Okeechobee in several years, and I was amazed at how much the lake had changed. Big O has endured droughts and hurricanes yet it has bounced back remarkably.

There were a ton of fish caught; but with better conditions, it’s scary what the weigh-in might have looked like. The east wind that blew most of the time piled muddy water along the shoreline areas with the best reed and grassbeds. That really hurts Okeechobee bass fishing.

Yet, the fishing was still incredible in sheer numbers of fish we caught. On the first tournament day, I had at least 100 bites. I was catching small fish as fast as I could cast.

The lake has millions of 1- to 2-pounders, which means the future looks bright, but there also are several 6- to 8-pounders swimming around, too.

In fact, I caught an 8-14 on the third day of the tournament that would have weighed 10 to 11 pounds prior to the spawn. I caught her on a 1/2-ounce Strike King Hack Attack Jig and 65-pound PowerPro Super Slick braided line that I pitched into a reed thicket.

I’m not sponsored by PowerPro but Mark Zona gave me some of the Super Slick to try. I was impressed, as it is some of the best braided line I’ve ever used. It casts fabulous and doesn’t knot or backlash as easily. Because of the slick coating, it doesn’t make as much noise going through the guides, either.

If you are planning a bass fishing vacation, I’d definitely recommend Okeechobee. While the spring fishing is superb, we were there during the postspawn period, and it’s only going to get better this year and next. I can’t wait to go back!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude.

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