It's amazing how a lake covering some 470,000 surface acres can still manage to concentrate fisherman into a few well-known locations, but that's exactly what always seems to happen here at Lake Okeechobee. Legendary places like the Monkey Box, Fisheating Bay and Moonshine Hole produce winner after winner here, and will likely do it again at the Wild Card. All these spots are on the western edge of the lake, and they draw just about all the fishing pressure — from the pros to the guides to the weekend anglers.
Shaye Baker has moved to some thick vegetation near the Indian Creek area of Lake Okeechobee, and he's got plenty of company. One-tenth of the 49-angler field is right here, including Jesse Tacoronte, who was sixth on Day One with 20-6.
But we're not seeing many fish catches right now. However, it's early. The bite turned on for a bunch of guys around noon yesterday. Baker caught his 9-1 at one o'clock yesterday.
And as soon as I wrote that Baker just caught another fish that allowed him to cull up a pound, and Tacoronte just missed "a giant."
Shaye Baker went through a bit of a dry spell and just made a move that immediately paid off with a 3 1/2-pounder. That should put him at about 14 pounds for the day.
In January 1977, Dave Gliebe put on one of the great tournament performances of all time right here at Okeechobee. He won the ABF (American Bass Fisherman) Hurst Open with a three-day catch (21 total bass) weighing 95-3. Second place was Roland Martin (fishing in this week's Wild Card) with 52-10. That's a margin of victory of more than 42 pounds and the biggest I've ever heard of in a national tournament.
Shaye Baker is pretty much dialed in this morning. He just called his shot on his fifth bass of the day. It was a 2 1/2 pounder. Baker is casting and pitching to isolated reed clumps with a jig. While I've been writing this he's caught two more that didn't help him.
James Overstreet and I are on the water now and we've got the Day One leaders in sight - Shaye Baker and Russ Lane. Baker already has four in the boat - three dinks and a 4 1/2 pounder. This should make for an interesting day.
As you know, we'll cut to the top 12 anglers after Day Two. At the moment, it looks like it'll take around 33 or 34 pounds to make the cut, but since weights carry through to the final day not all of those anglers are going to have a realistic chance of winning. With big bass here weighing 9 or 10 pounds, only the anglers within that margin of the leader will have any chance at all of taking first place and the berth in the Classic. If you enter the final round more than 10 pounds back of the leader, you have essentially no chance of winning.
As you might imagine, Day One leader Shaye Baker didn't get much sleep last night. Catching 29 1/2 pounds will do that to a young guy trying to earn a Bassmaster Classic spot.
"I napped for about five minutes every 30 minutes," Baker said.
Day Two of the Bassmaster Classic Wild Card Tournament presented by Star Tron dawned just like Day One - cloudless, except for the hovering herd of giant mosquitoes. I think I'm going to need a blood transfusion. I'm feeling about a quart low.
Temperatures are expected to climb into the 80s again today, which should continue to warm the lake after a recent cold front.
"It's perfect," Baker said. "I think fish will just keep coming."
James Overstreet and I are going to meet our boat driver at the south end of the lake, where it seems most of the action is. I'll be updating when we're on the water.
Shaye Baker's 9-1 lunker on Day One was a great fish, but not the largest ever weighed in at a B.A.S.S. event on Okeechobee. At the 1986 Florida Invitational, Larry Wright boated a 10-14 that still stands as the biggest. There have been five other lunkers over 10 pounds, most recently a 10-1 by Kyle Fox at the 2010 Southern Open. Don't be surprised if someone tops Baker's lunker on Day Two. Nine pounds and an ounce isn't usually enough to claim big bass honors here.
Elite Series Pro Britt Myers double checking his gear before heading out on Day One.