2012 Elite Series Power-Pole Slam Lake Okeechobee - Okeechobee, FL, Mar 22 - 25, 2012

Florida trouble

Wind, murky water contributing factors for a rough start

James Overstreet
Anglers are having issues finding clearer water and staying out of the wind.

About the author

Ryan Watkins

Ryan Watkins won the Carhartt College Series national championship at Stephen F. Austin.

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. -- Coming into the Power-Pole Slam on Lake Okeechobee, the majority of the field expected the scales to weigh heavy.

Ish Monroe showed us how heavy they could get. But overall there were only seven limits topping the 20-pound mark. About 80 percent of the field could only muster 15 pounds, and more than half of them had less than 12 pounds.

There are a lot of struggling anglers looking to make a change on Day Two.

"The lake is full of fish," said three-time Elite Series winner Mike McClelland. "But if you are not around big ones, then you’re just not around big ones."

More than 730 square miles of water make up the Big "O," with a variety of key stretches. The one consistent contributing factor to all of them is vegetation.

"I think the big key in finding bigger fish is really finding a combination of eelgrass and hydrilla." McClelland said. "I've been fishing some known areas for producing big fish but it doesn't have everything you need. It's weak on various types of vegetation, and I think that’s the biggest thing I'm struggling with."

Strong winds have been steady all week and show no signs of letting up. For a lake that sets up better in clear water, the murky Okeechobee has been shutting down the bite for nearly half the field.

"The wind is definitely being a headache," Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., said. "Everything to fish on this lake is either on the south end or the west bank and the wind has been out of the east ever since we've been here."

McClelland also noted he was having trouble finding the clear water.

"There's so much inaccessible water behind the vegetation that I think what happens is when it gets dirty out front, they just push so far back in that stuff you can't get to them," he said.

Lacking the right combination of vegetation and accessible clear water, Elite Series anglers under the cut need to make a change. With the cut line at 50th place sitting at 12 pounds, 1 ounce, Steve Kennedy said he thinks it'll take a better bag to get into Day Three.

"I'm going to get away from everybody and just put my head down and fish," Kennedy said. "I had like 11 pounds today, so 13 pounds might make it, but I'll need about 14 or 15 to be safe."

Those farther back in the pack are looking to have even a better outing Friday. With the forecast still calling for wind, Lake Okeechobee will more than likely be rough for those who don't change up.

Ashley, on the other hand, wasn't concentrating on what he needed to catch to make the cut. He was completely focused on switching gears to a new strategy in hopes that he could have a better day.

"I think the key is going to find that main-lake stuff that's not completely trashy water,” he said, “it’s just a little stained and that's what I'm going to do tomorrow."

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