"Okeechobee" comes from the Hitchiti words for "big" and "water," and it more than lives up to that name. Covering roughly half a million surface acres, the Big O is the second largest freshwater lake located entirely within the United States (only Lake Michigan is larger). The 2010 Southern Open season begins here, and you'd think the field would be spread out over such a big body of water, but anglers tend to congregate around well-known areas with colorful names like the Monkey Box and Moonshine Bay.
BASS has held 18 previous professional events on Okeechobee, dating back to 1980. The most recent Open there was held in January 2006 and was won by Elite Series pro Chris Lane with a catch tallying 54-12. Most of Lane's bass fell to topwater frogs.
With this tournament coming in mid-January, a myriad of tactics could prove successful, from sight fishing for spawning largemouths to pitching and flipping heavy grass to topwater frogs.
At 21,200 surface acres, Alabama's Smith Lake is positively petite next to Lake Okeechobee. But what Smith lacks in expansiveness it makes up for in depth. Okeechobee is a shallow puddle compared with Smith's depths of better than 200 feet.
The deep, clear lake has hosted four previous BASS professional events, including the second tournament ever conducted by BASS founder Ray Scott. Most recently, Smith was the site of an Elite 50 event in 2005 that was won by Arkansas Elite Series pro Mark Davis.
With the 2010 Southern Open event on Smith going off in the middle of May, there should be a wide variety of methods in play. Though most of the bass will be postspawn at this time, there could still be a few fish on their beds.
Located at the intersection of Georgia, Florida and Alabama, 37,500-acre Lake Seminole has a rich history of professional bass fishing.
In 1968, Seminole hosted the very first BASS event (the third conducted by BASS founder Ray Scott). In 1970 it was the site of Roland Martin's first career win. Seminole hasn't hosted a BASS professional tournament since 2003 when Gary Klein won the Bassmaster Tour event there with just less than 70 pounds over four days of competition.
By mid-October, Seminole is just starting to feel the effects of fall after a long, hot summer. Some bass may be clinging to their summertime haunts, but many more will be moving into the creeks in search of shad. This event could be won anywhere from top to bottom.
Lake Amistad jumped into the tournament limelight in 2006 at the first-ever Elite Series tournament. That's when Ishama Monroe nearly eclipsed BASS' four-day tournament weight mark with 104 pounds, 8 ounces. Since then, Amistad has slowed down very little.
Big catches are still possible here, though they tend to come a little earlier in the year, before the bass have spawned. By mid-April, most of the lunkers are off the banks and holding in the scattered submerged timber.
Big swimbaits, giant crankbaits, Carolina and Texas rigs and well-placed stickworms will all take bass here at this time of year. More of a location lake in recent years than a pattern lake, whoever finds the mother lode is going to cash in.
The Red River's BASS history isn't long, but it is significant. It began in 2000 when Elite Series pro Brent Chapman won the Louisiana Invitational with just over 50 pounds of bass in three days. More recently, Skeet Reese claimed the 2009 Bassmaster Classic here.
In 2008, Elite Series pro Billy McCaghren won a Central Open on the river with 54 pounds of bass. That was in April. With the 2010 event coming in June, things will be different, and bags are likely to be a little lighter.
By June, the bass in the river will have spawned. Many will be out on the main channel, holding behind breaks and waiting for forage to drift by. Others may find cover-filled backwaters full of baitfish and crawfish. Whatever the pattern, though, expect a close and hard-fought tournament.
Lake Texoma has been the site of six previous BASS professional tournaments, including the 1979 Bassmaster Classic won by the legendary Hank Parker. Most recently, Texoma has been a popular site for Central Opens, hosting one in 2007 and another in 2008.
The 12th largest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake in the country, Texoma covers nearly 75,000 surface acres at full pool. Since the Red River is one of its major tributaries, it means there are two Central Opens in 2010 that will feature the Red.
Not known for giant catches or easy fishing, Texoma has been a tough nut to crack for the Opens pros. In 2007, Brian Clark prevailed with just better than 40 pounds of bass over three days. In 2008, Terry Butcher took home the top check with 46 1/2 pounds. This will be the first time BASS has visited the lake in early October.
The Open anglers at Lake Champlain will have a tough choice to make. Should they fish for the lake's more famous and more numerous smallmouth or gamble on fewer but heavier largemouth. In 2006, BASS legend Denny Brauer opted for largemouth on the way to his 16th career win and 80 pounds, 3 ounces of bass. A year later, Tim Horton made the same decision as he boated 83-10.
Both anglers fished jigs, but Brauer was pitching and flipping his to shallow cover while Horton was casting to offshore structure.
In 2010, Northern Open anglers will have to make the same decisions — go after the more plentiful smallmouth or go for broke and hope for action from the bigger largemouth. They'll also have to choose between shallow cover and offshore structure. No matter which way they go, they're probably going to catch bass on this amazing fishery. The winner will simply have to catch the bigger ones.
The Motor City conjures up images of muscle cars and American industry. Bass fishing is not usually one of the things you think of when you think of Detroit.
Maybe that should change. The second event on the Northern Opens schedule will be held in Detroit on the Detroit River. It'll be the first professional level tournament that BASS has ever held on these waters, and anglers should be very optimistic about the fishing they'll find.
In August 2006, a Bassmaster Weekend Series tournament on the river produced some eye-opening catches. In a one-day event, two of the 29 anglers had limits that weighed more than 20 pounds, and 18 anglers weighed in double-digit catches. Detroit's obviously alive and well and producing lots of bass!
BASS has only visited the Chesapeake Bay twice in its 40-plus year history. Once was for the crown jewel of the sport — the Bassmaster Classic — and the other was for the 2009 Northern Open in April.
Dave Mansue won the 2009 Open here and figures to be a factor again in 2010, though the tactics that are most likely to win will change. Mansue fished a heavy football jig in deep water for the bulk of his 47-6 winning catch.
By late September, summertime should have lost its grip on the bay, and a wide variety of tactics should be working for the Opens pros.