Lessons learned: Okeechobee

OK, now we’re on Okeechobee and we’re going to talk about the importance of research and knowing your fishery. Everybody knows that you fish the Big O with Junebug-colored plastics. That’s the way it’s been done for years. But, my research indicated that big, heavy jigs were taking over during the postspawn. I know that because that’s what the tournament winners were throwing down there.

During the first day of practice, I tied one on but put it in my rod locker. I decided to start with a conventional plastic bait. When I didn’t get many bites, I switched to my jig. In the exact same kind of cover I had been fishing, I started catching solid keeper bass.

We all know that Florida bass are supposed to be different, and they are. They’re still bass though. This was a postspawn bite, and they wanted something really big and bulky. That’s pretty much what any other strain of bass would want at that time of the year.

My jig was an ordinary 1-ounce model in black and blue. To give it a little more bulk, I put a second skirt on it. I don’t do that a lot but it’s a great trick if you want to make a lure look bigger. I added a really big trailer to it for even more bulk. My choice was a Berkley Power Bait Power Claw. Believe me when I tell you this ended up being a giant fishing lure.

I targeted the outside edge of emergent grass, not the submergent stuff. Cattails, reeds and bulrushes were the thing. Anywhere there was a point to them or an indent in them, there was a bass sitting there waiting to feed.

My tackle was important. Throwing a heavy jig with two skirts and a huge trailer into emergent vegetation in Florida isn’t for wimps. I used an 8 foot Abu Garcia Villain heavy action rod, a high-speed Abu Garcia Revo STX reel and 65-pound-test Stealth Spiderwire. When they bury in that stuff, you have to have heavy tackle to get them out. Nothing less will do the job.

And, while we’re talking about buried fish, let me give you a tip. Don’t try to pull and jerk on your rod to get them out when they’re hung. Keep tension on your line and move the boat to the fish. Pull it out with your hand if you can reach it. If you can’t do that, work on it from on top. Pulling and jerking when you’re 50 feet away from the fish will get you nothing but limp line.

Anyway, let’s get back to Okeechobee. Research is what this tournament was all about. I’ve fished there before, but if I hadn’t spent hours and hours studying what was going on I’d never have known to try a jig. Preparation is about more than sharpening hooks and spooling with fresh line. We all need to read maps and check out everything we can find on the Internet.

You can also find Mike Iaconelli on Facebook and Twitter.

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