Robertson busts big Day 3 bag

Yesterday, Kentucky boater Matthew Robertson lamented his lack of big bites. Catching 19-14 on Day 1 and 17-8 on Day 2 sent him to today’s Championship round in third place in the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Southeastern Regional on Lake Okeechobee, but he knew he needed to find the big bag today if he’s to have a shot at winning.

Robertson may have just put himself in contention with a Day 3 bag that weighed 22-8 and pushed his tournament total to 59-14.

“I said ‘If Okeechobee didn’t show out I was going to talk bad about her,” Robertson joked.

Apparently, Florida’s largest lake was listening.

Pierce may need to change up for Day 3

Mark Pierce of Cadiz, Ky., who lead the tournament with 23 pounds 12 ounces on Day 1 of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Southeastern Regional on Lake Okeechobee, experienced less productivity on Day 2 with only a 10-pound limit. His two-day total of 33-12 temporarily regained the lead but soon yielded to successively heavier weights, including the 43-8 that has South Carolina’s Bryan Gunter leading the event.

Pierce had been targeting the prespawn areas where fish commonly chase the swim jig and spinnerbait that served him well on Day 1. Returning to the same area in the second round, he met with a cold reception. He found only five keeper bites, compared to the dozen that Day 1 produced.

“I’m not sure what happened (yesterday); I think they moved back a little farther or they may have decided to start spawning,” Pierce said. “I was catching them on moving baits and they just weren’t having it today. 

“I tried to slow down and flip, but I probably didn’t give them enough time. I might have to change areas (today).”

Nation Okeechobee - Day 2 Big Bass Showcase

After a respectable showing on Day 1 of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Southeastern Regional on Lake Okeechobee, flexed its muscles with a more generous showing of Sunshine State footballs. By comparison, the first round yielded three bags over 20 pounds, two of which broke 22. Today’s weigh ins saw five over 20, with four over 22.

Several anglers turned in hefty limits, including top boater Bryan Gunter, who backed up the 20-pound limit he weighed on Day 1 with a Day-2 limit of 23-8. Gunter’s second-round catch was the tournament’s second-largest, behind Day-1 leader Mark Pierce’s 23-12.

A couple of standouts:

Virginia boater Jeff Lugar (second place on Day 2) anchored his 19-pound, 13-ounce limit with a 9-10 that was only a few ounces on his personal best.

Kentucky boater Mike Boggs made a big move from 28th place on Day 1 to sixth by weighing 22-3 — with a 4-fish bag. With two fish of 7-plus pounds in his bag, Boggs said he lost three more big fish that would have completed his limit.

All bass 8 pounds and over are eligible for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Trophy Catch program. For details and submissions, visit Trophycatch.com

Non-boater Abegg finds personal best

Non-boater Zeke Abegg of the Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation team electrified the Day 2 weigh-in at the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Southeast Regional on Lake Okeechobee, with a three-fish limit of 18 pounds, 9 ounces — the heaviest of his division. Abegg’s impressive catch included his personal best, an 8-4 that qualified for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Trophy Catch Program.

After placing 85th on Day 1 with one fish for 1-7, Egg rocketed into (unofficially) third place. Noting that he caught his fish by flipping soft plastics in shallow vegetation, Abegg said the protected area on the lake’s south end was key.

“It was calm where we were, so I had the ability to just sit and let the boat (soak),” he said. “Once you get out of the wind, you can fish a little slower.”

Abegg said he saw beds in the area he fished, but he surmises that his opportunity was made possible by the dynamics of a Florida spring. Unlike sight fishing bedding bass, which strongly favors the boater, the prespawn stage that many Okeechobee bass are currently in, can be a non-boater’s dream, as it avails equal, if not better opportunity for the back of the boat.

“The big girls are moving in, the males are in the back building beds,” Abegg said. “The fish come in waves over two to three weeks. I think some are finding beds and some are moving in. We caught (approximately) 20 fish and I got lucky enough to catch the three biggest. 

“We watch it on TV and we hear about Okeechobee and come down here. When you feel a bite, you don’t know if it’s going to be the fish of a lifetime or if it’s just going to be another 2-pounder. But hold on because they get real big here.”

Afternoon delight in Florida

While a few anglers reported early action on Day 1 of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Southeastern Regional on Lake Okeechobee, it seemed like the greater portion of quality catches came from later flights.

Mark Pierce of Cadiz, Ky., who leads the tournament with 23 pounds 12 ounces, actually reported good catches throughout the day, with an uptick in the latter half. 

Weighing in a couple spots before Pierce, non-boater Mike Caul had the event’s heaviest bass, a 9-8 that he found later in the day. 

Notably, third-place boater Bryan Gunter caught an 8-7 when he returned midday to a spot he had fished in the morning. It is possible that he simply did not intersect with that fish on his first visit, but Florida bass do like their afternoon warmth — especially during the spawn — so this could very well have been a classic example of a new arrival.

The Wednesday night rains left the area slightly cooler, but overnight lows didn’t make any appreciable dip, so the fish aren’t likely to have any dramatic response. 

Today’s forecasted high of 73 is a little less than yesterday, which reached into the upper 70s. Good thing is we’ll be on a warming trend through Friday’s conclusion and that’s the right direction for these sensitive Florida bass.

It will be interesting to see if the afternoon bite plays a significant role today.

A fine fish

Posing with a fine Florida fish.

Update by George Collins Jr. 

Getting it done

Getting it done on Day 2 in Florida.

A Florida pig

A Florida pig found during Day 2.

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