After starting the year with a solid showing at Cherokee Lake, it's time to turn our focus to the Sunshine State and Lake Okeechobee. I managed to grab two anglers in the Top 12 and one other in the Top 51, but two Cherokee picks fell out of the cut and ended in 68th and 91st respectively.
With that being said, my picks have no "cute-factor" at Okeechobee as I have to pick some heavy hitters that can get the job done on an inconsistent Florida bite. With nine Florida anglers in the field and numerous others that used to call it home, there will be plenty of opportunities to pick some local flavor.
Here are my picks for the second Elite Series event on Lake Okeechobee. This one should be a slugfest.
BUCKET A: R. LANE
My pick: Russ Lane
This isn’t Bobby or Chris Lane, so it may be a shocker, but Russ Lane can flat out flip up some biggins’ out of heavy cover. Momentum from Cherokee certainly should keep his results on a positive upward swing.
Watch out for: Alton Jones, Jordan Lee
It seems that Alton Jones gets a high finish any time a fish could be spawning. Mix in some grass and it says A. Jones all over this fishery. Jordan Lee is truly on my “Watch List” every event, because there may not be a hotter angler over the last three years than the youngest Lee.
BUCKET B: FAIRCLOTH
My pick: Todd Faircloth
Faircloth is a sneaky pick at most venues because he is one of the quietest guys in the Elite Series, but he may have the loudest track record on grass fisheries. Swim jig, flippin’, topwater: He’s proven himself with any variation of Florida tactics.
Watch out for: Bradley Roy
Last year was a big year for Roy as a pro angler. He made the Classic and found consistency for an entire year, something he hadn’t accomplished from start to finish since his rookie year. With a good start to 2017 it doesn’t look like Roy is letting up and has found his groove.
BUCKET C: HACKNEY
My pick: Greg Hackney
If I could pick Greg Hackney at almost every venue I would, but I just can’t do that and live with myself. This week, though, seems like a perfect big rod, big line event, and Hackney is one of the best at it.
Watch out for: Brett Preuett, John Hunter
These two 2016 rookies had some ups and downs their first year, but both are looking for redemption this year. Both seem to feel more comfortable with a heavy cover setup rather than finesse tackle so they may exhale and feel right at home in Florida.
BUCKET D: BLAYLOCK
My pick: Stetson Blaylock
After a slight stub of the toe at Cherokee, Blaylock should feel much more comfortable hitting the shores of Okeechobee where he has multiple years of tournament experience. A familiar venue could get him back to the top where many people expected him to compete this year.
Watch out for: Fletcher Shryock
Although Shryock cut his pre-practice on the Big O short to see his brother Hunter fish the final day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open on the Harris Chain, he should be well enough prepared to fish his favorite style.
BUCKET E: REESE
My pick: Skeet Reese
It’s not often that you scan down the standings and find Skeet Reese in the 90’s. A bounce back is certainly in order, and why not do it on a lake he’s notched a Top 12 before.
Watch out for: Florida boys
With a plethora of Florida anglers in Bucket E (Benton, Prince, Tacoronte, S. Grigsby), there are numerous guys who should bounce back in event No. 2. Even with those choices it’ll be hard to resist Chris Lane who originally hails from Florida and has won at Okeechobee. Of course, Lucas should get plenty of consideration as well.