Sizing up the Big O

I absolutely love Lake Okeechobee. I’ve been coming here for 6 years and she’s just as beautiful and mysterious as ever. The fishing has been good for me so far this week, which worries me a little. My best finishes here have come after a poor practice. I was able to fish in the moment, which is beneficial since what you did yesterday hardly ever works tomorrow.

Bass on the Big O move so fast. It’s not week-to-week or even day-to-day, it’s minute by minute down here. You have to be in precisely the right place at precisely the right time. True, the same can be said for any lake but take the normal lake and multiply it times 100 and you end up with Lake Okeechobee. Decisions are everything here.

I had a decent first day of practice with around 17 pounds that I hooked. Day two was about the same with the addition of a 7-pound kicker, which bumped me up around 23. On the third day of practice I didn’t stick many and spent most of the day looking for spawners.

Naturally, I wish I hadn’t stuck anything, but when you pitch into a mat it’s really hard to tell what tugs on the other end. A 12-pounder and a 12-incher can feel very similar up until the hookset. So the first few bites I get in an area I typically stick to see what they are. That’s the only way to weed out the areas with smaller fish.

Though I haven’t seen a single fish on bed, I’m not sure this thing won’t be won bed fishing. Likely by an angler who doesn’t even know it yet. Over the past few years I’ve seen these fish jump up on bed in a matter of minutes. The Okeechobee area just had a major cold front, which acts like a mini winter to these fish. The last few days have been warm and getting sunnier. That’s typically all it takes to fire up a wave of spawners. Add in the new moon on Wednesday and you have the perfect recipe for a sight fishing slugfest.

A lot of guys are poor mouthing the fishing but I’m going to predict 70-75 pounds will win this thing. The field is small at 49 boats but what it lacks in size it makes up for in heavy hitters. These guys are good and someone is bound to stumble on the mother load. If the fish don’t move up, it will be won like 75% of the tournaments here, punching.

Here’s to hoping I’m the guy “punching” my Wild Card ticket to the Classic. I’ll have a flippin’ stick in hand most of the day so at least I’ll have a chance.