UPCOMING EVENT: Rayovac FLW Series - 2015 - Lake Champlain

Record-breaking redemption

Pro winner Brandon McMillan holds up his two biggest bass from day four on Lake Okeechobee.

CLEWISTON, Fla. - Lake Okeechobee is back, and the bass fishing has never been better. No one knows that more than local Belle Glade, Fla., pro Brandon McMillan. Fresh off a second-place finish at the recent EverStart Series event, McMillan surpassed the coveted 100-pound mark and set the new Walmart FLW Tour record for heaviest total weight. The win is special for McMillan for several reasons. For starters, he led the EverStart event with one day left only to slip to second. And in 2009, his father Jimmy won the FLW Series event on Okeechobee. The family now has claimed two Tour-level victories in three years on the Big O, hauling in a quarter-million dollars in the process. Brandon McMillan celebrates after winning the 2011 FLW Tour opener on Lake Okeechobee.McMillan started the tournament determined to flip mats, despite the urge to sight-fish in the warm, sunny weather. The more pressure the lake received, the stronger his pattern got as the chopped-up vegetation (eel grass, cattails, hydrilla, Kissimmee grass) served as the perfect retreat for weary prespawn females. Later in the tournament he caught a few postspawn bass - meaning he worked the ideal pattern in that fish were both coming and going to the mats. He wasn't getting as many bites as the other finalists, but the average size was much bigger. McMillan focused on the Dyess Ditch area of the lake, located approximately 12 miles southwest of the Kissimmee River. This was the same area he fished during the EverStart event. On day one he caught 27 pounds; on day two he sacked 28-14. Yesterday he put 25-5 in the boat, and today he rallied from fourth to first on the strength of a 25-pound, 7-ounce limit. "When I started this tournament, I didn't think sight-fishing could go the distance," McMillan explained. "I thought flipping was the deal, but when they whacked them like that the first two days it worried me. I didn't know if I'd be able to catch up. I didn't know I could win under the mats, but I thought I had enough to make the top 20." But the near-perfect weather experienced the first three days changed significantly Sunday. Clouds Pro winner Brandon McMillan celebrates with his father and brother after winning the 2011 FLW Tour opener on Lake Okeechobee.rolled in and the wind picked up - all but killing the sight-bite for pro leader Chad Prough and second-place Peter Thliveros. While the minor front made a difference, McMillan said that his experience at the EverStart event taught him how to relax and execute when the title is on the line. "I never missed a beat today, and that's what I'm most proud of. I got five good bites, and I put all of them in the boat." McMillan's key baits this week were a black-and-blue Bruiser Intruder and a Gambler BB Cricket in river-bug color. He mainly used the Intruder, but if the mat was too thick, he'd pitch the Cricket. Both lures were tied to 80-pound Sufix braid and presented with either a 1-ounce or 1 1/2-ounce weight. His preferred rod was a 7 1/2-foot G. Loomis flipping stick. As for his future fishing plans, the 27-year-old UPS driver is signed up for the remaining three FLW Tour Opens. "I am going to see how I do in those and then reevaluate. But this win changes everything; I won't have For winning the 2011 FLW Tour season opener, pro Brandon McMillan claimed $125,000.to make a house payment for many years. "I've dreamed about this (winning) for a long time; I watched my dad do it. To go head to head against guys like Tharp, Morgan, Scroggins and Peter T. is just unbelievable. And to win it here, in front of everybody I know and grew up with - it doesn't get any better than that." For a total weight of 106 pounds, 10 ounces, McMillan earned $125,000. He also etched his name in the FLW Tour record books next to heaviest total weight. Tharp second One of Randall Tharp's biggest goals in bass fishing is to win at Lake Okeechobee. While Guntersville is considered his home lake, he travels to Okeechobee every winter to enter a few tournaments and sample some of the best bass fishing southern Florida has to offer. This year Tharp moved to Okeechobee early and has spent nearly two months whacking and stacking. He took fifth at the EverStart and was among a handful of pretournament favorites for the Tour event. The title once again proved elusive, but Tharp seemed comfortable with this result. In years past, he's lost under some unusual circumstances such as mechanical failure. "I just wanted one of us to win this tournament," said Tharp, who fished within sight of McMillan all week. "I would have liked it to be me, but Brandon's a class act. If you would have told me that I EverStart pro Randall Tharp finished the FLW Tour opener on Lake Okeechobee in second place with 102 pounds, 2 ounces.would've caught over 100 pounds and not won the tournament, I would have said you're crazy. I will get my win down there (Okeechobee), there is no doubt I will." There is clearly a mutual respect between the two anglers. McMillan said the most nerve-wracking part of the entire week was watching Tharp stick fish. When Tharp caught his kicker Sunday, McMillan said he about puked. On day two when Tharp broke his strongest flipping stick, McMillan was kind enough to loan him one. Each angler would start on opposite sides of the 300-yard stretch and work their way to the middle, which was typically the best part of the mat. They'd meet each day at approximately 9:15 a.m. Amazingly, neither angler broke the pattern to start on the sweet spot. "We slugged it out; I can't describe how intense it was. I have never experienced the emotions I felt that final day. My adrenaline is still going. I really knew it was going to come down to either him or me." Tharp's day-four stringer weighed 20 pounds, 14 ounces - pushing him over the century mark to 102-2. For finishing in second place, he earned $35,000. Before he heads to Beaver Lake for the first FLW Tour Major, he'll make a detour and fish his first-ever Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans. Tharp's main flipping bait was the Attraxx Mystic Bug with either a 1 1/4- or 1 1 1/2-ounce tungsten weight. When he spotted a fish on bed, he would use the new Attraxx Predator Craw with a 1/4-ounce weight, a bait he specifically designed. Tharp tied 70-pound Diawa Samurai braid to the Bug, 55-pound braid to the Craw. Prough falls to third After catching 30-pound-plus limits each of the first two days, Prough slowly saw his bountiful Chad Prough wails on another one.area run dry. His day-four catch weighed 13 pounds and pushed his total weight to 100 pounds, 15 ounces. For third place, the Chipley, Fla., native earned $30,000. "I have no regrets," said Prough. "These were the best four days of my life, and I gave it everything I had." Prough shared the Kings Bar area with Thliveros and Fred Roumbanis. As the bite dwindled, Prough performed the best among the three - an impressive feat considering this was his first Tour-level event. "It was cloudier and windier for sure, but I think most of the females finished and left. This morning I had to resort to catching a limit of bucks. At 10 a.m. I knew it was time to vacate, and I ended up upgrading in other areas." Like McMillan, Prough used the Bruiser Intruder. He also mixed in a Reactions Innovations Trixie Shark as a search tool. The Trixie Shark was especially productive early in the tournament. Scroggins fourth Terry "Big Show" Scroggins put on a big show in his first-ever FLW Tour event - catching a 12-pound, 2-ounce bass Sunday, the biggest of the four-day slugfest. He found that brute at 9 in the morning. Terry Scroggins shows off a 12-pound, 2-ounce bass he caught on day four of the FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee.Unfortunately, he was unable to pair it with any other kickers, and his stringer weighed only 22 pounds, 1 ounce. Scroggins finished the tournament with 99 pounds, 9 ounces - earning $25,000. Like many, Scroggins employed a two-pronged approach. His search bait was a Smithwick Devil's Horse, which was particularly effective because he could stop it over a bed and it would retain its position. In contrast, some of the more popular swimbaits like the Skinny Dipper and Big EZ sink when paused. "I nicknamed the Devil's Horse the donkey, because you fish it slow and steady. A lot of times they just roll on it, but then they've shown themselves and I could pitch back to it." Once he had a female located, Scroggins would employ a Yum Money Craw (molting-craw color). "I had three 7-pounders saved for today, but they must have swam off over night." Scroggins' primary area, located near the mouth of the Kissimmee River, was shared earlier in the week with 11th- and 12th-place pros Glenn Browne and Trevor Fitzgerald. Powroznik fifth Each of the last two days, Duracell/Gillette pro Jacob Powroznik covered so much water in search of Fifth-place pro Jacob Powroznik holds up his two biggest bass from day four on Lake Okeechobee.spawning bass that his trolling-motor batteries died. It was a pattern he committed to from the start, and instead of focusing on open areas, he pushed his boat back into thick reeds and hydrilla. He focused his efforts on the north end of the lake, up around Horse Island. On day four the Prince George, Va., native caught a limit worth 18 pounds, 2 ounces - by far his lightest sack of the week. His lone kicker Sunday weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces and fell to a Gambler Big EZ swimbait. Powroznik's four-day cumulative weight registered 95 pounds even, good enough for fifth place and $20,000. "I caught 95 percent of my fish this week on a new Attraxx bait I designed called the Jacobug," said Powroznik. "The best color was watermelon-red, but I also used white. "Today might have been a different story if the weather had been different. The clouds and wind made it much harder to sight-fish. Where I was fishing, there was 4 feet of water. They were spawning underneath the hydrilla, and you had to look under there, which was tough without the sun." Rest of the best Rounding out the top 10 pros at the FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee: 6th: Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., 89-1, $17,000 7th: Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Okla., 85-3, $16,000 + $500 from Big Bass 8th: Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 84-9, $15,000 9th: Peter Thliveros of Saint Augustine, Fla., 82-14, $14,000 10th: Jake Morris of McKee, Ky., 82-8, $13,000 The next FLW Tour event is slated for Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark., March 3-6, the first of six Majors.

Tags: headline-story 

/news/2015-08-01-browne-sticks-to-the-bank-to-win

Browne Sticks To The Bank To Win

A lot would have had to happen for Glenn Browne to relinquish his hard-earned lead on the final day of the Rayovac FLW Series event presented by Plano on Lake Champlain. It turned out that a lot did happen, but with help from his friends and a great pattern, Glenn Browne socked 18 pounds, 7 ounces on the final day for a 63-pound, 8-ounce total and a payday of $34,097 plus a new Ranger Z518 with a 200-hp outboard. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-01-champlain-midday-update-day-3

Champlain Midday Update Day 3

Day three of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Plano on Lake Champlain started with a beautiful sunrise and light rain that had tapered off by the beginning of takeoff. For leader Glenn Browne, the beauty was soon marred by a breakdown that occurred shortly into his run south. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-31-top-5-patterns-from-champlain-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Champlain Day 2

Day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Plano on Lake Champlain definitely shook up the leaderboard. While Glenn Browne took a huge lead, the rest of the pack swapped around and remained pretty tight. Browne is catching his fish down south near Ticonderoga, but the north end has also produced very well for the rest of the field. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-31-browne-crushes-again-leads-by-6-

Browne Crushes Again, Leads By 6+

Averaging 20 pounds or more is a difficult thing to do in a multi-day tournament on Lake Champlain, but Glenn Browne might be on his way to doing it in the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Plano. After two days, the Ocala, Fla., pro has run to Ticonderoga twice and sacked up nearly identical bags for a total of 45 pounds, 8 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-31-champlain-midday-update-day-2

Champlain Midday Update Day 2

While day one of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Plano on Lake Champlain was wracked by high winds and rain in the morning, day two has been almost as good as Champlain can be. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-30-cioppa-leads-on-champlain

Cioppa Leads On Champlain

David Cioppa of Hopkinton, Mass., weighed 22 pounds, 13 ounces late in the weigh-in to grab the lead after the first day of the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Champlain. Cioppa weighed all largemouths and says that he caught the entirety of his weight by about 9 a.m. from one location in the northern end of the lake. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-30-top-5-patterns-from-champlain-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Champlain Day 1

Lake Champlain was rough and wild on day one of the Rayovac FLW Series event presented by Plano, and a bunch of the anglers still got it done in a big way. David Cioppa caught largemouths in the Inland Sea, but the rest of the top guys spread out all over the massive lake. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-30-champlain-midday-update-day-1

Champlain Midday Update Day 1

Takeoff was placid enough, with a beautiful sunrise and a light breeze in the slightly protected corner that is Plattsburgh. By about 6:30 a.m., day one of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Plano on Lake Champlain was already beginning to get rough. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-21-top-picks-from-icast

Top Picks From ICAST

A few days of walking the floor at ICAST is enough to exhaust a body, but it isn’t enough to know exactly what’s worthwhile. For that, you need some time to reflect and probably a few tournament seasons to fly by to see what rises up. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-20-renfrew-fished-to-win

Renfrew Fished to Win

Ian Renfrew of Phoenix, New York, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Northeast Division tournament on Oneida Lake presented by Navionics. For his victory, Renfrew earned $4,695. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-20-docks-and-rocks-key-for-synders

Docks and Rocks Key for Synders

Rus Snyders of Nashville, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds, 6 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Music City Division tournament on Old Hickory Lake presented by Navionics. For his victory, Snyders earned $2,703. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-20-jig-crankbait-carry-powroznik

Jig, Crankbait Carry Powroznik

Ryan Powroznik of Prince George, Virginia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 15 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Piedmont Division tournament on the James River. For his victory, Powroznik earned $7,507. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-20-persistence-pays-for-arning

Persistence Pays for Arning

Ray Arning Jr. of Walnut Hill, Illinois, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 13 pounds, 5 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Illini Division tournament on Rend Lake presented by Navionics. For his victory, Arning earned $5,804. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-17-new-rod-roundup

New Rod Roundup

Rod companies continue to impress each year with a new crop of lighter, faster and more affordable (sweet!) rods. On the subject of price, these days, a tournament pro or an average angler could be fishing with rods that cost less than $100 apiece, but without giving up anything in the realm of quality. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-17-new-terminal-tackle

New Terminal Tackle

Don’t skimp where it counts the most – terminal tackle. Hooks, weights, jigheads and the like are the keys to taking all those new soft baits and swimbaits to the fish, hooking them and getting them in the boat. Here’s the best stuff we saw on the floor at ICAST 2015. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-16-flw-announces-2016-tour-schedule

FLW Announces 2016 Tour Schedule

FLW announced the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour regular-season schedule today in a live press conference held at the 2015 ICAST show in Orlando, Fla. With the help of six veteran Tour pros, the company unveiled each of the six events, one-by-one, to a crowd of observers gathered around the FLW booth. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-16-6-new-reels-to-try

6 New Reels to Try

Whether you need to replace an old reel or you’re just looking to add to the arsenal, here are some of the latest and greatest from ICAST. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-16-6-new-lines-from-icast-2015

6 New Lines from ICAST 2015

Line might just be the most important part of the package when it comes to landing fish. From presenting the bait to getting them in the net, your line is involved the entire way. If you’re looking for something new to try, the following lines are worth a shot. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-16-icast-best-of-show-winners-

ICAST Best Of Show Winners

One of the highlights of ICAST is the annual “Best of Show” awards. Not everything at ICAST is of interest to bass anglers, but the below might end up being staples for a long time to come. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-16-10-new-frogs-and-toads

10 New Frogs and Toads

These days, frogs and toads aren’t just mimicking frogs and toads. They’re designed to be perfect imitations of rats, bream and various oddball creatures. New models at ICAST this season offer anglers some of these “alternative” species, as well as new sizes, colors, action types and degrees of realism. Here are 10 new models that we feel are of greatest interest. Click here for complete 2015 ICAST coverage. READ MORE »