UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

Breaking through on the Big O

Pro winner Randall Tharp holds up part of his 23-pound, 2-ounce final-day stringer.

CLEWISTON, Fla. - In his brief time as a professional bass fisherman, Randall Tharp has achieved considerable success - numerous Triple-A wins, top-10 finishes and over a half million dollars in career earnings. But up until today, he'd never won the big one - falling just short last year at both Okeechobee and at the Forrest Wood Cup. This week he was able to accomplish two of his biggest goals simultaneously - winning a Walmart FLW Tour event and winning a major tournament on the Big O.

Tharp has been performing at such a high level lately his victory is hardly a surprise. Even he knew it. Randall Tharp celebrates after learning he won the 2012 FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee.After finishing second to friend Brandon McMillan last year, Tharp prophetically said on stage, "I will get my win down here; there is no doubt I will."

Tharp proved to be a man of his word. Coming in to this event, he had six consecutive top-10 finishes on Okeechobee spanning FLW and BASS competition. The EverStart pro and wife his Sara travel to the lake every winter to shoot television shows, enter a few tournaments and sample some of the best bass fishing southern Florida has to offer. It's become almost a second home. This year, they headed south on Nov. 15 and with his free time, Tharp learned as much as he could about every single mat on the lake.

Then he went to work - catching giant stringers the first two days and then grinding it out as the blustery cold front arrived. He had several different areas, all located from the Monkey Box to Horse Island/Dyess Ditch - areas Tharp believes simply hold the biggest bass on the lake.

Each day he concentrated on one technique - flipping, and the bait he used might surprise some people. Instead of the more popular brand-name baits, Tharp flipped a Bitter's Best Value BFM (Bigger, Fatter, Muskrat), a beaver-style bait in Black Blue Glitter color. The retail price on these BFMs? A whopping $5 for two packs of 10. Tharp would rig the bait on either a 1 1/2 or a 2-ounce black tungsten weight depending on the wind and how compact the mats were. He would tie the BFM to 70-pound Diawa She shows off for the camera. Samurai braid and flip with a 7-foot, 11-inch Halo Twilight Series rod.

"I tried to make something else work in the three days of practice, but it never happened," said the EverStart pro. "So going into the tournament I knew I was going to flip the thickest, nastiest mats. But I didn't know what areas were going to be the real deal. The whole key to me winning was knowing when to go to the good places. Once the fish started biting, I'd run to those big-fish areas. Waiting to go to those key places was painful. But if I would have gone there earlier, I would have screwed them up."

Tharp described the action in some of these better areas as a game of chess.

"I know where all the best stretches of mat are. From there it was just determining what was and what wasn't getting fished and managing them accordingly. The key area I used today and on day two really had smaller, isolated mats. I made good moves for four days."

To cement his dominating week, Tharp sacked 23 pounds, 2 ounces on a day when only four of the top 10 pros caught a limit. His total weight of 101 pounds, 12 ounces gave him back-to-back Okeechobee tournaments over the century mark and the new FLW Tour record for margin of victory (23-9). Tharp EverStart pro Randall Tharp gets his long-coveted win on Lake Okeechobee.earned $125,000.

"I've been coming down here now for six years and I still can't get enough of it. My first bass I ever caught was on this lake. I've said many times if I could win one tournament in my career it would be here. So now I've got that out of the way and I can set my sights on other places. But this place has always been No. 1 for me."

The only thing Tharp didn't do this week was break McMillan's total weight record.

"I want to dedicate this win to Jimmy and the McMillan family," Tharp said. "They've been through a lot. Jimmy was probably the best fisherman to ever fish this lake and ever will fish it and his sons are following in his footsteps and he's proud of them. I guarantee it."

Cox hangs on to second

John Cox of Debary, Fla., never threatened Tharp Sunday with a small limit weighing only 8 pounds, 6 ounces. But he was able to tap into a unique postspawn pattern right outside the off-limits area, just past Roland and Mary Ann Martin's Marina. After takeoff the first day, Cox faked engine problems as the field drove past him so as not to tip off his location.

Despite catching a small limit Sunday, John Cox retained his second-place position on the leaderboard, earning $35,000.Catching 25-pound-plus sacks the first two days, everything was going according to plan until the wind shifted to the north.

"Today I decided to go north and flip mats in an area that was nice and calm," said Cox, who fished in the Taylor Creek area on day four. "It's an area I was saving. I check it every year when I come to Okeechobee. It always looks good, but it never produced in practice until this year."

The mats really didn't produce much as Cox caught only a few keepers flipping. Most of his catch randomly came from throwing a small square-bill crankbait around the "V" in the lock area.

Each of the past three days, Cox started his morning with a Rattle Head spinnerbait. Then he eventually switched to flipping a Rattle Head football-head jig tipped with a Reactions Innovations Beaver. Early in the week pitching the jig to pencil reeds and then shaking the rod proved especially effective.

For finishing in second place with a total weight of 78 pounds, 3 ounces, he earned $35,000.

"Randall really deserves this and I'm pretty darn happy with second. It was definitely worth it to go up north today - that kept me where I am. My other area was just trashed by the wind."

York rises to third

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the windy weather during the final round was Monroe, Ga., pro Jeremy York, who caught a 13-pound, 5-ounce stringer Sunday from Uncle Joe's Cut. York, who took 12th last year on Okeechobee, finished this year's event third with a total weight of 74 pounds, 2 York misses one and re-rigs his bait while wondering if it was a big one.ounces, earning $30,000.

"The fish down in southern Florida are just so much different," he said. "I don't want this to sound arrogant, but I understand what they're thinking and how they behave."

York spent the entire week in Uncle Joe's, flipping a 4-inch Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog along a 5-mile stretch of canal. He made approximately a 1 1/2 passes per day, methodically picking apart gator grass in 2 or 3 feet of water.
"They were just not eating it as good today," York said. "It was more of a reaction bite, so they wouldn't get it as deep or hold onto it as long. I lost a 3-pounder right away this morning and two 5-pounders in the last hour of the day."

York said execution when fishing gator grass is extremely difficult.

"That gator grass was tough stuff. It's not like hydrilla or hyacinth; this stuff was connected. There are times when I couldn't get a 12-incher out of there."

Ferguson climbs to fourth

Art Ferguson III caught the second-heaviest stringer of the day and climbed from ninth to finish the tournament in fourth place. His day-four stringer weighed 18 pounds, 4 ounces, pushing his total Fourth-place pro Art Ferguson III shows off his kicker bass from day four on Lake Okeechobee.weight to 71 pounds, 5 ounces - earning $25,000.

During the early part of the week, Ferguson capitalized on a school of bass he found blowing up shiners in practice. They stayed put and the St. Clair Shores, Mich., triggered them by making long casts and slowly reeling in plastic baits such as 10-inch worms, lizards and Senkos.
After day two, he realized he pretty much milked the schooling area for all it was worth. So he made conscious decision to fish conservatively on day three so he would make the top-10 cutoff.

"Craig Powers told me a few years ago that sometimes you have to make business decisions out there," said Ferguson, who used to guide on the Big O. "So that's what I did. I picked up a Senko with a split shot and made sure I got my limit."

After squeaking in with only 6 pounds, Ferguson set the bar higher the final day knowing he couldn't do any worse than 10th.

"When the wind blows like it did today on Okeechobee, you only have a few choices - one of which is a rim canal. So I picked up a Strike King Series 5 crankbait and I had a limit by 8:50 this morning."

Ferguson's schooling fish were located near the Indian Prairie Canal and his crankbait area was the main rim ditch near Uncle Joe's Cut.

McMillan fifth

Six weeks after the tragic murder of his father Jimmy, the 28-year-old McMillan was able to Brandon McMillan looking for a good bite. successfully focus on fishing for a few days. He started off the week strong - catching a giant 33-pound stringer. But then the bite got tougher and McMillan thinks he got too impatient.

"I just wanted to come in and compete," said the 2011 Okeechobee champion. "It's been a challenge the last month or so to think about fishing. But it's been good. I'm happy with what I did this week. The wind and weather just really hurt me."

If he couldn't repeat, he was hoping Tharp would claim his first win.

"He works harder than anyone out here, so he deserves it. I gave it all I have, but he beat me fair and square. That Tharp, he's a tough one to shake."

Like Tharp, McMillan flipped mats in the North Shore and Monkey Box areas. He too used a 1 1/2-ounce weight, although he preferred a Gambler creature bait called Why Not.

The local Clewiston, Fla., resident caught two bass worth 3 pounds, 4 ounces Sunday - by far his lightest sack of the week. McMillan's four-day cumulative weight registered 64 pounds, 6 ounces, good enough for fifth place and $20,000.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee:

6th: Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., 61-12, $17,000
7th: Roland Martin of Naples, Fla., 59-6, $16,000
8th: Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., 56-3, $15,000
9th: Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., 55-8, $14,000
10th: Nick Gainey of Charleston, S.C., 54-5, $13,000

The next FLW Tour event is slated for Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C., March 8-11, the first of six Majors.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2012-02-09-lake-okeechobee 

/news/2016-07-24-1000-islands-top-10-baits

1000 Islands Top 10 Baits

The top pros from the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands kept it pretty simple to catch both largemouths and smallmouths from this massive fishery that includes the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Drop-shots, spinnerbaits and jigs all saw action and got it done from the lake to the river. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-24-penn-state-taps-docks-at-chautauqua-

Penn State Taps Docks at Chautauqua

The Penn State University duo of Clayton Frey of York, Pennsylvania, and Derek Horner, of State College, Pennsylvania, won the FLW College Fishing Northern Conference event at Chautauqua Lake Saturday with five bass weighing 13 pounds, 3 ounces. The victory earned the club $2,000 and qualified the team for the 2017 FLW College Fishing National Championship. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-23-thompson-co-angler-champ-on-1000-islands

Thompson Co-angler Champ on 1000 Islands

The 1000 Islands is a great place to take a vacation, especially if you are from the south and want to escape the heat. That is exactly what co-angler Joe Thompson of Clayton, Ga., did and wound up capturing the top spot in the co-angler division bringing home a Ranger Z117 with a 90 hp motor. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-23-penn-state-university-wins-flw-college-fishing-northern-conference-event-on-chautauqua-lake

Penn State University wins FLW College Fishing Northern Conference Event on Chautauqua Lake

CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. – The Penn State University duo of Clayton Frey of York, Pennsylvania, and Derek Horner, of State College, Pennsylvania, won the FLW College Fishing Northern Conference event at Chautauqua Lake Saturday with five bass weighing 13 pounds, 3 ounces. The victory earned the club $2,000 and qualified the team for the 2017 FLW College Fishing National... READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-23-michigan-s-dobson-leads-wire-to-wire-wins-costa-flw-series-event-at-1000-islands-presented-by-mercury

Michigan’s Dobson leads wire-to-wire, wins Costa FLW Series Event at 1000 Islands presented by Mercury

CLAYTON, N.Y. – Scott Dobson of Clarkston, Michigan, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 21 pounds, 12 ounces Saturday to win the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event at 1000 Islands presented by Mercury with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 68 pounds, 8 ounces. For his win, Dobson earned $82,669, including a new Ranger Z518 with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or... READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-23-dobson-dominates-1000-islands

Dobson Dominates 1000 Islands

Scott Dobson didn’t expect it to come so quickly, but 30 minutes is all it took for him to find the winning pattern during his first day of practice for the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands. That pattern would lead him to three consecutive limits of more than 20 pounds, including today’s final-round bag worth 21-12 – the day’s biggest limit, yet his smallest of the tournament. His three-day total weight of 68-8 earned him a check for more than $37,000 along with a Ranger Z518C with a 200-hp engine for being Ranger Cup qualified. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-22-1000-islands-top-5-patterns-day-2

1000 Islands Top 5 Patterns Day 2

Strong winds limited competition to only the St. Lawrence River on day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands, but that was no problem for the majority of the top 10. Even though most of them fished Lake Ontario on day one, they were able to adjust and stay on the fish today. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-22-dobson-extends-lead-at-1000-islands

Dobson Extends Lead at 1000 Islands

A windy day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event on the 1000 Islands didn’t stop day-one leader Scott Dobson of Clarkston, Mich., from sacking up the biggest bag of the day. Dobson threw down an impressive 22-pound, 3-ounce limit to extend his lead to 5 pounds over Cal Climpson – a noted Lake Ontario maestro. Dobson’s two-day total stands at 46-12, and with lighter winds tomorrow some big bags are expected. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-22-lake-ontario-out-for-day-2

Lake Ontario Out for Day 2

It is never good when you wake up the morning of a tournament and every flag you see is standing straight out at 3 a.m., but that was the case this morning for day two of the Costa FLW Series event on the 1000 Islands. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-21-1000-islands-top-5-patterns-day-1

1000 Islands Top 5 Patterns Day 1

Past experience on this fishery seems to be a big advantage for the top pros through one day of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands. Scott Dobson leads the way with 24 pounds, 9 ounces, yet there are some serious hammers right on his heels. Dobson fished both the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario for his limit, while others went straight to the lake and stayed there. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-21-dobson-drops-24-9

Dobson Drops 24-9

Despite the weights being dropped on the scale for the opening round of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event on the 1000 Islands presented by Mercury, it has actually been a tough day of fishing. Strong winds made it hard for the anglers regardless of if they were fishing the lake or river. Smallmouth guru Scott Dobson of Clarkston, Mich., sacked up 24 pounds, 9 ounces on day one to take a 1-8 lead over Canadian stick Cal Climpson. Dobson utilized both the river and lake for his limit, which could play to his advantage if the wind blows like the weathermen are forecasting tomorrow. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-21-professional-bass-fishing-s-forrest-wood-cup-set-to-visit-wheeler-lake

Professional Bass Fishing’s Forrest Wood Cup set to visit Wheeler Lake

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart, the world championship of professional bass fishing, will visit Wheeler Lake and the Huntsville, Alabama, area August 4-7 to crown bass fishing’s top angler of 2016. Hosted by the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the tournament will feature 50 of the world’s best bass-fishing... READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-21-1000-islands-midday-update-day-1

1000 Islands Midday Update Day 1

Day one of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands hasn’t been about if the wind will blow, but when. Everyone knew the gales were coming eventually. Still, the majority of anglers hung a left out of the dock this morning and charged toward Lake Ontario into a steady breeze that turned into a howling wind by midmorning. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-21-2016-forrest-wood-cup-angler-intro-music

2016 Forrest Wood Cup Angler Intro Music

Each season, the anglers that make the Forrest Wood Cup get to choose the intro music that will play when they walk out on stage at weigh-ins. Naturally, the selections vary as widely as the anglers’ personalities and backgrounds – David Dudley once selected the Chicken Dance song, if that tells you anything. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-21-transition-time-at-1000-islands

Transition Time at 1000 Islands

The second tournament of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division kicked off on 1000 Islands in an event presented by Mercury this morning out of the Clayton Village Ramp. The 137 pros and co-anglers are challenged with the tough task of dissecting not only the massive St. Lawrence River but also Lake Ontario in search of jumbo-size smallmouths. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-20-solving-the-1000-islands-puzzle

Solving the 1000 Islands Puzzle

For its second stop, the 2016 Costa FLW Series Northern Division heads back to the 1000 Islands region of upstate New York for the first time since 2012. The 1000 Islands region includes the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario and produces some of the best smallmouth fishing on the planet with 4- and 5-pounders being the norm, not the exception. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-19-forrest-wood-cup-attractions-

Forrest Wood Cup Attractions

Fifty FLW anglers all taking a run at the most coveted title in bass fishing will without doubt take center stage over the course of the four-day Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart in Huntsville, Ala., Aug. 4-7, but fans won’t have to wait for the daily weigh-in times to soak up all the action. FLW and its sponsors and partners put together a full schedule of additional events to coincide with the 2016 Cup. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-19-2016-icast-wrap-up

2016 ICAST Wrap-up

Even at a distance, ICAST can be a blur of new fishing stuff. Below, we’ve gathered everything we published from the week at ICAST – if you missed something, you can find it here. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-18-sisk-by-ounces-on-ohio-river

Sisk by Ounces on Ohio River

Marty Sisk of Evansville, Indiana, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 13 ounces, Saturday to win the third FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) Illini Division tournament of 2016 on the Ohio River. For his victory, Sisk took home $7,456. READ MORE »

/news/2016-07-18-boggs-flipped-shallow-wood-for-title

Boggs Flipped Shallow Wood for Title

Drew Boggs of Lebanon, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 13 pounds, 10 ounces, Saturday to win the fourth FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) Music City Division tournament of 2016 on Old Hickory Lake. Boggs took home $3,028 for his victory. READ MORE »