Catching a wave at Okeechobee

Boats race into an Okeechobee sunrise as the 2013 EverStart Southeast Division gets underway.

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - Lake Okeechobee is known for its waves. When the wind howls on the Big O, three-footers are pretty easy to find. But this time of year, Okeechobee is known for another kind of wave: waves of big female bass that come in off the main lake to spawn around the lake's endless shoreline vegetation. And in some way, those fishing the EverStart Series Southeast Division event on the Big O this week will have to be surfers of those waves, scouting the big lake and anticipating the next ground swell of big bass breaking into a small area. When the main lake bruisers do inundate an area, it can make for the stuff bass fishing dreams are made of: 6- to 10-pound females will lay up everywhere in a small area and 30-pound limits are not out of the question. But the window to catch such magic is usually limited - maybe two days around the new and full moons. The real problem, however, is predicting where the next wave will land. The North Shore? The Monkey Box? J&S? South Bay? Pelican Bay? The East Wall? Jacob Wheeler having fun on the Big O with a Rapala X-Rap Prop.With the water some two feet higher than the last few previous years, much of Okeechobee is back in play for the competitors. And with a new moon arriving on Saturday, somewhere rollers are forming, but catching those waves before they break will be the trick. 2012 Forrest Wood Cup winner Jacob Wheeler is down fishing the EverStart event as a warm up for the FLW Tour event in a few weeks. He says the lake is full of fish, but he also knows the eventual winner of this event will be the pro who rides the next big wave. "This place is a blast, especially for a topwater nut like me," Wheeler said. "You can take a Rapala X-Rap Prop and have a ball catching a bunch of fish just about anywhere on the lake. But finding where a new group of females are just moving in is like finding a needle in a haystack - this place is just so massive." Wheeler sees the two primary options this week as either punching mats up in the north end or casting and reeling moving baits over endless "hay" fields down south. As for sight-fishing, Wheeler did say there are fish on beds, but with the water so high, seeing down into the beds is difficult. "What's so frustrating about this place - especially in those flooded hayfields down south - is you can fish through a gorgeous area one day, not get a bite and then 24 hours later, 30 pounds of bass move in and you've already written it off your list," Wheeler said. "It's just the nature of the beast down here." The big X factor could be the big jig pitching game, a big fish technique which has been a tournament-winning windfall for Brandon Medlock of Lake Placid, Fla. Jacob Wheeler samples some mats during practice for the EverStart event on Lake Okeechobee.Medlock has won the EverStart Okeechobee opener the last two years in a row on his dad's Double-Guard jig, which is specifically designed to be flipped into thick reeds, not necessarily mats. "It's not as strong as it was last year," Medlock said of the technique. "Mostly because the higher water spreads those big fish out more. You can still catch big ones, you just have to cover a lot more water because they're not as congregated as when the water is low." In the 2011 EverStart event, Medlock weighed in a 28-pound limit for the win and then in 2012 he compiled a monster 35-pound, 7-ounce limit on day two to rocket to victory. "I think we might see one big limit like that this week," Medlock said. "Someone, somewhere will land on the right bunch at the right time. But overall I think 15 pounds a day will make the top-10 and an 18-pound per day average will win." Logistics Anglers will take off from C. Scott Driver Park located at 10100 W. Highway 78 in Okeechobee, Fla., at 7:30 a.m. each day. Weigh-in will be held at the takeoff location on Thursday and Friday beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday's final weigh-in will be held at Walmart located at 2101 S. Parrot Ave. in Okeechobee beginning at 4 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public. On the final day of practice, the mats in the north end of Okeechobee were starting to get a little crowded.Pros will fish for a top award of $40,000 plus a Ranger Z518 with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers will cast for a top award consisting of a Ranger Z117 with 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard and $5,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Thursday's conditions Temperature at takeoff: 66 degrees Expected high temperature: 82 degrees Water temperature: 70 degrees Wind: E 10 to 15 Day's outlook: Sunny and breezy

Tags: morning-story 

/news/2015-03-26-front-and-center

Front and Center

There is little doubt it’s coming. The uncertainty lies in what will happen because of it. If the forecast holds true, at some point this evening the severe weather system that dropped tornados across the central plains Wednesday will arrive at Lewis Smith Lake. Along with the rain and thunder, the front promises to bring with it a significant drop in temperature, with lows projected in the low 30s by the weekend. It’s a storm that looms over the 154 pros and co-anglers set to fish the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude and hosted by the Walker County Chamber of Commerce. And while they, the anglers, should stay dry, the weather might be the key question mark for a tournament already overflowing with them. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-record-catch-for-record-college-field-

Record Catch for Record College Field?

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. – Panama City, beach parties, Florida sunshine, bikini weather – big deal. Who needs Spring Break when you’ve got Kentucky Lake in March? OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but how else to explain why a record-setting number of teams showed up for the FLW College Fishing Open tournament here? The official tally of bass fishing teams is 201, according to College Fishing Tournament Director Kevin Hunt, making this the largest collegiate fishing event ever. Teams from every corner of the country are represented here, with squads from as far away as Eastern Washington University competing the next two days. A flotilla left Moor’s Resort & Marina this morning, with individual boats scattering in all directions. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-19-guntersville-grab-bag

Guntersville Grab Bag

Lake Guntersville will always have a place in bass-fishing history – most recently because of Paul Elias and the umbrella rig ­– but it represents so much more. With boat ramps seemingly on every street corner, and a town and community that caters to anglers like no other, the legendary lake is always a popular stop. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-toho-midday-report-day-2

Toho Midday Report Day 2

If you’ve been following the FLW On The Water feed, you might have seen a slight uptick in the reports in the last hour or so. A crisp north wind, which was cold enough to force many anglers into their rain gear this morning, seems to have tapered off to a breeze. Down south on Kissimmee the sun is shining. And as the weather has improved, so too has the bite – as evidenced by the sudden surge in fish-catching reports. The increase in action is good news for many anglers who experienced slower fishing this morning than yesterday. Stacey King, who came into today in second place, is among that group. Unfortunately for day-one leader JT Kenney, “slow” for King is still pretty good. He’s got a limit, including a pair of 4-pounders, and has already culled. That makes King our unofficial leader right now. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-05-boom-or-bust-at-toho

Boom or Bust at Toho

To varying degrees of success, tournament anglers are used to figuring out lakes that seemingly are a bundle of contradictions. Be that as it may, Lake Toho threatens to boggle their collective minds as the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour kickoff event presented by Mercury gets underway this morning. READ MORE »

/news/2015-02-11-mighty-amistad-issues-a-challenge

Mighty Amistad Issues a Challenge

Legendary south Texas reservoir Lake Amistad has hosted some of FLW’s most infamous smash-fests – the kind of tournaments where anglers weren’t challenged to catch fish, but were pushed to keep up with the competition when 20- and even 30-pound stringers were being hauled across the stage. READ MORE »

/news/2015-02-05-heating-up-on-havasu

Heating Up on Havasu

Lake Havasu City, Ariz. – Warming weather could provide the spark that is needed to ignite a big-time bite on Lake Havasu this week for the first event of the 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Western Division, which is presented by Mercury. Past FLW events on Havasu have been plagued by lower temperatures and strong winds that slowed the bite – fishing was good, but the anglers didn’t experience the lake’s full potential. The last few days on the Colorado River impoundment, however, have seen temperatures near 80 degrees with nearly no wind. As it stands now, the forecast for competition days is calling for more of the same, and many of the 152 pros in this tournament feel like that could open things up. READ MORE »

/news/2015-01-22-here-they-come

Here They Come

Big things are coming on Lake Okeechobee – big bass, big weights and the biggest tournament field in Rayovac FLW Series history. READ MORE »

/news/2014-10-30-grinding-wheel-er

Grinding Wheel-er

ROGERSVILLE, Ala. – The story was much the same among the 141 pro and co-anglers that launched out of Joe Wheeler State Park this morning for the first day of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on Wheeler Lake. Fishing on the Tennessee River in the fall can be hit or miss and right now anglers are experiencing the latter. READ MORE »

/news/2014-10-09-a-clear-challenge

A Clear Challenge

Challenging conditions including low water, abundant baitfish and a late-season algae bloom set the stage for an epic bass battle among the 212 pros and co-anglers vying for top honors Oct. 9-11 in the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division Clear Lake tournament, which kicked off this morning at 7:30 a.m. PT. Presented by Evinrude, the three-day event promises plenty of drama. Anglers are competing for lucrative paybacks, including $32,448 in cash for first place on the pro side, plus a fully rigged Ranger Z518C with 200-hp Evinrude outboard if the winner is Ranger Cup compliant, for a total purse worth more than $80,000. On the co-angler side, the victor claims a fully rigged Ranger Z117 with 90-hp Evinrude, plus $5,000 in Ranger Cup cash if entered in that contingency program. READ MORE »

/news/2014-10-02-rayburn-returns

Rayburn Returns

ZAVALLA, Texas – If Sam Rayburn Reservoir were a stock on Wall Street, now would be the time to buy. READ MORE »

/news/2014-09-18-the-mississippi-mix-up

The Mississippi Mix-Up

LA CROSSE, Wis. – Things are much different since the last time the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division launched from the Clinton Street Landing back in 2012. Cooler temperatures, higher water levels and scattered fish will make things interesting for the 119 pros and co-anglers this week on the Mississippi River. READ MORE »

/news/2014-08-21-james-river-jam

James River Jam

RICHMOND, Va. – On tidal fisheries like the James River, optimism and opportunity are inextricably linked to water level. For anglers competing in the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division, today’s tide schedule will present a brief period of opportunity, followed by a long grind the rest of the day. READ MORE »

/news/2014-07-17-hopes-high-on-champlain

Hopes High on Champlain

PLATTSBURGH, NY - Fair weather and a fishery flush with bassin’ options fueled contagious optimism among the 142 competitors squaring off in the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Champlain. READ MORE »

/news/2014-06-26-kentucky-lake-the-pressure-is-palpable

Kentucky Lake: The pressure is palpable

PARIS LANDING, Tenn. – If the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude needed a theme song, David Bowie’s rendition of “Under Pressure” would be as good as it gets. The entire field will be under more pressure than usual as the four-day competition opens this morning. There’s the pressure to win or at least take advantage of a final opportunity to take home a good check this season, the pressure to pull out all the stops and make up ground in the Angler of the Year standings and gain entry into the Forrest Wood Cup, the pressure to not take chances and lose a shot at the Cup – and so it goes. READ MORE »

/news/2014-06-05-the-task-of-timing

The Task of Timing

FLORENCE, Ala. – Fishing tournaments inherently rely on timed competition – get as much weight as you can within the allotted time frame. However, as the country's top 49 boaters and co-anglers take to Wilson Lake for the Walmart BFL All-American presented by Chevy timing will greatly impact outcomes. READ MORE »

/news/2014-06-04-pick-a-number-at-pickwick

Pick a number at Pickwick

FLORENCE, Ala. – To listen to some of the pros gathered here for the Walmart FLW Tour on Pickwick Lake presented by StraightTalk, here’s the scenario that will play out for the next couple of days: Each morning anglers will depart the takeoff area and proceed to their first stop where, depending on their draw, they will be required to wait in line until it’s their turn to fish. Once they’ve caught a keeper, they will move on to the next community hole, where they will again repeat the process. And so the tournament will proceed until Sunday evening when the champion will be crowned. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not by much. Veterans and newcomers alike agree that Pickwick will fish much smaller than it really is in this, the fifth 2014 Tour stop that’s hosted by the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism Bureau. Because fish-finding electronics have become so precise, most of the locations that consistently hold bass in early summer on Pickwick seem to have found their way into the waypoint logs of just about every angler entered. As veteran Texas pro Tommy Martin puts it, “either we’re going to have to play nice and share places and get along, or go find six or eight spots that nobody knows about. Good luck with that; I plan to play nice.” READ MORE »

/news/2014-05-29-kentucky-lake-slugfest-begins

Kentucky Lake slugfest begins

There are no secrets on Kentucky Lake this week. If you want to catch a winning stringer, you’d better be ledge fishing. Rayovac FLW Series anglers launched out of Kenlake State Resort Park this morning to near-perfect ledge-fishing conditions for the start of the second Central Division event of the season. READ MORE »

/news/2014-05-15-high-tide-on-the-delta

High tide on the Delta

BETHEL ISLAND, Calif. – Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing – or, at least, a challenging thing. Gotta have water to fish and current generally stimulates fish, but this week’s tide schedule may prove perplexing for Rayovac FLW Series Western Division anglers on the California Delta. READ MORE »

/news/2014-04-24-guntersville-s-great-mystery

Guntersville’s great mystery

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- Largemouth bass in Lake Guntersville just might be some of the most prolific bass in the world. How one fishery continues to pump out so many bass under the duress of so much fishing pressure is a mystery that many bass pros have pondered. READ MORE »