January 10, 2014 by Rob Newell
OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - After a rather lackluster day one of the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Okeechobee, anglers were certain day two was going to be better.
After all, much warmer air and intermittent sunshine drove the water temperatures up into the low 60's. The bite did improve a tad, but overall it still was not the Okeechobee bag-buster everyone was hoping for.
One man who seems to have the Okeechobee bite wired is Keith Fels of Ocala, Fla.
The bite definitely improved for Fels today as he added 26 pounds, 7 ounces to his 20 pounds, 9 ounces from yesterday to compile a commanding lead with 47 pounds even, some 12 pounds heavier than second place.
Fels' limit today included the day-two big bass weighing in at 10 pounds, 9 ounces. He has been the only angler to crack the 20-pound mark each day.
"I had those by 9:30 this morning and I was done," Fels said. "When I caught the 10-pounder, it culled my little fish and I left the area to save it for tomorrow."
Fels did reveal he is pitching, but the way he managed to get the 10-pounder in the boat borders on miraculous.
"I made a pitch, got a bite, set the hook and missed," he said. "I pitched right back in there, got another bite, set the hook and it was on. I fought the fish until it bogged up into a huge wad of vegetation. As I was heaving on the line pulling the wad in, my 65-pound test braid broke up in the rod. The tag end of the line laid across a mat of hydrilla. The fish was so bogged down, it didn't move. I reached out, grabbed the tag end of line and basically hand-lined the giant wad of weeds to the boat and wrapped up inside was that 10-pounder."
Kent Ware of Wadmalaw Island, S.C., moved up eight spots to second place on the strength of his 19-pound catch today for a two-day total of 34 pounds, 11 ounces.
Ware was the Angler of the Year in the Southeastern Division of the Rayovac Series last season. And here's the unique part: he did most of it with a spinning rod.
Ware uses a spinning rod most of the time, including here at Okeechobee, to punch vegetation like most do with conventional baitcasting gear.
"It's what works for me," Ware said. "I'm just a lot more efficient with a spinning rod. It's faster and quieter for me and I can get away with lighter baits."
Here at Okeechobee, Ware's spinning rod set-up is a heavy action 7-foot G. Loomis rod spooled with 50-pound braid.
"A lot of people think spinning rods are only for light line," Ware added. "Not so. Spinning rods can handle heavy line just as well."
Jared McMillan of Belle Glade, Fla., held onto to his third place spot from day one by hauling in 14 pounds, 6 ounces today for a two-day total of 33-10.
While his older brother Brandon (9th place) is known for punching mats on the Big O, Jared is more about the casting and reeling of moving baits over vegetation.
"I like the punching game too, but in order to do that, you have to fish around so many boats," the younger McMillan explained. "I really like being away from other boats. Yesterday I only saw two other boats out of all these boats out here. Today I saw maybe six or seven. But in order to avoid the pressure, you have to fish other ways. So it's not that I don't like punching mats - I love it. It's just that I would rather cast and reel something with two boats around than punch mats with 120 boats around."
Joseph Kremer of Osteen, Fla., climbed to the fourth place spot today with a 16-pound, 11-ounce catch for a two-day total of 32 pounds, 5 ounces.
"I fished the same exact places in the same exact ways today and it was a little better," Kremer said. "The water is warming and it's pulling those fish to the hill. I don't catch much in the mornings and I can go back through the same areas after noon and they bite better. It's all about water temperature and it should be even better tomorrow."
Keith Pace of Monticello, Ark., rounds out the fifth place spot with a two-day total of 31 pounds, 14 ounces.
"I've mostly been casting a Senko and a Horny Toad around," Pace said. "The place I'm fishing really turned on right at the end of the day. In the last five casts I caught three fish on back-to-back casts and two of those were four pounders. I can't wait to get back there tomorrow."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 pros in the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Okeechobee after day two:
6th: Val Osinski of Pompano Beach, Fla., two-day total of 31-13
7th: Thomas Helton of Charleston, Tenn., two-day total of 31-10
8th: Miles Burghoff of Guntersville, Ala., two-day total of 31-8
9th: Brandon McMillan of Clewiston, Fla., two-day total of 31-2
10th: Randy Haynes of Counce, Tenn., two-day total of 30-12
Fox leads co-anglers
Tim Fox of Meridian, Miss., leads the Co-angler Division of the Rayovac Series on Lake Okeechobee with two-day total of 26 pounds, 12 ounces.
Fox brought in a 16-pound, 4-ounce limit today to take the lead.
"All my better fish came from about 12:30 to 2 in the afternoon," Fox said. "I culled three times during that time frame."
"I've mostly been throwing swimbaits," Fox said. "The area we were in had a lot of boats in it so I was trying to make long casts to places where boats had not fished. My pro and I were really aware of where boats had been and we purposely tried to fish our way into places that had not had a boat in them for a long while."
Ronnie Green of Sebring, Fla., is in second place with a two-day total of 24 pounds, 5 ounces.
Mitch Reynolds of Petal, Miss., is in third place with a two-day total of 23 pounds, 12 ounces.
Rex Jaeger of Hamilton, Ohio, jumped to fourth place with a two-day total of 23 pounds, 9 ounces.
Captain Don Lewis of Jacksonville, Fla., rounds out the top five co-anglers with 23 pounds, even.
Manley Jones of Raleigh, N.C. caught the big bass in the Co-angler Division on day two weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers in the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Okeechobee after day two:
6th: Alphonso Taylor of Kennesaw, Ga., two-day total of 22-7
7th: Dwight Griffith of Somerset, Ky., two-day total of 20-14
8th: Ty Solis of Albany, Ga., two-day total of 20-13
9th: Aaron Richardson of Destin, Fla., two-day total of 20-5
10th: Dean Harcourt of Sebastian, Fla., two-day total of 19-7