February 12, 2013 by Dave Lefebre
(Editor's note: Veteran bass pro Dave Lefebre has agreed to take time to share his insights into each FLW Tour event of the 2013 season. After every event, Lefebre will give his thoughts on tournament strategy, winning techniques and other behind-the-scenes stories/information that is compelling to our readers. The following blog represents his first installment of the season. Lefebre ultimately finished the Lake Okeechobee event in 102nd place with a two-day total of 20 pounds, 8 ounces).
One hundred and second place - not a bad way to kick off the 2013 FLW Tour season ... yeah right! This trip to Okeechobee is hard to swallow and it will be a long time before I quit thinking about it. I feel like a field goal kicker who just missed a game-winning boot in the last 3 seconds of a game; it's a sick feeling. A bad performance is never good, but there is a good reason why this bomb hurts a lot more than those in the past.
I almost always leave Florida feeling like I lucked out, so deep down I knew a train wreck would probably happen one of these days. Sometimes the littlest things that happen throughout the three-day practice period can turn out to be monumental in your final outcome - and one of those little things is what ultimately got me this year on the "Big O."
Like many others, I had a tougher-than-normal practice. By the third day I had decided I was going to go pound it out in the same location I have done well over the past three years or so. I was content to put my head down and grind it out. I checked it out, found a 4-pounder on a bed and caught a couple other smaller fish. However, the presence of four airboats spraying weed killer in the area scared me a little. So on the last afternoon of practice, I decided to go to a section of the lake I'd never been before and just start over. It was about 4 p.m. on Tuesday when I took my practice partner, Alton Lackie, for a long boat ride south into Pelican Bay. As soon as we started fishing we immediately began catching fish, mostly smaller ones under 2 pounds. But then I got a big bite, and then another. I landed one over 8 pounds and then we headed home. It seemed like I had finally found something and I became a little excited for the derby to start; thus I subsequently forgot about my other area that has treated me so well over the last few years.
Needless to say, I spent the entire tournament in this area in Pelican Bay. I caught 100-plus fish per day, but only had one big bite, a 6- or 7-pounder early on day 2 which I lost. It was amazing to catch so many small fish and never run into a bigger one. Charlie Ingram, Blake Nick, Stetson Blaylock and Jonathon Newton shared the same large area and Ingram's co-angler proved that some bigger bass were hanging around in the area as he had over 22 pounds to lead all co-anglers. Stetson also managed a big bite or two from the spot and ultimately ended the day one with 17 pounds. The rest of us didn't fair so well and we all finished in the bottom of the pack unfortunately.
But here's the part that causes me sleep loss. After the second day of the event, Greg Bohannan asked me why he didn't see me in the area I've fished the last three years. He said there was another guy in there in a white Phoenix boat. As it turns out, that white Phoenix belonged to the eventual winner of the event, Drew Benton. To verify Greg's story, I watched Rob Newell's Reel Time Report from day three and easily recognized the small spot ... I just couldn't believe it. Had I not made that run to Pelican Bay late on the last day of practice, what could've been? I guess I'll never know. I've practice right through areas without a bite before, only to see that same area really excel on TV later. It's a terrible feeling, but this one is much worse, having so much history in the area. Now I've got five more tournaments to claw my way out of the basement and try to regain some sort of pulse.
Okeechobee was no doubt tougher this year, but the same techniques produced as usual. Weedless swimbaits like the Yamamoto Swimming Senko and Trigger X Slop Hopper proved very effective when reeled through the thick grass. Casting Senkos and worms into holes in the grass was also deadly. Sight-fishing was big for a few guys I know, especially Bryan Thrift, who told me he snatched an 8-pounder from a bed on day one. The Thrifter went on to finish in seventh.
The jig bite, however, was off. I know Rick Cotton, the leader after day 2, caught most of his fish with a big jig, but overall it didn't play as in years' past - a scenario underscored by Brandon Medlock's results. I know I tried to make the jig bite happen for many hours in practice and only had a single bite. ChatterBaits, Rippin Raps and spinnerbaits also played well, with several of the top finishers using the ChatterBait in the outside, thinner grass areas. The winner actually put a few key fish in the boat with this technique as well. The northern area of the lake was most popular as everyone I talked to who relied on the south end struggled in the event. It seemed that if you weren't fishing in a crowded area, you weren't making a big check. I can promise you that I'll be in a crowded area next year, pounding it out with everyone else.
Our next FLW Tour stop takes us to Lewis Smith Lake in Alabama, a location we've been to twice before in the past. I think our timing for that one will be perfect and the weights will be very strong. I'm looking forward to fishing a lake that makes sense, a lake where the bass read the same books I did. Besides, my buddy Randall Tharp says I'm going to win that one.
I'll take his word for it!
To read more about Dave's life on the road, check out On Tour With Dave and Anne, sponsored by Chevy. Throughout the 2013 FLW Tour season, Dave and his wife, Anne will be keeping a detailed blog of their experiences while traveling the country in their Chevy Trucks.
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