February 11, 2014 by Dave Lefebre
(Editor's note: Kellogg's Frosted Flakes team pro Dave Lefebre has agreed to take time to share his insights into each FLW Tour event of the 2014 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 2014 FLW Tour season. Lefebre ultimately finished the Lake Okeechobee event in 176th place with a two-day total of 10 pounds, 3 ounces.)
What a way to kick off 2014, although it was not exactly the way I'd envisioned it. I finished third from last, way down in 176th place. It would be easy to get all dejected and say that my whole season is now ruined, but when you consider that (day one on Lake Okeechobee) was the first FLW Tour weigh-in I've ever missed in 12 years as a pro, I'd say that's not too bad.
I was overdue.
I've been fortunate to run the most reliable boats and outboards throughout my career and my main issue on day one at Okeechobee was more about me not leaving enough time to fix a minor problem and not carrying the proper tools with me in my boat. I sometimes have to learn things the hard way I guess.
I had to release my fish back into the lake, which was an extremely sick feeling. It made me think back to Jim Moynagh at the Potomac River event last year when his co-angler accidently dropped a fish into Jim's side of the livewell. I remember watching that show, seeing Jim throw 3-pounders back into the river, and thinking ... that sucks, I hope I never have to do that. The way he handled the situation was inspiring though, and he came back and caught another solid limit. I realize that things happen; it's over, and now it's time to move forward and get fired up about the next event on Lake Hartwell, S.C.
The fishing on Okeechobee was really good as usual. My practice was not exceptional, but in checking many sections of the lake and trying different things, I was catching 15 to 18 pounds per day. I also had a couple big bites each day, not to mention a couple big ones caught by my co-angler fishing buddy, Alton Lackie, a.k.a. The Lack Attack, in the practice period.
I always try to stay far away from the crowds on this lake. It usually works out pretty well for me and it was going to be all right this year as well. I found some better-than-average-sized fish in two separate locations, one near Cochran's Pass and one in South Bay. I was not able to get many flipping bites, but the Swimming Senko and frog bite were on fire. When I was in cleaner water, watermelon-red worked best and then when I fished in muddier areas it was all about black or Junebug. I was rigging it on a VMC weighted swimbait hook and using 50-pound Sufix 832 braided line.
The three biggest fish I caught in practice all came on a black-and-blue, ¾-ounce Terminator Pro Series Jig. One was 8 pounds and was caught on my second flip of the morning on day three of practice while I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I posted the picture of that one on my Facebook page.
A bunch of the bigger bags were caught on ChatterBaits and Terminator spinnerbaits. Dipper-style baits and Senkos were very effective too as always on Okeechobee. Guys really caught them in the north shore area and the Monkey Box - two places I can't stand to fish because of the crowds. But from what I was hearing those areas were loaded and 15 pounds or more was almost a guarantee if you were in the right spot.
After zeroing on day one, I decided not to go back to catch 3-pounders. I also didn't want to get in someone's way on the north shore, so I crossed the lake toward the J&S lock and basically started over. It proved to be a bad move, but how would I know? I caught a lot of fish but only had 10 pounds when the day was over. I needed 26 pounds to get a check, so I had to try something.
One positive thing I can say is that my new Ranger Z521C handled the 2- to 3-foot white caps in the morning with ease. I passed another boat like it was standing still and the ride was unbelievably smooth. It might be the best boat I've ever had. I'll keep you posted on that, but it was impressive to say the least. I really can't wait to get her out on big bad Lake Erie!
Thanks for all the support after this tournament as it means a lot to me. I'll talk to you all after the Lake Hartwell event next month. Hopefully I'll win it - at least that would make me feel a little better.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveLefebre and "Like" him on Facebook at Facebook.com/davelefebre