Live now : FLW College Fishing 2016 Chautauqua Lake

Scouting the Big O with Wesley Strader

Wesley Strader is known and admired for his unique wit and constant cheer, but his consistency is what has been the true hallmark of his successful fishing career. Last week, that consistency paid off with the first big win he’s had since 2002 at the B.A.S.S. Open on the Kissimmee Chain in central Florida. Now he’s got his eye on starting the Walmart FLW Tour season on the right foot a few hours south at Lake Okeechobee.

We hopped in the boat with the Spring City, Tennessee, native for a look at how he approached the final morning of practice. 

 

We started off in a sensibly imposed fog delay. As is common in South Florida in the spring, everything was dripping wet and blanketed in fog that would make navigating Okeechobee’s winding back trails dangerous. For Strader and Luke Dunkin, his practice partner last year and a rookie on Tour this year, the fog was a chance to move a little more slowly and for Strader to polish off a bowl of oatmeal to start the day.

 

After moving his rods from inside to the deck of his Ranger Z521, Strader hit a gas station to fill up and was rolling on the lake by about 7:30. He had in mind to make a long run away from Clewiston to hunt for spawning bass in a few old haunts made newly accessible by the high water. Unfortunately, the fog was still fairly thick on the lake, so he elected to begin the day near Clewiston looking for a concentration of good ones.

 

Strader began the day in a large interior opening alternating between a Zoom Super Fluke pitched in pockets and a Horny Toad buzzed over the pads. He kept his eyes peeled, and was hunting for spawners.

“You’ve gotta find those 50- to 100-yard magic stretches,” explains Strader. “It’s almost like ledge fishing, except you can’t use your electronics to find them.”

 

Strader’s first bass was a smallish keeper. He showed off how white it was and remarked that the fish had only just moved in off the main lake or outside edge and into the spawning grounds. The fact that little bucks are so prevalent in the shallows suggested that there are big females on the way soon.

 

Of course, little fish aren’t the name of the game, and Strader really wanted to find a group of spawning males in the 2- to 3-pound range that could be solid keepers and a draw for the big females that win tournaments on Okeechobee. Unfortunately, he wasn’t having a whole lot of success finding those bigger fish.  

“Catching little ones is kinda like riding a Moped,” quips Strader. “It’s fun, but you don’t want your buddies to know you’re doing it!”

 

According to Strader, the reed heads with swallows roosting on them are particularly good targets. The swallow poop attracts shiners, which in turn attract bass.

Come to think of it, he might not have been all that serious.

 

As the morning wore on and the fog burned off, Strader turned his attention from the pads to the reed heads interspersed throughout. Flipping a Z Hog, he put the best of the morning in the boat and hooked up with a few others that he felt had potential. The tournament certainly isn’t in the bag yet, but Strader finally had something to go on.

 

Strader’s burst of success had him digging for more baits. He keeps the majority of his bulk plastics in the back compartment, but had other bags that he knew he needed handy scattered throughout the boat for easy (though perhaps not perfectly logical) access.

 

We weren’t the only ones on the water. Though Strader’s area wasn’t crowded, we could usually see another angler or two in view or passing by. There were also plenty of other non-human critters present, such as this gator sunning herself in the cattails.

 

Even though he only picked up a few different rods while we were on the water, Strader had a number of other options on the deck. They included a few different vibrating jigs, his favorite Florida prop bait, some other staples and plenty of different soft plastics to sling in the grass.

 

Midmorning, I left him fishing so I could get back to do some work. The last I saw of him, he had picked up to run clear across the lake looking for gold. Despite catching a few, he didn’t find the winning spot while I was in the boat. But who knows what he found at his next stop? We’ll see.

Tags: lake-okeechobee  wesley-strader  jody-white  pre-tournament  2016-02-04-lake-okeechobee 

/tips/2016-07-23-1000-islands-day-3-midday-update

1000 Islands Day 3 Midday Update

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-22-1000-islands-midday-update-day-2

1000 Islands Midday Update Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event presented by Mercury at 1000 Islands got started on a slightly different note this morning when FLW’s tournament directors declared Lake Ontario off limits due to hazardous conditions. The change threw a few of the top pros off their primary plans, but regardless the 137-boat field will be cut down to the top 10 after today, so adjustments need to be made in order to qualify to fish the weekend. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-19-flw-podcast-126-icast

FLW Podcast 126 - ICAST

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-14-2017-walmart-flw-tour-schedule

2017 Walmart FLW Tour Schedule

In what has become an annual tradition at FLW, the 2017 Walmart FLW Tour schedule was announced at a press conference and industry gathering held Thursday on the show floor at ICAST in Orlando, Fla. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-12-si-se-puede-yes-we-can

Si Se Puede ... Yes We Can

Mexico’s Lake Zimapan is different in many ways from the lakes to the north such as Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and California’s Clear Lake, but one element it has in common with those famous fisheries is big bass. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-11-5-rookie-lessons-learned

5 Rookie Lessons Learned

People have asked me what my first year on the Walmart FLW Tour was like. Well, it was like running headfirst into a hurricane for a few months. I came out the other side a little battered, bruised and smelling like fish. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-11-flw-podcast-125-scott-martin

FLW Podcast 125 - Scott Martin

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-review-lew-s-custom-speed-stick-lite

Review: Lew’s Custom Speed Stick Lite

Recently I had the opportunity to try one model in particular – the 7-foot, 4-inch Magnum Pitchin’ rod. After fishing with it several times, I’ve concluded that it performs as advertised, is sensitive and lightweight, and is well worth the money. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-reunited-and-it-feels-so-good

Reunited, and it Feels so Good

This year I really had a reunion with finesse fishing. Most of my better tournaments came from fishing some type of finesse presentation. Finesse tactics seemed to always give me a certain confidence about the day. While finesse tactics are nothing new to the game of bass fishing, this year I regained the confidence and joy of catching bass on smaller offerings. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-08-2016-icast-preview

2016 ICAST Preview

The doors to ICAST don’t open until next week, when everyone gets out on the showroom floor in Orlando, Fla., but there are already plenty of snippets of information available. FLW’s media crew will be there in full force to bring you coverage of the hottest new products, as well as the annual New Product Showcase awards. For now, take a gander at some of the early birds. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-07-07-flw-canada-kicks-off-at-tri-lakes

FLW Canada Kicks Off at Tri-Lakes

Among these Canadian all-stars was the eventual winning team of Chris Vandermeer of Peterborough and Jeff Slute of Millbrook. Capitalizing on a strong day one shallow-water smallmouth pattern, the duo took advantage of the slick-calm conditions using a silver-hued topwater popping plug to agitate the lake’s bronzebacks into attack. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-30-flw-tour-pro-cooksey-recovering-after-accident

FLW Tour Pro Cooksey Recovering After Accident

Walmart FLW Tour sophomore Dalton Cooksey of New Concord, Ky., is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee following a single-car accident that took place Wednesday afternoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-30-flw-podcast-124-jeremy-lawyer

FLW Podcast 124 - Jeremy Lawyer

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-29-stetson-blaylock-s-recipe-for-a-wacky-rig

Stetson Blaylock’s Recipe for a Wacky Rig

From March until the end of the fishing season I’m going to have a wacky rig on deck. It’s a really effective way to fish anytime the fishing is tough, or if the fish are up cruising banks. Anytime fish are about 5 feet deep or less, I can catch them on the wacky rig. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-28-morgan-claims-third-flw-tour-angler-of-the-year-title

Morgan Claims third FLW Tour Angler of the Year Title

MINNEAPOLIS – Livingston Lures pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tennessee, added to his incredible fishing resume by winning his third Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title Saturday at the FLW Tour's final 2016 regular-season event on Lake Champlain.... READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-24-three-things-by-dd-kentucky-lake

Three Things by DD: Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake did not go the way I intended. I was pumped and ready to rock out a top-20 finish. I had great expectations of myself, but nothing seemed to come together. Practice was dicey, but I thought for sure I could put something together to make the cut. That was until day one came, and the whole vibe of my day instantly went from eager to agitated. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-23-how-to-catch-smallmouths-with-hair-jigs

How to Catch Smallmouths with Hair Jigs

The “right” hair jig for smallmouths is a small 1/16- to 1/8-ounce marabou jig with a round or mushroom-shaped head. The jig is similar to marabou jigs used by crappie fishermen, but bass models will often have a larger, stronger hook and possibly a longer or thicker skirt. Naturally, anglers have their favorites, and there are subtle differences in jigs that make some better than others. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-22-two-exciting-events-to-look-forward-to

Two Exciting Events to Look Forward To

We are in the last stretch of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour. Awaiting us is the Lake Champlain tournament in just a few days. A couple of things will be settled there: the pro field for the Forrest Wood Cup and the Angler of the Year. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-21-tagging-along-with-sprague-in-kentucky

Tagging Along with Sprague in Kentucky

Through the first four events of the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour season, Jeff Sprague finished inside the top 20 every time and challenged for the win at Beaver Lake. After stop No. 4 on Pickwick, Sprague took over the lead in the Angler of the Year race. This is the story of his first tournament as the AOY leader – stop No. 5 on Kentucky Lake. Currently, Sprague is preparing for the finale on Lake Champlain. He’s in second place in the AOY standings. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-06-19-waunakee-hs-wins-wi-title

Waunakee HS Wins WI Title

The Waunakee High School duo of Colin Steck and Nathan Lorenz brought a five-bass limit to the scale Sunday weighing 13 pounds, 3 ounces, to win the 2016 TBF/FLW High School Fishing Wisconsin State Championship on the Minocqua Chain of Lakes. The win earned the team trophies, the title of state champions and advanced the team to the High School Fishing Central Conference championship on the Ohio River in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on September 23-24. READ MORE »