February 3, 2016 by Jesse Schultz
There are many well-known areas on Lake Okeechobee that are commonly talked about around the docks before and after each event, but five key spots in particular will certainly play a role in this week’s Walmart FLW Tour opener.
Have a look at the places where many anglers will be searching for the winning bag of fish.
Starting from the south and working clockwise around the western side of the lake, five of the most popular areas for Tour pros are South Bay, the Shoal, Monkey Box, Harney Pond and the North Shore.
Known for its large hayfields composed of wiregrass, South Bay is the largest area highlighted here. Current high-water conditions mean the hayfields are deeper than in past years, and an even greater area will be in play. Anglers might be able to spread out more than usual, which is good because, with giant bass located throughout, South Bay draws a lot of attention. Holes in the “hay” might indicate beds or ambush areas where bass can be caught and will be a starting point for anglers trying to dial in on a winning area.
Halfway up the west side of Lake Okeechobee is the Shoal. It’s not the most popular spot on the lake, but there are plenty of pencil reeds that have been made famous by local angler Brandon Medlock flipping his custom Medlock Double Guard Jig and yanking out big bass this time of year. Anglers might also find schools of shad migrating into this area. If seagulls are diving to feed on shad, it’s a good chance the bass are there and feeding on shad too.
The Monkey Box has been noted for years as an Okeechobee hot spot. There are endless areas to explore here, especially with the high water. Anglers might be able to reach areas they have never seen before, and exploring new territory might be necessary if the high water spreads the fish. Though it has less hay than South Bay, the Monkey Box is a magnet for spawning bass and is filled with pads and other types of vegetation.
In the recent Costa FLW Series event many anglers found fish in matted hydrilla in Harney Pond. However, in just a few weeks all that hydrilla has gone underwater. Still, the hydrilla here should be a factor in this tournament, as will big mats of hyacinths. Harney Pond is a little more protected than the other areas listed here, which might be important when the forecast wind and rain arrives.
The North Shore
With its long stretches of cattails the North Shore is a prime area for flipping in thick cover. Any area of the North Shore can produce a winning stringer, and in 2011 it produced more than 100 pounds of fish for both Randall Tharp and Brandon McMillan. The miles of cattails can be challenging to dissect, but finding the right 50-yard stretch might be all an angler needs. The cattails here are particularly good because they are protected by one of the biggest flats of hydrilla in the lake – the hydrilla, too, can be an excellent producer.
When it’s all said and done the anglers will race back to Clewiston to weigh in their five biggest bass. Anticipation is high for this kickoff event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Ranger Boats. Someone will earn a six-figure payday, and one of these popular areas might be the site where history is made.