UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - James River

Steadham wins co-angler crown on Lake Okeechobee

Steadham wins co-angler crown on Lake Okeechobee
Co-angler Jesse Steadham of Florence, Miss., shows off his first-place catch at the American Fishing Series event on Lake Okeechobee.

CLEWISTON, Fla. - Heading into the FLW American Fishing Series event on Lake Okeechobee, Jesse Steadham made a 15-hour drive from his hometown of Florence, Miss., in the hopes that he could just make a top-10 finish. In the end, he did a whole lot better than that.

Bolstered by a three-day catch of 33 pounds, 4 ounces, Steadham not only fulfilled his wildest expectations, but also took home the tournament title to boot. Not surprisingly, Steadham couldn't have been happier with the way things turned out.

"This is the happiest day of my life," said Steadham. "My only expectation coming in was to try and finish in the top 10. It still hasn't sunk in yet. I'm so happy. Now I don't even have to go home tonight. I have enough money to pay for an extra night and enjoy myself."

Jesse Steadham of Florence, Miss., shows off his first-place trophy after winning the Co-angler Division at the FLW American Fishing Series event on Lake Okeechobee.Steadham said that he caught the majority of his fish using a Reaction Innovation Skinny Dipper, targeting shallow grass areas in 3 to 4 feet of water.

"I got lucky today," he said. "This is the first time I've fished this lake and had never seen the lake until Thursday. Coming back to weigh-in today, I thought I had enough weight to be in the top three, but I didn't think I'd win. I'm still shaking all over."

In the end, Steadham took home nearly $10,000 in winnings and enough memories to last a lifetime.

"This is the biggest win of my career," he said. "I've had the time of my life this week. It's just been a blast."

Thomas just misses title

Co-angler Kevin Thomas of Miramar, Fla., missed out on a tournament title on Lake Okeechobee by a mere 5 ounces.Kevin Thomas of Miramar, Fla., was so close to a tournament title that he could taste it. After fishing with FLW Outdoors for the better part of five years with zero top-10 finishes to his credit, Thomas thought that luck was finally on his side. Unfortunately, it was not to be. In the end, Thomas' three-day catch of 32 pounds, 15 ounces fell short of a tournament title by a mere 5 ounces.

"Coming back to weigh-in, I really thought I had enough to win," said Thomas. "It hurts. But (Steadman) is a really nice guy. And if I was going to lose to anybody, I'm glad it was him. He deserved it."

Thomas said that he landed the majority of his catch fishing a Gambler Flapping Shad and a watermelon-colored Zoom Super Fluke.

"This is my very first top-10 finish, so considering that, I'm happy," he said. "Overall, I feel great. I just love this game."

For his efforts, Thomas walked away with $4,000 in winnings.

Helms nails down third place

Bucky Helms of Dallas, N.C., used a total catch of 30 pounds, 11 ounces to finish the Lake Okeechobee event in third place - not bad considering that this was the very first American Fishing Series event of his career.

"I've had a blast," said Helms, who took home nearly $2,000 in prize money. "I caught a lot of good fish, but it just didn't come together for me today. The opportunity was there, I just didn't execute."

Best of the rest

Co-angler Brent Houlihan of Naples, Fla., shows off his final-day catch on Lake Okeechobee. Houlihan ultimately finished the American Fishing Series event in fourth place.Brent Houlihan of Naples, Fla., finished in fourth place by virtue of a tiebreaker after recording a total catch of 30 pounds, 11 ounces. Houlihan won $1,800 for his efforts.

Fifth place belonged to day-two co-angler leader Robert Wood of Jupiter, Fla. Wood ultimately recorded a total catch of 30 pounds, 4 ounces to net $1,500 in prize money.

"I had a good week, caught some good fish and had a great time," said Wood.

Co-angler Danny Shelton of Davie, Fla., finished the Lake Okeechobee event in sixth place.Rounding out the top 10 co-angler finalists:

6th: Danny Shelton of Davie, Fla., 30-2
7th: Mitch Reynolds of Petal, Miss., 27-14
8th: Darren Jeter of Marshall, N.C., 27-3
9th: Ron Buck of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., 25-14
10th: George Kapiton of Inverness, Fla., 25-12

FLW American Fishing Series Southeast Division action resumes on Lake Seminole, scheduled to take place April 29-May 1 in Bainbridge, Ga.

Tags: gary-mortenson  co-angler-headline  2010-02-25-lake-okeechobee 

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