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Okeechobee insanity continues

Okeechobee insanity continues
Chad Prough of Chipley, Fla., is having a dream week at Lake Okeechobee. After sacking 35-3 yesterday, he brought another 32-4 to the scales today to lead the FLW Tour event with a two-day total of 67-7.

CLEWISTON, Fla. - There might not be a better place in the entire United States to come bass fishing right now than Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida. The Big O is well known as a celebrated trophy fishery, but the bite hasn't been this good in years - or maybe ever.

For the second consecutive day, 159 of the 160 Walmart FLW Tour pros caught five-bass limits. The 50th-place weight settled in at 38 pounds, 11 ounces - a two-day total most thought would be more than enough to make the top-20 cut. Most impressive however, is Chad Prough's two consecutive days with 30-pound-plus stringers.

Prough caught 35-3 yesterday and proved it wasn't a fluke by catching another 32-4 today from the same area. Second-place pro Fred Roumbanis is also fishing that same area and has a two-day total of 61 pounds, 14 ounces. Between Prough and Roumbanis, over 129 pounds of bass have come off one place as big as an average-sized living room.

Like he did yesterday, Prough fished for mainly prespawn females on a main lake grass point located on the north end of the lake. Yesterday Prough was mainly chucking and winding; today he settled Chad Prough heaves another big bass to the netdown and did a little more sight-fishing.

"What we found is a place that has the coolest water and it's got some stain so the fish are more relaxed," the pro leader explained. "It's a spot where the fish haven't spawned yet and are funneling in. I did a little more sight-fishing today as they weren't quite as aggressive."

By 10 a.m. Prough had most of his 32-4. Included in that was a 9-2 and twin 7-pounders. One of the toads was caught by pitching a creature bait - the others on unidentified topwater lures.

"Dude, I'm like floored. To be catching this kind of fish against this caliber of competition is unheard of; I feel like I'm dreaming. What's happening out there is just phenomenal."

While he's hitting the area hard, he believes it is replenishing and has no plans to leave.

"I came into this tournament wanting about 15 pounds a day. I was thinking that was enough for a check. The way I plan to approach the next two days is that I'm still fishing for a check. I'm pretty much going to live and die in that spot."

Roumbanis baffled
Second-place pro Fred Roumbanis holds up his two biggest bass from day two on Lake Okeechobee.
As happy as he is with his performance thus far, Roumbanis is absolutely baffled that 62 pounds isn't good enough to be in the lead. What's more, he's got nearly a 6-pound hill to climb.

"I can't believe I got 60-something and I'm not on top," Roumbanis said. "I just can't believe how good it is right now. I had one of the most unbelievable days of bass fishing you'll ever have in your life. I am so excited to go fishing again tomorrow; the bite is just unbelievable."

Roumbanis started this morning on a big spawning female that was skittish. But within three pitches he had her locked on and shortly after in the boat. Unlike Prough, Roumbanis is almost exclusively sight-fishing with a variety of big tubes - mainly an El Grande.

"I still think I have a few good ones left. They are getting more skittish, but they might settle down overnight. I can only imagine what this area could produce if a guy had it to himself. It would honestly have 50-pound potential. For me, it's a matter of stumbling across the right ones."

Roumbanis's 34-5 stringer broke the previous FLW Tour record for heaviest day-two catch. He also caught the Pro Division Big Bass Friday, which weighed 9 pounds, 7 ounces.

McMillan third

Brandon McMillan of Belle Glade, Fla., is in third place with a two-day total  of 55-14.Fresh off his second-place finish at the Okeechobee EverStart, local pro Brandon McMillan is once again in contention. His limit Friday weighed 28 pounds, 14 ounces, bringing his two-day total to 55 pounds, 14 ounces.

While Roumbanis and Prough are sharing water, so are McMillan and fifth-place pro Randall Tharp.

"We both had banner days," said the 27-year-old UPS driver. "I pretty much had what I had by 10 a.m."

McMillan is torn between managing his area and trying to keep pace with the leader. Like many others, he's baffled with the weights. Tomorrow, he won't save any fish.

"I fish this lake 100 days a year and this is the best I've ever seen it in my life and I've been fishing it since I was 5 years old."

McMillan and Tharp are working a different pattern. They start their morning by flipping to matted junk - a combination of eelgrass, hydrilla and reeds - on a 200-yard stretch of bank that funnels in from the main lake. Like the leaders, most of these are prespawn females who are itching to do their thing in the warm weather.

"I'm not really sight-fishing, but if I see one I will stop and catch it. Later in the day I found another area that has 25 to 29 pounds of bed fish but I want to start tomorrow by flipping."

McMillan's bait of choice is a black and blue Bruiser Intruder.

Fourth-place pro Andy Morgan caught a five-bass limit Friday weighing 30 pounds. Morgan rallies to fourth

Despite catching 24-13 yesterday, Andy Morgan sat in relative obscurity with the other 50 pros who caught over 20 pounds. Today he changed that with a 30-pound bag, which brought him to fourth place with an opening-round total of 54 pounds, 13 ounces.

"I'm fishing a big, wide open community area," said Morgan. "I'm catching a ton of fish, over 40 today, but getting five of the right ones is tough. Today I was fortunate to catch all of the big ones I saw."

Morgan's fish are spawn to postspawn and he's using a variety of baits including a Brush Hog, a Speed Craw and a Swimming Fluke. While the pros ahead of him are catching 8s and 9s, all of Morgan's keepers today were in the 6-pound class.

"I'm just tickled to death to be keeping up. I don't typically like slugfests. Right now, the bite is just unbelievable. I've never seen it this good. Heck, a mediocre day is 20 or 21 pounds. A bad day is 17."

Tharp catches 31-10 on borrowed stick
Randall Tharp caught a 31-pound, 10-ounce limit Friday to make the cutoff in fifth place.
Like McMillan, Tharp is targeting some pretty thick and nasty stuff. Today he actually broke his strongest flipping stick and had to borrow one from McMillan. He then returned the favor by catching 31 pounds, 10 ounces on it. Tharp, who finished fifth at the recent EverStart, has a two-day total of 53 pounds, 2 ounces and again sits in fifth place.

"It's a miracle I was able to get all the big ones out today," he said. "These are really thick mats. The good news is that I think all the pressure is helping us because the bass are getting pushed under the mats. We're not getting as many bites, but they're quality. Hopefully these fish keep retreating to us; most of them still have eggs. These fish are moving up everywhere; it's incredible what's going on."

Tharp is using his new Attraxx Predator Craw, a bait he specifically designed for flipping thick grass.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee after day two:

6th: Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va., 53-1
7th: Trevor Fitzgerald of Belleview, Fla., 50-15
8th: Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., 50-1
9th: Jeremy York of Loganville, Ga., 49-12
10th: Peter Thliveros of Saint Augustine, Fla., 49-0

Overall the 2,800 pounds, 2 ounces caught by the pros Friday sets a new FLW Tour record for heaviest day-two total catch. The previous record was set at the Detroit River in 2007 when 2,756 pounds of bass crossed the stage.

Wilcox takes co-angler lead
Aymon Wilcox of Lauderdale Lake, Fla. leads the Co-angler Division of the FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee with a two-day total of  46-5.
Rising from second to first on the strength of a 23-pound, 12-ounce catch was co-angler Aymon Wilcox. The Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., native finished the opening round with a total weight of 46 pounds, 5 ounces.

"Today was kind of iffy," said the 32-year-old Wilcox. "It started a little slow and then it picked it up."

Wilcox wasn't sight-fishing, instead making long casts with a Tuscaroran frog and stickbait. He also mixed in a Netbait jig and Paca Craw.

With over a 9-pound lead and only one day remaining, Wilcox is closing in on his first win.

"I've been close a lot, but I've never won one of these. Winning tomorrow would mean a whole lot. I've been fishing this lake since I was 13 years old."

Buck slips to second

Day-one leader Ron Buck of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., fell from first to second after catching 13 pounds, 7 ounces. Buck finished the opening round with 37-3.

"Today I did a lot of junk fishing," said Buck. "I was throwing a Skinny Dipper, a Gambler Ace and a Gambler 10-inch worm. I'd say I caught 18 or 20 bass but it took me all day to cull to that weight."

Third-place co-angler George Kapiton holds up his biggest bass from day two.Kapiton third with 36-8

Co-angler George Kapiton of Inverness, Fla., rose to third after catching a 20-pound, 5-ounce limit. Anchoring that limit was a 7-pound, 6-ounce hog, the Big Bass of the day in the Co-angler Division.

"I was throwing mainly a Big EZ but I did some pitching to reeds too," said Kapiton, who won last year's FLW Series event on Okeechobee.

Hensley, Brooks round out top five

In fourth place for the co-anglers is Nick Hensley of Cumming, Ga., with 10 bass weighing 35 pounds, 13 ounces. Trailing him by 8 ounces is Chip Brooks of Bradenton, Fla.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers at the FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee after day two:

6th: Ryan Richardson of Golfstown, N.H., 34-13
7th: Spencer Shuffield of Bismarck, Ark., 34-2
8th: Marlon Crowder of Tampa, Fla., 32-15
9th: Skip Bennett of Mount Vernon, Ill., 32-2
10th: Theo Corcoran of Waterford, Mich., 31-5

Day three of the FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee will begin Saturday at 7 a.m. from Roland & Mary Ann Martin's Marina & Resort located at 920 East Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2011-02-03-lake-okeechobee 

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