UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Lake Norman

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Up-and-down Okeechobee

Cloudy skies and a stiff northerly wind greeted FLW Tour pros Thursday morning.

CLEWISTON, Fla. - For the past 12 months, the bass fishing on south Florida's Lake Okeechobee has been out of this world. The 2011 Walmart FLW Tour season opener served as the official coming out party for the Big O and the good times just kept rolling. So when the 2012 FLW Tour schedule was announced, most assumed there would be a repeat of last year's record-breaking slugfest. But this year, the stars haven't quite aligned, meaning Okeechobee will likely come back to Earth.

While the potential for huge stringers is ever-present on the Big O, don't expect 60 pros to catch over 20 pounds on day one like last year. A top-heavy leaderboard with a few 30-pound bags is the new expectation with limits once again being common.

"There's even more fish numbers wise this year, but the size isn't nearly the same," said Florida pro Peter Thliveros, who finished ninth at the 2011 event. "I think we'll have about 10 or 15 20-pound sacks Peter T eyes a female on bedtoday, which means overall the weights will be down significantly."

With a full moon, many anglers were counting on sight-fishing as the main technique to coax the famed Okeechobee giants. Last year's event saw stable, sunny weather, which allowed anglers to quickly move from bed to bed. But practice was largely windy and rainy and the same conditions are forecasted today. While that type of weather doesn't automatically shut down the bite, any reduction in visibility has a huge effect on the sight game, especially on shallow fisheries.

"The full moon was two days ago and they should have gone up," Thliveros added. "There were some bucks lying around but the females aren't presenting themselves. And leading up to a full moon is better than going away from it, so I don't expect much. But in truth, I didn't find the big fish last year so much as the big fish found me. I'm not going to say for sure it's not going to happen, but I just don't see it."

Glenn Browne took 11th at last year's event by sight-fishing and flipping the north end of the lake near the mouth of the Kissimmee River. He said he's written off that area for several reasons. It's too tannic, much of the vegetation is gone and he simply didn't locate any spawners.

"I would say at least half of the bass or maybe more have already spawned on this lake," said FLW Tour anglers make their way to the open waters of Lake Okeechobee.Browne. "We're already seeing some bluegill bedding, so that tells you how far along the lake is. Last year we had a lot of cold weather over the winter. This year we've hardly had any nights in the 40s. They've been up and they're gone."

Browne has five flipping sticks rigged up and he's excited to employ his favorite technique on one of his favorite lakes.

"I think this tournament is going to be a lot of pitching reeds, cattails and some mats. But you're going to have to fish for them this year, there's no doubt."

While Browne sees this week mostly as a flipping fest, Peter T sees it as a grind.

"I wasn't all that impressed with the flipping bite and the bass didn't really want to chase a buzzing bait either. For me, this will be a grind-it-out tournament - fishing one at a time and hopefully getting a big bite each day. And that wind we're going to get won't help the flippers or the sight-fishermen."

Logistics

Anglers will take off from Roland & Mary Ann Martin's Marina & Resort located at 920 E. Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston at 7:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday morning and from the Clewiston Boat Basin at 7:30 a.m. Roland & Mary Ann Martin's Marina & Resort bustles with activity Thursday morning.Saturday and Sunday morning. Thursday and Friday's weigh-ins will also be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday's final weigh-ins will be held at Walmart located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston beginning at 4 p.m.

Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.

In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The full field competes in the two-day opening round. After day two the field is pared to the top 20 pros and co-anglers. The co-angler competition concludes at Saturday's weigh-in and the top-10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.

On the Web

FLW Tour pros race through a canal to reach their first fishing spots.For those who can't catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.

In addition to FLW Live, FLWOutdoors.com is offering real-time updates from the water throughout each day of the Lake Okeechobee event. Simply click on the "On the Water Coverage" banner from either the FLW Outdoors or FLW Tour home pages.

Thursday's conditions

Sunrise: 7:05 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 66 degrees
Expected high temperature: 77 degrees
Water temperature: 71-75 degrees
Wind: NE at 14 mph
Maximum humidity: 60 percent
Day's outlook: afternoon showers

Tags: brett-carlson  morning-story  2012-02-09-lake-okeechobee 

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