UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Here They Come

Dalton Cooksey, 20, will be the youngest pro on the Walmart FLW Tour when it kicks off in Florida in March. Today, he got an early start to his season by blasting off into Lake Okeechobee for the Rayovac FLW Series opener.

Big things are coming on Lake Okeechobee – big bass, big weights and the biggest tournament field in Rayovac FLW Series history.

This morning, 250 boats were backed into the Big O for the first day of competition in the 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division opener, which is presented by Power-Pole. While reports vary slightly among the pros surveyed after practice, the consensus is that all those anglers could find themselves facing down a fresh wave of Okeechobee’s legendary hogs that are eager to transition from the main lake to major spawning flats.

Just how good it’ll be is unpredictable – Okeechobee is always unpredictable – but stable weather (a.k.a., no major cold fronts), sunny skies and air temperatures in the mid-70s have bumped the water temperature up toward what Quaker State pro Scott Canterbury calls the “magic number” for an Okeechobee blowout.

Quaker State pro Scott Canterbury expects a major wave of bass to move into spawning areas this week.“The water temperature has been in the mid- to upper 60s, but [yesterday] I saw up to 72 degrees. The magic number is around 72 or 73 degrees. When it gets there, the fish just go crazy,” says Canterbury. “There’ll be a lot caught off beds and a lot caught on moving baits, but you can catch them a lot of ways.”

Canterbury expects to see a handful of “giant” bags and a winning three-day total of at least 70 pounds. Fellow Alabaman Clent Davis is even more optimistic.

How good is the fishing on Okeechobee right now? Clent Davis thinks it could take 75 pounds over three days to win.“I think it’s going to be a slugfest,” says Davis. “It’s getting warm. There are a lot of fish ready to rush the bank – well, there’s no normal bank here, but they’re moving in. It could take 75 pounds. I think it will. I think it’s really, really good right now.”

While Canterbury reported seeing new fish move into his areas yesterday in practice, there haven’t been any major weather events as of late, so the fish are gradually easing into the spawn. That means this one could be won with a variety of tactics, such as tossing topwaters, flipping, sight-fishing, winding swimbaits and even targeting prespawn fish staging on the hard outside edges of grass beds. Finding and then committing to the right area that allows a pro to fish to his strengths and where new bass move in during the qualifying days will get someone into contention. Making small adjustments depending on the wind, water clarity and how far along the bass are each day will push that pro to the top of the leaderboard. 

An extra foot or so of water in Okeechobee compared to last season has literally changed the playing field this year. Fish have been able to scatter into newly flooded and often unreachable cover, while maturing hydrilla in some areas has created an additional obstacle.

Some of the same classic community holes that always surface at Okeechobee will still attract a lot of boats, but one area that could get most of the attention this week is what is collectively being referred to as the “south end.” Encompassing thousands of acres, the south end produced the winning weight at the Jan. 3 Walmart Bass Fishing League tournament, and it’s been hot all winter because of its seemingly perfect combination of bottom content and protection from the wind. Local pro and former Forrest Wood Cup champion Scott Martin believes the south end could attract as many as 150 boats on day one.

Always a favorite on Okeechobee, hometown boy Scott Martin is all smiles for the day-one takeoff.“The south end is a massive grass bed, a protected marsh where the clarity is consistent and there’s a hard bottom,” Martin explains. “It’s an ideal spawning ground. All those boats will be able to spread out and fish in any direction, but it’ll still be crowded.”

Crowd or no crowd, the fishing on Okeechobee is heating up, and changes are on the way. Martin believes we’ll see several up-and-down performances from anglers who smash them one day but fail to stay ahead of the fish, and consistency will be a challenging goal to achieve.

This afternoon, we’ll get our first glimpse at what Okeechobee has in store for the Rayovac opener. Follow along via FLW Live at 3 p.m. ET to see how this record field breaks it down.

Day 1 - Morning Photo Gallery

Day 1 - Angler Pairings

Conditions

Temperature at Takeoff: 64 degrees

Forecast High: 81 degrees

Precipitation: 0 percent chance

Wind: ENE at 3 mph, increasing to 10 mph from the east

Sky: partly cloudy

Water Temperature: mid- to upper 60s and rising

 

Details

Format:

All 250 boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

 

Takeoff Time:

7 a.m.

 

Takeoff Location:

Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina and Resort

920 East Del Monte Avenue

Clewiston, FL 33440

 

Weigh-In Time:

Days 1 and 2 – 3 p.m.

Day 3 – 4 p.m.

 

Weigh-In Location:

Days 1 and 2 – Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina and Resort

Day 3 – Walmart 2484, 1005 W Sugarland Hwy., Clewiston, FL 33440

Tags: curtis-niedermier  morning-story  2015-01-22-lake-okeechobee 

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