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Okeechobee Heating Up

Okeechobee Heating Up

The weather over the last few weeks in Florida has been, well, not so Florida-like. Wave after wave of cold front has riddled the Sunshine State, leaving the bass in lockdown mode. Hope is on the horizon, though, for the entire field of the Walmart FLW Tour with a forecast calling for warmer weather in the days leading up to the start of the season-opener on Lake Okeechobee Feb. 4-7.

 

Recent History

So far in 2016 FLW has held two events on the Big O. The first, in early January, was an FLW Bass Fishing League event that took 31 pounds to win for one day. The second was the Jan. 14-16 Costa FLW Series tournament, which took just 44 pounds, 12 ounces over three days of fishing to win.

Wild weather has been the culprit for showing the two sides of Okeechobee.

“The weather before the BFL was stable and warm,” says Justin Morgan, who is from Okeechobee, Fla., and fished both the BFL and Costa FLW Series events. “The fish were really moving up shallow to spawn during the BFL, and the weights were good. Right after that is when that cold front came in, and that always affects the fish down here. The weights [for the Costa FLW Series] reflected that.”

Just for reference, prior to the BFL tournament, water temperatures on the lake were flirting with 80 degrees. During the Costa FLW Series tournament, anglers reported water temps in the low 60s. A drop of only a few degrees can put the fish in a funk. The drastic change threw a major wrench in the plans of Okeechobee bass.

Brandon Medlock is another Florida bass fishing stud who has experienced the weird weather swings that have been plaguing the region.

“The lake was setting up for a good wave of fish to spawn before the BFL,” adds Medlock. “Then a cold front came through right after the BFL, and another front rolled in right after the Costa FLW Series, which is never good. That is very uncharacteristic for January.”

 

Locating Clean Water

Anglers were enjoying plenty of clean water across Lake Okeechobee prior to the BFL tournament. Because of the frequency of rains and resulting runoff since then, plus high winds that have roiled the waters, the situation has changed. 

“Fishing clean water is always a key in Florida,” notes Medlock. “But all the wind we’ve had with those cold fronts has destroyed the clarity. Finding an area with clean water will be really important during the Tour event. For the guys that do, there should be a bunch of fish in it.”

 

Be Ready for a Wave

The warming trend that is forecast for the coming week should bring high hopes for both anglers and bass fishing fans. Medlock and Morgan have been out on the lake recently and say that the water temperature is on the rise, and that should have the big girls looking for love.

“I haven’t seen a lot of beds,” Morgan says. “I know the fish want to push up to spawn based on how they are acting. There are a lot of fish in staging areas that they typically get in to feed up before the spawn. There are a lot of males, and usually when you get a concentration like that the females aren’t too far behind.”

“In Florida the bass don’t need a [particular phase of the] moon to spawn,” adds Medlock. “It helps, but they don’t need it. Rising water temp is the biggest thing. All of the cold fronts we’ve had I think halted several waves of fish that wanted to spawn. From the forecast I’ve seen I think there will be a lot of fish moving in as the guys are practicing.

“The bite has been picking up over the last few days, but from what I can tell most of the fish are resident fish because of how dark-colored they are,” Medlock continues. Bass that move in off the main lake to spawn are often very pale. “The water temp was around 56 on Monday [Jan. 25], and just the other day it was 65. That will trigger a lot of fish to start moving up.”

Medlock and Morgan also agree that the scenario panning out for the season opener couldn’t be any better. A prolonged period of cool weather giving way to several days of sunny, warm conditions will be the kick in the tail that Okeechobee bass need to wake up.

 

A Perfect Storm?

Another slight cold front is expected to roll in midway through the tournament, however forecasters expect a quick air temperature turn-around – from the upper 60s back into the upper 70s by the final day – so it might not be too troublesome for pros. The fish have been hunkered down for so long that they will take full advantage of the nice weather.

“This is really a perfect recipe for a killer tournament,” Medlock says. “The lack of warm weather we’ve had should make it even better. I believe there are four waves of fish that will pull up [to spawn] at once. It is a very similar situation to when Randall Tharp and Brandon McMillan won back in 2012 and 2011. I could see someone breaking 100 pounds next week.”

 

Tournament Details

Walmart FLW Tour Stop No. 1

Lake Okeechobee

Clewiston, Fla.

Feb. 4-7, 2016

Presented by Ranger Boats

Hosted by Roland & Mary Ann Martin's Marina & Resort and Hendry County Tourism Development Council

 

Takeoffs

7:30 a.m. ET each day


Days one and two

Roland & Mary Ann Martin's Marina & Resort

920 E Del Monte Avenue

Clewiston, FL


Days three and four

Clewiston Boat Basin & Launch

709 Hoover Dike Road

Clewiston, FL

 

Weigh-ins

3 p.m. ET days one and two
Roland & Mary Ann Martin's Marina & Resort
920 E Del Monte Avenue
Clewiston, FL


4 p.m. ET days three and four

Walmart

1005 W Sugarland Hwy.

Clewiston, FL


Complete tournament details

Tags: lake-okeechobee  kyle-wood  pre-tournament  2016-02-04-lake-okeechobee 

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