UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Potomac River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Scouting the Big O with Wesley Strader

Scouting the Big O with Wesley Strader

Wesley Strader is known and admired for his unique wit and constant cheer, but his consistency is what has been the true hallmark of his successful fishing career. Last week, that consistency paid off with the first big win he’s had since 2002 at the B.A.S.S. Open on the Kissimmee Chain in central Florida. Now he’s got his eye on starting the Walmart FLW Tour season on the right foot a few hours south at Lake Okeechobee.

We hopped in the boat with the Spring City, Tennessee, native for a look at how he approached the final morning of practice. 

 

We started off in a sensibly imposed fog delay. As is common in South Florida in the spring, everything was dripping wet and blanketed in fog that would make navigating Okeechobee’s winding back trails dangerous. For Strader and Luke Dunkin, his practice partner last year and a rookie on Tour this year, the fog was a chance to move a little more slowly and for Strader to polish off a bowl of oatmeal to start the day.

 

After moving his rods from inside to the deck of his Ranger Z521, Strader hit a gas station to fill up and was rolling on the lake by about 7:30. He had in mind to make a long run away from Clewiston to hunt for spawning bass in a few old haunts made newly accessible by the high water. Unfortunately, the fog was still fairly thick on the lake, so he elected to begin the day near Clewiston looking for a concentration of good ones.

 

Strader began the day in a large interior opening alternating between a Zoom Super Fluke pitched in pockets and a Horny Toad buzzed over the pads. He kept his eyes peeled, and was hunting for spawners.

“You’ve gotta find those 50- to 100-yard magic stretches,” explains Strader. “It’s almost like ledge fishing, except you can’t use your electronics to find them.”

 

Strader’s first bass was a smallish keeper. He showed off how white it was and remarked that the fish had only just moved in off the main lake or outside edge and into the spawning grounds. The fact that little bucks are so prevalent in the shallows suggested that there are big females on the way soon.

 

Of course, little fish aren’t the name of the game, and Strader really wanted to find a group of spawning males in the 2- to 3-pound range that could be solid keepers and a draw for the big females that win tournaments on Okeechobee. Unfortunately, he wasn’t having a whole lot of success finding those bigger fish.  

“Catching little ones is kinda like riding a Moped,” quips Strader. “It’s fun, but you don’t want your buddies to know you’re doing it!”

 

According to Strader, the reed heads with swallows roosting on them are particularly good targets. The swallow poop attracts shiners, which in turn attract bass.

Come to think of it, he might not have been all that serious.

 

As the morning wore on and the fog burned off, Strader turned his attention from the pads to the reed heads interspersed throughout. Flipping a Z Hog, he put the best of the morning in the boat and hooked up with a few others that he felt had potential. The tournament certainly isn’t in the bag yet, but Strader finally had something to go on.

 

Strader’s burst of success had him digging for more baits. He keeps the majority of his bulk plastics in the back compartment, but had other bags that he knew he needed handy scattered throughout the boat for easy (though perhaps not perfectly logical) access.

 

We weren’t the only ones on the water. Though Strader’s area wasn’t crowded, we could usually see another angler or two in view or passing by. There were also plenty of other non-human critters present, such as this gator sunning herself in the cattails.

 

Even though he only picked up a few different rods while we were on the water, Strader had a number of other options on the deck. They included a few different vibrating jigs, his favorite Florida prop bait, some other staples and plenty of different soft plastics to sling in the grass.

 

Midmorning, I left him fishing so I could get back to do some work. The last I saw of him, he had picked up to run clear across the lake looking for gold. Despite catching a few, he didn’t find the winning spot while I was in the boat. But who knows what he found at his next stop? We’ll see.

Tags: lake-okeechobee  wesley-strader  jody-white  pre-tournament  2016-02-04-lake-okeechobee 

Smith Honored with Sportsmanship, Community Leadership Award

Smith Honored with Sportsmanship, Community Leadership Award

Capt. Blake Smith was presented with the 2019 Forrest L. Wood Sportsmanship & Community Leadership Award by the award’s namesake, Forrest Wood, at the 2019 FLW Cup pre-tournament banquet in Hot Springs, Ark. Smith, of Lakeland, Fla., has fished the FLW Tour since 2015. READ MORE »

Day 3 of Practice with Scanlon

Day 3 of Practice with Scanlon

Casey Scanlon won the FLW Tour season finale at Lake Champlain, which he almost had to do to make the FLW Cup. Now that he’s here at Lake Hamilton, he’s got a shot at $300,000 and a possible edge over the competition due to his momentum and extensive Ozark experience. READ MORE »

Hard Lessons and the FLW Cup

Hard Lessons and the FLW Cup

Two terrible tournaments to end the season cost Miles Burghoff his shot at the Polaris Rookie of the Year title. This week at the FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton, he's hoping to apply the lessons learned at the end of the season to his preparation for the championship event. READ MORE »

Thrift Roams Hamilton on Day 2

Thrift Roams Hamilton on Day 2

In seemingly any tournament that Bryan Thrift shows up to he is without a doubt one of the favorites to win. With two FLW Tour Angler of the Year titles, six Tour wins and five Costa FLW Series wins – including his most recent on Lake Champlain just a few weeks ago – it’s easy to understand why. READ MORE »

Riding Around Practice on Day 2

Riding Around Practice on Day 2

In a Ranger Z520L with a 250-hp Evinrude G2, it takes about 15 minutes to run from Carpenter Dam, which impounds Lake Hamilton, to the Blakely Mountain Dam that separates Hamilton from Lake Ouachita. If you stop and chat with 11 pros along the way, however, you’ll need most of the morning, but you’ll also wind up with a pretty sound idea of what’s going on at Hamilton for this week’s FLW Cup. READ MORE »

The First Morning with B. Lat

The First Morning with B. Lat

You won’t hear Brian Latimer complain about hot weather and tough fishing in Arkansas during this week’s FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton. For B. Lat, sweating it out on the water is vastly better than working in the heat installing landscaping and mowing lawns for a living, which is what he was doing just a few years ago. A lot’s changed since those days. Now, Latimer is an FLW Tour champion, with a growing fishing media company and his first shot at a Cup title. READ MORE »

FLW Cup Schedule of Events

FLW Cup Schedule of Events

The FLW Cup goes down August 9-11 on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Ark. As the crowning event of the FLW Tour season, there’s naturally a lot that goes with it, from takeoffs, the FLW Expo, a Trace Adkins concert and of course the weigh-ins at the Bank OZK Arena. Below you’ll find everything you’ll need to follow or attend the Cup, from the times to each event and seminar to each giveaway going on. Keep in mind, everything is free to attend and all times are Central. READ MORE »

Pre-Practice Report from Hamilton

Pre-Practice Report from Hamilton

For some, preparation has been in the form of map study and online research, while others have made the trek to Lake Hamilton to get eyes on the playing field, which went off limits July 22. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Champlain

Top 10 Baits from Lake Champlain

As usual, the fishing on Lake Champlain was great. Pros and co-anglers alike loaded the boat with smallmouths and largemouths each day of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event, and they did it with a wide array of techniques. If you’re wondering what to throw up north when there are green and brown fish on the table in the early summer, you could hardly go wrong with anything the pros in the top 10 used.  READ MORE »

The FLW Cup Playing Field

The FLW Cup Playing Field

It’s been 14 seasons since the FLW Cup has been held at Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Ark. In the years since, FLW fans have likely developed some familiarity with nearby Lake Ouachita, which has been a frequent destination for the Cup and, in fact, hosted last year’s championship event. Hamilton is less-known because it hasn’t gotten the nod to host the finale since July 2005, when George Cochran won his third bass-fishing world championship . READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Champlain

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Champlain

Grueling wind on day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division opener on Lake Champlain didn’t do the field any favors, but otherwise, it was a heck of a tournament on the big northern fishery. The aftereffects of an odd spring with high water had things somewhat scrambled, putting some of the local participants on their off foot, but a variety of patterns proved to be successful. READ MORE »

Champlain Midday Update – Day 3

Champlain Midday Update – Day 3

While day two was windy and rough, day three has pretty much been calm from the get-go. It has also been hot as blazes. It’s made fishing a little tougher than expected, with a lot of anglers reporting missed or lost fish and a generally slower bite. That said, a slow bite on Champlain is a great bite most everywhere else, so we’re still going to see plenty of bass. READ MORE »

McKee Takes Co-Angler Title

McKee Takes Co-Angler Title

Weighing in 16 pounds, 2 ounces on day three, Henry McKee beat out co-angler superstar Gary Haraguchi for the win in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division on Champlain. With a 47-8 total, McKee won a $1,050 and a brand-new Ranger Z175 with a 90-horsepower outboard. READ MORE »

Thrift All the Way on Champlain

Thrift All the Way on Champlain

Taking the win in wire-to-wire fashion, Bryan Thrift tallied 18 pounds, 4 ounces on the final day for an even 57-pound total in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Champlain. For the win, Thrift earned $44,200 and a new Ranger boat, and it’s his 11th win with FLW. The Northern Division is presented by Gajo Baits and the tournament was presented by Polaris.  READ MORE »

Lake Champlain Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Lake Champlain Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

One of the windier tournament days in recent memory did a lot to reshape the leaderboard of the Costa FLW Series event on Lake Champlain. The run south to Ticonderoga was not impossible, but the wind up north kept a lot of pros from effectively fishing their best stuff. That made weights drop pretty much across the board on day two. READ MORE »

Thrift Still Ahead on Champlain

Thrift Still Ahead on Champlain

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division event on Champlain featured a bunch of wind and a lot of turnover on the leaderboard. Though he struggled to replicate his massive day-one success, Bryan Thrift still managed 16 pounds, 6 ounces for a 38-12 total to retain the lead. Behind him, Scott Dobson rose from ninth to second with a robust bag of smallmouths worth 18-10 for a 37-14 total. READ MORE »

Champlain Midday Update – Day 2

Champlain Midday Update – Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series event presented by Polaris on Lake Champlain is going to be quite a swing from day one. Typically turnover in the standings is common on Champlain because the weights stay so tight, but today’s turnover is going to have a lot to do with the weather. READ MORE »

Champlain Midday Update – Day 1

Champlain Midday Update – Day 1

Takeoff was a little blustery, but overall, it’s been a perfect start to the Costa FLW Series event on Lake Champlain. The event is the kickoff of the Northern Division, which is presented by Gajo Baits, and the tournament itself is presented by Polaris. READ MORE »

Lake Champlain Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Lake Champlain Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Last year, every event in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division, which is presented by Gajo Baits, was won entirely with smallmouth bass. This season, the kickoff event on Champlain, which is presented by Polaris, looks destined to involve some largemouths. Everyone in the top five weighed green ones on day one, though somewhat surprisingly, the south end down by Ticonderoga didn’t play an overwhelming role, as only three of the top 10 anglers made the long run southward. READ MORE »

Go-Time Again on Champlain

Go-Time Again on Champlain

Each of the last three years have seen the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits kick off on Champlain. This tournament, which is presented by Polaris, should offer great fishing like usual, but the dominant pattern certainly won’t be spawning smallmouths. Instead, it could be a largemouth slugfest, as the fishing has continued to prove strong on the south end of the lake. READ MORE »