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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 

Canada Leads at Pan Am

Canada Leads at Pan Am

The first session of competition in the Pan American Bass Championship on Lake St. Francis was a roaring success. After the morning weigh-in, Team Canada is leading with an average of 21.16 pounds, Team USA is in second with a 19.6 average, Team Akwesasne First Nation is in third with 18.62 and Mexico had an up and down morning to accrue a 17.24-pound average. READ MORE »

Do you need a generator for bass fishing?

Do you need a generator for bass fishing?

Austin Felix has been running a generator for a few years now, and his primary use is during the spring in the North, when he’s spending mega-days on the water practicing for tournaments that feature bedding smallmouths. READ MORE »

Day 1 Delayed at Pan Am

Day 1 Delayed at Pan Am

Because of steady rain and hard winds at around 20 mph or more, day one of the Pan American Bass Championship has been canceled. With gusts up to 40 mph in the forecast, the organizers have decided to fish two sessions on Friday instead. READ MORE »

Pan Am Gets Underway in Canada

Pan Am Gets Underway in Canada

With the official training day in the rearview, the Pan American Bass Championship starts Thursday, Oct. 16, on Lake St. Francis in Cornwall, Ontario. Teams from Mexico, the Akwesasne First Nation, Canada and the United States will be competing the next two days for glory and country, but also to help along the movement to make bass fishing an Olympic sport. READ MORE »

Umbrella Rigs for Great Lakes Smallies   

Umbrella Rigs for Great Lakes Smallies   

The days of catching seemingly infinite bass on an umbrella rig are mostly gone, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't fish with one. The rig is a great tool for catching fall smallmouth bass on the big waters of the Great Lakes and elsewhere up north. READ MORE »

Hunting Big Bronze in Wisconsin

Hunting Big Bronze in Wisconsin

“On a normal day, if the best five aren’t over 25 pounds, it isn’t a good day,” Stefan says. “My best days with a buddy have been where the best five have gone 29 to 32 pounds. We get lots of 6-pounders a year, and we’ve caught some right at the 7-pound mark. I’ve had a few on that we haven’t landed that were bigger.” READ MORE »

Eyes on the Weather at Lake of the Ozarks

Eyes on the Weather at Lake of the Ozarks

Wrapping up the Costa FLW Series Central Division with an early fall stop at Lake of the Ozarks has become a tradition over the last few years. This year, the final stop of the season is presented by Evinrude and takes place Oct. 10-12, which should be good timing for a number of patterns to play. READ MORE »

How to Fish a Blade Bait for Smallmouth

How to Fish a Blade Bait for Smallmouth

You can catch smallmouths on a lot of baits in the early fall, but one of the most consistent producers later in the year is a blade bait, and Scott Dobson is an expert with it. His go-to is the old-fashioned Silver Buddy, but he has some distinct preferences and tweaks for better success. READ MORE »

Transition Time at Grand Lake

Transition Time at Grand Lake

Grand Lake has been flooded for most of the summer, and, as a result, it hasn’t received as much fishing pressure as is typical for one of the premier fisheries in the region. Weights for the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division finale, presented by T-H Marine, have the potential to be outstanding for this time of year, but it may all come down to what the weather decides to do leading up to the event. READ MORE »

Dobson Wins First FLW Series AOY

Dobson Wins First FLW Series AOY

Scott Dobson has earned a pile of accolades up north, but this year, he earned his biggest title yet. Winning the Strike King Angler of the Year in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits, the Clarkston, Mich., angler finished third at Lake Champlain, 13th on the Potomac River and wrapped the season and the title with a second-place showing on the St. Lawrence River. READ MORE »

The Cal Delta is Looking Good

The Cal Delta is Looking Good

This week the Costa FLW Series Western Division will conclude with the final event of the season on the California Delta. The tournament, which is presented by Power-Pole, should showcase a different side of the Delta, given that most of the Western Division tournaments on the famed fishery take place in the spring. That said, last year’s event on the Delta fell on nearly identical dates as this year and could be a good tease for how things may shake out this time around. READ MORE »

How Schmitt Targets Late-Summer Tidal Bass

How Schmitt Targets Late-Summer Tidal Bass

As we’ve seen pretty much every year in the FLW Cup, which is usually held in the South, going way up creeks to find slightly cooler water is a productive pattern in the heat of late summer. The same strategy can pay off on tidal fisheries such as the Potomac River and James River as well, albeit with some tweaks for the situation. READ MORE »

Naples' Donny Bass Wins Two-Day T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Event on Lake Okeechobee

Naples' Donny Bass Wins Two-Day T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Event on Lake Okeechobee

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Boater Donny Bass of Naples, Florida, brought a two-day total of 10 bass to the scale weighing 40 pounds, 9 ounces, to win the two-day T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) Gator Division super-tournament on Lake Okeechobee Sunday. Bass earned $6,137 for his efforts... READ MORE »

Big Smallmouths, Big Water for Season Finale

Big Smallmouths, Big Water for Season Finale

Any tournament with smallmouths in it is a good one, but when the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits heads to the St. Lawrence River it's usually a show-stopper. This year’s event, which is presented by Realtree Fishing, shouldn’t be any different as the Northern Division looks to close its season out on one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the world September 19-21. READ MORE »

Bryan Schmitt’s ChatterBait Box

Bryan Schmitt’s ChatterBait Box

“I’m pretty wild on color selection,” says Schmitt. “I always have my shad colors. I always have my black and blues. But I fall in love with trying to find a niche color. Especially when you get into the fall of the year on the Potomac. I love to find a crayfish pattern, and I feel like then a crayfish-imitating ChatterBait out-fishes anything else. And I also like to find a bluegill pattern at times, so I play with the colors.” READ MORE »

Review: STIX Fishing Rods

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STIX Fishing is a relatively new company started by FLW Live host Travis Moran and Nick Smith that sells fishing rods with a bit of a unique plan. Instead of picking and choosing a rod or two at a time, STIX wants to sell you six rods at a time (the STIX PAX) for $500, which comes out to about $83 per rod. According to the company, the STIX PAX is a complete set of bass rods and will do everything you need rods to do. READ MORE »

Bryan Schmitt’s Potomac Review

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On the Potomac, hands down, I want to fish grass. The grass holds the numbers. But if you look at the event this week on the Potomac, the tournament was won on structure. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from the Potomac River

Top 10 Patterns from the Potomac River

The Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits event on the Potomac River was not the slugfest the season opener on Champlain was or the season finale on the St. Lawrence River is almost sure to be. As has been the case in many of the FLW events on the Potomac this year, the fishing was pretty stingy, and hard cover played an outsized role. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from the Potomac River

Top 10 Baits from the Potomac River

Late summer on the Potomac is often tough fishing, so the contenders in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits event had to pull out all the stops. Fishing everything from grass to docks and rocks, the anglers mixed up all sorts of power and finesse presentations to get the job done in the second stop of the season presented by Lowrance. READ MORE »

Short Tops co-anglers

Short Tops co-anglers

Weighing a limit on day one and two bags of just four fish each over the next two days was enough to earn Jim Short the co-angler title in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits on the Potomac River. Weighing 9 pounds, 15 ounces on the final day for a total of 29-9, Short took home a new Ranger Z175 and $5,350 in cash. READ MORE »