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


Good Ol’ Okeechobee

As it so often does, the Costa FLW Series kicks off another year of tournament fishing on famed Lake Okeechobee. This year, the Southeastern Division takes off out of Clewiston, Fla., Jan. 26-28, with a full field of 250 pros and co-anglers eager to test their mettle on the big south Florida bowl.


Shin Fukae carves a path across a lily pad-scattered flat on day two.

The state of the lake

Last winter on Okeechobee was one to forget. With high water and a succession of cold fronts, the fishing in the high-level FLW events on the big grassy bowl was pretty bad. In the Costa FLW Series opener Jason Lambert earned the win and average less than 15 pounds per day. The fishing and the weather were better in the FLW Tour opener where Bradley Hallman smoked them the first two days and then averaged less than 10 pounds a day on the weekend to close out the win. On the final day of the Tour event, only three pros landed more than 10 pounds, and nobody even cracked the 11-pound barrier.

This year, the outlook is a lot more positive. Just more than a week ago Robert Beatty took top honors with 27-10 in the first T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) event of the year, and 11 boaters weighed in more than 19 pounds. Good BFL weights aside, a combination of factors has change the dynamic of the lake. Because the water stayed high for much of 2016, many of the “hard lines” of cattails that used to protect the hayfields of the south end have drifted and blown apart.

“You will not recognize where Bradley Hallman and Val [Osinski] won,” says FLW Tour pro Joe Holland. “The trails for boats are completely gone, and there’s no hard wall [of cattails] out in front of the hayfields. There are fish to be caught, but it leaves it very susceptible to the wind. Anything other than a straight south wind is gonna dirty it up a lot more and further back into those hayfields. Most of the grass way back in the hayfields never saw dirty water. Now that it’s wide open that dirt is pushing farther back.”

Luckily, the water is coming back down to normal levels. It’s currently at about 14 feet above sea level, which is only about a foot away from truly ideal conditions. Outside of the south end, the rest of the lake is still in fine condition, with lots of grass growing in and around most of the historically good areas.

“The lake itself is super healthy. There are a lot of 2- to 3-pounders now because we’ve had some good spawns, and they’re starting to show up at the scales now,” says Juan Ruiz, who calls Okeechobee home. “There’s been more shad and more schooling activity than I remember in recent years. A couple weeks ago I set up on a school, and I bet we caught a hundred fish in two hours. They're all 1- to 3-pounders, but there’s an occasional 4. We’re hoping a couple years from now they grow up to be 5s.”

With more open water in the south and healthy grass up north, Ruiz says the state of the lake is similar to how it fished in the early 2000s when he was first learning it. Though flipping is still a factor, he says that winding a bait is as good as ever.

Though both pros think the fishing can be good almost anywhere in the lake now, Holland says to look for most of the action to happen on the north end.

“If I had to give you a percentage, I’d say 75 percent of the checks are going to be cashed up north,” he adds. “But where it’s going to be won, that’s up in the air. Let’s say 100 guys run south, it very well could be won down south, but I think there will be a lot of guys that catch 30 or 40 fish down south for 8 or 9 pounds. It’s a lot harder to pick off big fish down south, but it can be done.”


Patterns to watch

Come tournament time, most of the anglers will likely focus on the handful of Okeechobee standby patterns that have produced year in and year out in winter tournaments.

“I would say the top five baits this year are going to be a Gambler Big EZ, a Burner Worm, a ChatterBait, a swim jig and a flipping bait,” says Holland. “In years past I’d flip that order around.”

In addition to the usual mix of flipping reeds, mats and hydrilla with punching baits and big jigs or winding plastics and ChatterBaits and whatnot through and over the grass, a few other less-heralded Okeechobee tactics might come into play. Because of the higher-than-normal water, Holland says a spinnerbait has been working well. For Ruiz, a lipless crankbait has been doing work on the outside of the grass, and a prop bait has been better than usual at drawing up spawning bass.

It’s rare that a sight-fishing derby breaks out on Okeechobee, and with high water that isn’t likely to happen this year. But that doesn’t mean that spawning bass won’t be caught. If the weather cooperates it’s easy to imagine a wave slipping up onto the flats to spawn. If things stay a little cooler, there should still be plenty of opportunity for truly prespawn bass as well as postspawn fish.

However the weather plays out, getting in the right area is always key.

“The area that you’re in is sometimes a lot more important than what bait you’re throwing,” says Ruiz. “The way these fish group up on the flats, if you get around the right area you can catch them a lot of different ways.”

North or south, flipping or moving, day one will be plenty exciting regardless. There’s no better place to start the tournament season than south Florida.


Related Info

Swim jigs on Okeechobee

How John Cox slings a Speed Worm

Osinski’s Texas-Rigged Swimbait


Tags: lake-okeechobee  flw-series  jody-white  pre-tournament  2017-01-26-lake-okeechobee 


AOY Update: Lake Toho

 With the first two events of the 2019 FLW Tour season in the books, it’s time to take a look at how the Angler of the Year race is shaping up. At Sam Rayburn and Lake Toho the pros were tested with very different conditions, and the standings include anglers different specialties and skill sets than at this time last year, when the Tour’s first two events were both held in Florida. READ MORE »


Costa FLW Series Western Division Opener

The recent government shutdown put the Costa FLW Series Western Division opener on Lake Mead in a holding pattern, but FLW has received clearance to proceed with the event as planned, regardless of the current or future status of government operations. READ MORE »


Top 10 Baits from Toho

The second stop of the 2019 FLW Tour landed right on the spawn on Lake Toho and the other lakes on the Kissimmee Chain. Top finishers caught bass in all phases of the spawn. Collectively, they used just about every bait you’ll ever need if you want to catch a bass this time of year in the Sunshine State. READ MORE »


Roaming Kissimmee with Douglas

Hailing from Minnesota, Josh Douglas is in his third year on the FLW Tour and looking for his first FLW Cup qualification. Were it not for a disqualification in the final event of the year at St. Clair in 2018, Douglas would have sailed into the Cup. After a tough start to the year at Rayburn, he’s planning to get back on track at the FLW Tour event presented by Ranger on Lake Toho. READ MORE »


Burghoff Checks Out Toho on Day 2

FLW Tour rookie Miles “Sonar” Burghoff kicked off his freshman season with a strong performance on Sam Rayburn, where he just missed fishing the final day with a 12th-place finish. Now, the Tour is on a system he is more than familiar with, having spent countless hours on Lakes Toho and Kissimmee while attending college at the University of Central Florida. READ MORE »


Top 10 Patterns from Okeechobee

Whether it was a canal or small sections of the lake, each pro in the top chose to hunker down in an area and milk it for all it was worth in the season opener of the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division presented by Power-Pole. Here’s a look at how the action unfolded. READ MORE »


A Look at Lake Toho

Stop No. 2 of the 2019 FLW Tour takes us to Lake Toho and the several other lakes strung along the Kissimmee River. Presented by Ranger Boats, the tournament will take off from Big Toho Marina on the north end of the namesake lake, but competitors will be able to spread out down the Kissimmee River into Cypress Lake, Lake Hatchineha (Hatch), Lake Kissimmee, and perhaps even Tiger Lake and Lake Rosalie if they’re feeling adventurous. READ MORE »


Top 10 Baits from Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee wasn’t her normal self in the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division opener presented by Power-Pole. Bites were few and far between, but the top-10 pros dialed it in and got it done. Winner Nick Thliveros relied heavily on a crankbait and so did others, but Florida faithful’s like swim jigs, soft plastics and topwaters also fared well. READ MORE »


Niles Rallies for Co-angler Title

The Southeastern Division event on Lake Okeechobee presented by Power-Pole was a grind no matter if you were in the front of the boat or back. Bites were few and far between, and as a co-angler just catching a keeper or two kept you in the hunt. Niles started strong with an opening-day limit worth 18-9 to have him in the lead. On day two, he cooled off and brought a goose egg to the stage. Still, his day-one weight carried him to the final round where he started the day in fourth. Paired with Brett Preuett, Niles got to work Saturday. READ MORE »


Thliveros Brings it Home

Nick Thliveros led after day two on Okeechobee and after weighing his lowest weight of the week, he was able to seal the deal for his first Costa FLW Series win as a pro. READ MORE »


Nick Thliveros Wins Costa FLW Series on Lake Okeechobee presented by Power-Pole

CLEWISTON, Fla. (Feb. 2, 2019) – Florida boater Nick Thliveros of Saint Augustine, Florida, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 10 pounds, 15 ounces – enough to win the 2019 Costa FLW Series at Lake Okeechobee presented by Power-Pole. Thliveros, son of legendary bass angler Peter Thliveros, weighed in 15 bass over three days of competition totaling 46 pounds, 1... READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Okeechobee – Day 2

Fishing as a whole is still tough on the Big O, but there was definitely an improvement today – especially for the guys at the top of the leaderboard. READ MORE »


Thliveros in Charge on Okeechobee

Nick Thliveros is one day away from taking the title in the Costa FLW Series event on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from Okeechobee – Day 1

Things are tough on Okeechobee, but these pros cracked some of the code to wrangle solid catches. READ MORE »


Roder Out Front on Big O

Okeechobee is normally the place of dreams. This week, however, it isn’t quite living up to its reputation. Day one of the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division event on the Big O saw plenty of fish, though the quality bites were hard to come by. Troy Roder of Brookeland, Texas, set the pace early with a 19-pound, 15-ounce limit to grab the lead in the season opener – presented by Power-Pole – with a lead of over 4 pounds heading into Friday. READ MORE »


A Different Okeechobee

Cold fronts, dirty water and lower water levels make for an interesting start to the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division season. READ MORE »


Spawn on the Horizon at Okeechobee

Florida is a familiar place for FLW competition, and Lake Okeechobee is probably the best-known fishery the Sunshine State has to offer. So there shouldn’t be many surprises when the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division kicks off the season Jan. 31–Feb. 2 on the Big O with an event presented by Power-Pole. READ MORE »


By the Numbers: Lake Toho

The FLW Tour season opener on Sam Rayburn was a slugfest for sure. Fortunately for fans and anglers alike, the second stop of the season could be just as good, as the Tour heads to Central Florida and Lake Toho and the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Kissimmee, Fla., on February 7. READ MORE »


Fort Myers’ Anderson Wins T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Gator Division Opener on Lake Okeechobee

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Boater David Anderson of Fort Myers, Florida, caught five bass Saturday weighing 18 pounds, 1 ounce, to win the 2019 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League... READ MORE »


2019 Lake Toho Preview

Lake Tohopekaliga (Toho for short) is the first of four lakes on the menu for pros in the second stop of the FLW Tour. At the south end of Toho, a lock and a series of canals leads to Cypress Lake, Lake Hatchineha (Hatch) and Lake Kissimmee, which are all fair game for the pros. READ MORE »