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Kicking Off Practice with Schmitt

Kicking Off Practice with Schmitt

Coming off a fourth-place finish in the Costa FLW Series season opener on Okeechobee, Bryan Schmitt has many eyes on him this week for the FLW Tour opener in south Florida. Slinging a vibrating jig has accounted for plenty of good finishes over the years on the Big O, and Schmitt is one of the best in the world at it. Anytime he’s around grass the Maryland pro is a threat to win, and he’s looking to start the season strong after his best year yet on Tour in 2017.

With all that in mind, I jumped at the chance to hop in the boat with the soft-spoken and friendly pro for a look around Okeechobee.

 

We meet in the dark on the north side of Okeechobee, where Schmitt waits for the appointed start time of practice and then rolls out, heading back toward where he left off in the Costa FLW Series. After a short run, he begins to idle over some submerged hydrilla as the sun rises.

“Well, the good news is the grass hasn’t left,” says a contented Schmitt before breaking down his strategy. “The offshore grass has shrunk up here and in Harney Pond. I think it’s about a twentieth of what it was. In my mind, anywhere else that happens, the mother lode should be on what’s left of it.”

 

After a little more idling, Schmitt stops, pulls out a few rods and starts fishing, methodically working his way with the light breeze over the grass. As expected, he’s started the day with a vibrating jig.

“I might change, but I’m going to push this as much as I can, at least today,” says Schmitt, who has the warming weather very much on his mind. “It [a good finish] is going to [happen for] whomever lands on them Tuesday afternoon or Thursday morning. We just need a couple hints now. That’s what’s cool about this game.”

 

About an hour later, Schmitt hasn’t had a nibble, and it’s time for a short move to another section of good grass. After a brief idle over it to check on things, he digs out a rod rigged with a soft-plastic stick bait, stashes it on the deck for later, and goes back to work with the vibrating jig. Now, with the sun fully up and the force of an FLW Tour practice coinciding with a lovely Sunday to fish, the lake is starting to get busy. There are boats all over the place, fishing for bass and crappie, and hunting ducks. Unfortunately, the traffic might be picking up, but the action isn’t.

“Well, this is very disappointing to not even get a bite,” says Schmitt at 8:40 a.m. “But, I’m still going to have to check this later in practice.”

At exactly 8:41, Schmitt gets the first definite bite of the morning and then continues fishless for another half hour.

 

His next move is shallower, into some of the slop that Okeechobee is known for. Schmitt pulls a big stick out of the rod locker and goes to work. He flips his stick bait at some sparser stuff and drops a creature bait into the thick of it. He’s not wild about fishing this shallow with the weather still fairly cool, but he’s not one to leave things undone if possible. Unfortunately, this shallow foray is just as unsuccessful as the rest of the morning.

 

Schmitt works his way back out to the submerged grass and fishes along for another 15 minutes or so before sitting down to give Billy Shelton a call. A fellow Tour pro, Shelton rooms with Schmitt, as do Bradley Hallman and Kurt Dove. The four of them share at least a little information. It turns out that Shelton isn’t up to anything much either. He’s caught some keepers, but nothing of note.

 

Putting his phone away, Schmitt cranks up and makes another move, this time to some flooded brush in water that frankly looks like chocolate milk. It doesn’t seem like an ideal Okeechobee scenario, but he’s covering all his bases. Pulling out a black and blue vibrating jig, he goes to work – again with no results.

 

Some pros have decks that look like veritable tackle shops in practice, but Schmitt’s is still relatively clear, even midway through a fishless morning. Between some winding baits and flipping baits, he’s got a pretty solid group of Okeechobee staples at the ready.

 

Around 11 o’clock Schmitt ditches the brush bite and runs back toward the ramp, stopping on another likely looking section of submerged grass. After another idle over it, he begins fishing. 

A few minutes in, Schmitt is interrupted by Brandon “Big Mac” McMillan, who rolls in to check on things. After complaining about the fishing conditions for a bit, McMillan reveals that he’s caught two bass so far and says this is the cleanest water he’s seen all day. It’s no shame to have McMillan beat you on Okeechobee, but nonetheless, Schmitt is starting to wish for a fish.

 

Schmitt finishes out the grass patch without a bite, then makes two more quick stops on brushy areas. In one, you can see the effects of hurricane season on the cattails. Not only have they been pushed from their usual position, but you can see the old, dead stalks piled up from the flow of the wind and waves. Flipping and chattering along, Schmitt gets hung a lot, but never on a fish.

 

At noon, the Maryland pro drops me back at the ramp. It’s not been the start he wanted, but there’s a lot of time left, and his confidence seems intact. You don’t win as many derbies as Schmitt has by getting down on yourself, and three days is a lot of time to find some bass.

Tags:   jody-white  pre-tournament  2018-01-25-lake-okeechobee 

Sam Rayburn Day 4 Coverage

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John Cox was coasting through days one and two of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit opener on Sam Rayburn. It wasn’t luck, but Cox simply had a spot that was doing a lot of the work for him. One cast, repeat, repeat again. That spot failed him on day three, and he scrambled just to scrounge up enough weight to retain the lead going into Championship Sunday. Now, Corey Neece and Darold Gleason are hot on his trail after both having put together spectacular performances yesterday. Either one could challenge Cox with ease today if their patterns and spots hold steady.  READ MORE »

Forrest Wood’s Legacy

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Surrounded by his family, Forrest Wood passed away in a Mountain Home, Ark., hospital just after 9 a.m. Saturday, four days after suffering a heart attack in his home. Wood, who was 87 at the time of his death, was the founder of Ranger Boats of Flippin, Ark. A pioneer of bass tournament fishing, he helped launch the careers of hundreds of aspiring tournament anglers through sponsorships. During his 20-year span at the helm of the company he founded with his wife, Nina, Forrest is credited with laying the groundwork for the modern bass boat through his innovative designs and engineering advancements. READ MORE »

Cox Retains Lead at Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit at Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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Forrest L. Wood, 1932-2020

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The final 30 anglers are blasting off and headed to their first spots of the day. By the time the smoke clears this evening, we'll have 10 pros left to fish tomorrow, all chasing that $100,000 check and a huge jump start on the Angler of the Year points race. READ MORE »

Cox Pads Lead at Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit at Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: BROOKELAND, TEXAS – Berkley pro John Cox of DeBary, Florida, brought a five-bass limit of largemouth to the Umphrey Pavilion scale Friday weighing 18 pounds, 12 ounces, to extend his lead after Day Two of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit at Sam Rayburn Reservoir... READ MORE »

Cox Leads by 5 pounds at Rayburn

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Day two of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event on Sam Rayburn offered fairly tough conditions, but the cream of the crop still caught a lot of Texas bass. In first, John Cox stayed steady with an 18-pound, 12-ounce limit to get up to a 40-3. READ MORE »

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After an overcast and calm start to the first day on Sam Rayburn, day two looks to be offering much different weather conditions. The forecast calls for sunny skies all day, though it should be as windy, or windier, than it was to close day one. That's potentially good news for a good portion of the field, as conditions should more closely resemble what anglers had to work with during practice. READ MORE »

John Cox Grabs Early Lead at Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit at Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: BROOKELAND, TEXAS – Berkley pro John Cox of DeBary, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 21 pounds, 7 ounces, Thursday to grab the early lead after Day One of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Veteran FLW pro Greg Bohannan of... READ MORE »

Cox Cranks Up Lead on Rayburn

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In what had to be an ironic sight, while Cox watched others around him beat Sam Rayburn’s shallow brush, the DeBary, Fla., pro sacked up 21 pounds, 7 ounces and take the day one lead by focusing out deeper with a crankbait to kick off the new Pro Circuit season. READ MORE »

Cox Leads with 21 at Rayburn

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Day one of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit on Sam Rayburn provided plenty of fish, but none of the mega-bags that hit the scale in 2019. As is often the case, John Cox is in the lead after day one, with 21 pounds, 7 ounces. Behind him, are a strong collection of tour veterans, up-and-coming pros and local talent. In second with 21-4 is Greg Bohannan and close behind him is Darold Gleason with 21-3. READ MORE »

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The 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season is officially underway on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in East Texas. With the new season comes some fresh faces and familiar favorites, all of whom are looking to get a head start on the rest of the field in the 2020 Angler of the Year points standings. READ MORE »

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Daniel Fennel to Direct Pro Circuit

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At the registration meeting for this week’s Pro Circuit season opener at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, FLW announced that Daniel had been promoted to senior director of tournament operations for the Pro Circuit, FLW Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League, with responsibilities to include directing the Pro Circuit. Bill Taylor, who served as tournament director for the FLW Tour from 2001 through 2019, has been promoted to senior director of operations, where he’ll lend his expertise acquired through more than two decades as a tournament director toward logistics, angler relations and event planning for all FLW circuits. READ MORE »

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Weather is a storyline in almost every tournament throughout the course of the year, but from winter through spring it can often be the biggest influencing factor in a tournament. Warming trends and cold snaps can send fish flooding to the bank or retreating to the safety of deeper water in no time. READ MORE »

Wrapping up Practice with Osborne

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Last season, Jordan Osborne made the top 10 in the season opener on Sam Rayburn, and he’s got the chance to kick things off in a similar style this week. READ MORE »

2020 Pro Circuit Predictions

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