UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Santee Cooper

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

J Mac Ready to Make His Run

J Mac Ready to Make His Run
Jared McMillan

The entire FLW Tour schedule matters; surely, no one in the 188-boat field would question that. But, for pro Jared McMillan, the first two stops – this week on Lake Okeechobee and at the Harris Chain Feb. 22-25 – are critical.

McMillan has fished several Tour-level events in Florida, including at the Harris Chain and Okeechobee, but this will be his first full season as a pro on the FLW Tour. Standing on the precipice of a large undertaking, the 21-year-old from Belle Glade, Fla., has formulated a sensible strategy to launch and support his first run at making it in the pro ranks.

“I’m going to play it safe, try to make sure I get a check on Okeechobee and then on the Harris Chain,” he says. “Even though Lake Okeechobee is my home lake, I have too much riding on it to swing for the fences. I’m really nervous, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Truth be told, it was this double dose of Sunshine State sampling that prompted McMillan’s 2018 commitment.

“The two Florida events kinda got me,” he says. “Not too often do you have two in Florida, and with me being from Florida that’s really the reason why I didn’t think twice about doing it. I’m right here on Okeechobee, and the Harris Chain is only three hours from the house, so I can afford these two.

“I don’t really have any sponsors yet, but I’ve saved some money, and, hopefully, I can make some money at these two events so I can pay for the rest of the year.”

So, rather than allowing greenhorn enthusiasm to spur him into a reckless, pedal-to-the-metal sprint, McMillan plans on following a measured course with a more gradual risk-reward curve.

Still, knowing Okeechobee’s barnburner potential, McMillan says he’ll have no problem stepping on the gas if opportunities present themselves.

 

Personal profile

Born and raised in one of Florida’s foremost agricultural towns on Lake Okeechobee’s southeast corner, McMillan is part of a well-known fishing family. Among them, his late father, Jimmy, was one of Okeechobee’s top sticks, and older brother, Brandon, is a Tour pro and two-time Forrest Wood Cup qualifier.

Brandon is 13 years older than Jared, so the two didn’t actually grow up fishing together during their childhoods, but over the years they’ve caught up, so to speak, by spending time together on the water and learning from each other.

So now with more than a decade of experience at Okeechobee, Jared, who’s been paying the bills by working as a chemical delivery technician in the golf course industry, says the key to breaking down this massive lake is a matter of finding clean water and staying in areas where fish are moving in to you. The fish move a lot, especially this time of year, so flexibility helps.

“Pick your area, run water and you can pretty much exclude the muddy water,” he says. “There aren’t that many areas of clean water on this lake, so it actually fishes quite small. So, it’s a lot of runnin’ and gunnin’ and staying up on where the clean water is. It can change a lot throughout the week.”

Calling himself a true power fisherman who likes to keep the trolling motor on high, Jared’s personal best was a 10-pound, 11-ounce Lake O beast that took offense at the hematoma-colored Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver he punched through a weed mat four years ago.

Notably, while he and Brandon share a fondness for flipping sticks, the younger brother says he’s more likely to also integrate moving baits into his search routine.

 

Learning on the water

McMillan has competed at the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League and Costa FLW Series levels since 2012, both as a co-angler and boater. Add in the few Tour-level events he’s fished, and he’s totaled 45 tournaments, six top-10 finishes (including a 2014 BFL win on Okeechobee) and $56,283 in earnings.

While most of his fishing experience to date has occurred on Florida waters, and basically all of it has been in the Southeast, McMillan believes he’s learned some valuable lessons that will serve him throughout his Tour travels. A big one: adaptability.

“I’ve learned to not rely on practice so much because it [fishing conditions] changes day by day,” he says. “I’m getting better at seeing the little differences throughout the day that make me run and change my deal, instead of sticking to a plan and trying to beat it out. I’m getting to where I’m more versatile so I can go find fish on the fly.”

Example: During the recent BFL Gator Division event on the Kissimmee River, switching from his practice pattern of throwing Yamamoto Senkos at bedding fish to flipping weed mats during the tournament yielded a sixth-place finish.

Elsewhere, McMillan believes that his solid tournament foundation has matured his perspective on longevity. Specifically, he’s talking about better tackle organization, equipment maintenance, and throttling back now and then to avoid breaking stuff.

 

Season outlook

While the 2018 season opens with two familiar fisheries, McMillan candidly admits that a couple tournaments down the road bring question marks.

“Smith Lake and Lanier are the two I’m not sure about,” he says. “I’ve never really fished only for spots, so Lanier will be the most different. I haven’t fished those types of fisheries – the clear water and light tackle. But it looks like you can power fish the rest of the schedule.

“I haven’t fished a lot of the techniques before, so it’s definitely going to be a learning experience. I’m not going to worry about it until it gets here, but I’ll read as much online as I can, and Google Maps will play a big role to make sure I know what to expect on the lake.”

Jared’s clear on the need for individual effort, but it doesn’t hurt to have an experienced Tour competitor in your corner. To that point, he and Brandon will be spending a lot of dinners together.

“We definitely plan to work at this together and communicate throughout the season, so he’s definitely going to be there helping me along the way,” Jared says. “I’m not going to be doing it completely by myself.

“We’ll try to help each other by trying to figure out these lakes faster. Putting two heads together is always better.”

Jared is setting his sights on a Forrest Wood Cup qualification, but along the way, he’ll be watching closely, taking notes on the business side of professional fishing and hoping that his Tour-level exposure might lead him to new sponsorship opportunities.

Shaking new hands has a way of opening doors.

But for now, Jared McMillan has his eyes set on the lake whose Seminole name means “Big Water.” Hopefully, that will also mean big opportunity.

Tags: david-a-brown  morning-story  2018-01-25-lake-okeechobee 

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