UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Erie

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Okeechobee

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Okeechobee
Chad Morgenthaler

From hosting a miserable practice to providing a banner first couple of days, Lake Okeechobee showcased all of its personalities. The event culminated in a dramatic finish that saw Tim Frederick and Bryan Schmitt both catching kickers in the final minutes, with Frederick pulling out the victory.

That said, Okeechobee is, arguably, the most well-known bass fishery for professional anglers. There are few secrets, and in this tournament many of the same areas produced as usual. The top 10 was mostly divided between two areas – Harney Pond and South Bay – with six of them in Harney Pond and three more at South Bay. In those areas the leaders managed to do little things differently that added up to big weights.

Top 10 baits

Frederick’s winning pattern

Complete results 

 

2. Schmitt nearly pulls off victory

Bryan Schmitt said from day one the winning fish were in his area of Harney Pond. He came just a pound short of proving his claim.

The Deale, Md., pro figured out a pattern that centered on big females moving in and bedding among clumps of reeds –  particularly those with patches of pencil reed and lily pad stems. The first two days went as planned, as he was able to take and retain his lead by slowly finessing a prototype Riot Baits swim jig on day one and a Riot Baits Recon Bladed Jig with a Riot Baits Fuzzy Beaver trailer on day two. He cast either to points in the reeds or to scattered patches of submerged cover, methodically crawling the lures near the bottom, with the occasional “pop” or twitch when the bait hit cover.

Unfortunately, Schmitt wasn’t the only pro who had figured out that pattern. The added pressure, combined with the big girls locking on beds, contributed to Schmitt’s dwindling bite as the tournament went on.

“I don’t think any new fish came in there like they were the last two days,” Schmitt said after day three. “I think what was there was there, and they’re very educated.”

He was still able to grind out a couple big bites the final two rounds, but with roughly an hour left in his tournament he abandoned his area and went to Monkey Box to try for a last-minute kicker.

“Chris Brasher had told me if I needed a fish I could go to a spot in there, and I needed a fish,” says Schmitt. “So I went in and missed one on a stick bait and then, with 10 minutes left, I caught a 6-pounder. It was a miracle fish.”

Unbeknownst to Schmitt, Frederick pulled off a miracle of his own, catching a 9-pounder at just about the same time. Frederick’s fish put him over the top, as Schmitt’s 84-2 left him little more than a pound short of his second Tour victory.

 

3. Rose milks corner of Harney Pond

There was no shortage of anglers fishing Harney Pond, especially on day two after word got out. Yet, despite all the pressure, Mark Rose managed to carve out his only little area and milk it for all it was worth.

Similar to Schmitt, Rose tucked away in a corner to do his fishing, closer to the reed line. There, he “put on his Florida face” and methodically fished the area, rotating through a Strike King Ocho, a vibrating jig, a swim jig and even a topwater on day four.

Ultimately, what happened to Schmitt happened to Rose, as the fishing pressure and the gradual switch from roaming fish  to spawning fish hurt his bite.

“I think too many motors, too many baits went through that area,” says Rose, who finished with 78-5. “That area was hammered pretty good.”

 

4. Young McMillan audibles, punches way to fourth

Jared McMillan may be short on Tour experience, but many would say he’s the best fisherman on Okeechobee right now. He sure showed that this week.

McMillan started the tournament on the north end near Grassy Island, where he threw a Heddon Zara Spook around scattered clumps of reeds, following up with a Yamamoto Senko. Unfortunately, his topwater bite fizzled when the wind roughed up his area by day two.

Fortunately, though, a little brotherly love allowed McMillan to show off what he’s best known for.

“Brandon [McMillan] told me what was going on by him and said I could come down (to South Bay),” says McMillan of his brother. “I just tried to stay out of his way, and there was plenty of cover for us to flip.”

McMillan punched “anything thick” with a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver and Bruiser Baits Crazy Craw to crack big bags the final two days and climb into fourth with 73-13.

 

5. Older McMillan hangs with the big stick

Brandon McMillan is never happier on the water than when he has a flipping stick in his hands. He certainly was jubilant this week.

Along with being excited to see his younger brother, Jared, do well in his first pro tournament, McMillan was able to spend four days punching the thickest stuff he could find in South Bay. He sacked up 69-12.

“I stuck it out going for big bites,” says McMillan. “It was weird, though. Usually they’ll eat the second the bait punches through or on the first lift. This week you really had to work it underneath the mat to get them to eat.”

It might’ve been slower working his Bruiser Baits Crazy Craw like that, but he was getting 50 bites the first two days. The pattern seemed to die for him the final two days, however. With bites dwindling on day three, he did have epic catch that went viral on Facebook. Check out the video here.

 

6. Brasher keys on current in reeds

With the wind ripping as much as 30 mph throughout the event, waves and current ruined many a fishing spot. For Chris Brasher, it actually helped.

Hunkered down in Harney Pond near Schmitt and Rose, he set himself apart by specifically looking for gaps in the reeds where the wind was gusting through and creating current.

“Those spots were a little deeper, and if they had hydrilla in the gap that’s where the bigger fish seemed to be,” says Brasher, who had 67-4 total for the event.

His main lure throughout the event was a 6th Sense Jigsaw, a vibrating jig set to be released later this spring. He also mixed in a swim jig and 6th Sense Movement.

 

7. Morgenthaler hunkers down in South Bay

Most pros agreed the prettiest water they found was in South Bay. That’s what caught Morgethaler’s eye in practice, and despite plenty of other boats in there with him, he managed to managed to more than hold his own with a flipping stick.

Fishing the same area as the McMilan brothers, Morgenthaler employed a similar tactic, flipping a Missile Baits Baby D-Bomb to mats and various other targets.

The one thing that held Morgethaler back was the two key fish he lost each day.

“Losing fish the way I’m fishing is part of it, but you hate to see it,” says Morgethaler, who caught 67-1 total.

 

8. Canterbury power-fishes north end

While most of the top pros fished in crowds the first two days, Canterbury ran farther to get away from most the field.

The Odenville, Ala., pro went all the way up to the Kingsbar and Tin House areas of the north end. There, he caught 80 percent of his fish on a Dirty Jigs No Jack Swim Jig with a NetBait Spanky Swimbait. He fished it slowly to keep it down, targeting pads and reeds. He also caught some key fish every day on a Bagley BangOLure.

“Unfortunately, my bite died the more the wind picked up,” says Canterbury, who finished with 65-15. “And I also think I just ran out of fish.”

 

9. Cory Johnston makes key move to move up

The Johnston brothers are one of the best duos and near equal in fishing talent. Just ask anyone who competes against them up north. This time, it was a key split by Cory that propelled him over his brother, Chris.

Both were running the same pattern, which involved slow-rolling homemade vibrating jigs with Jackall Rhythm Wave Swimbait trailers in a massive hydrilla bed in Harney Pond. They actually used the current generated by the strong winds to allow them to creep the bait along the bottom while still keeping the blade thumping. The two maximized the technique on day two, but on day three, with little to show for it, Cory abandoned it in search of something else.

“I just wasn’t feeling it,” says Johnston. “The water was getting muddy. So around 10 a.m. I left to check a couple different areas.”

Johnston found an 80-yard stretch near Moonshine Bay where he coaxed a key 7-pounder late on day three with a Yamamoto Senko. That fishing boosted him into the top 10. He bounced around on the final day, but never was able to put much together. He wound up with 6-10 and slipped to ninth overall with 60-5.

 

10. Johnston’s big day two carries him into top 10

Anytime you come close to cracking a 30-pound bag, you’ll probably finish in the top 10. Chris Johnston proved that true, even as his pattern fell apart.

As noted, he and brother Cory were often fishing within 20 yards of one another in Harney Pond and slow-rolling homemade vibrating jigs. Johnston showed the true potential of the technique and area when he cracked 28-7 on day two.

He was unable to replicate that performance, though, and stumbled with 7-7 on day three. He left the area early on day four, never having gotten a bite.

“I think the fishing pressure the previous two days just got to it,” says Johnston, who had 59-5 for the tournament. “It happens.”

 

Tags: sean-ostruszka  article  post-tournament  2018-01-25-lake-okeechobee 

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