UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Santee Cooper

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Spawn on the Horizon at Okeechobee

Spawn on the Horizon at Okeechobee
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.

That said, Okeechobee can be one of the most magical places to wet a line, but it can also be one of the most frustrating. It’s subject to the typical ups and downs of Florida fishing in early spring. Currently the lake is lower than usual for the time of year, water clarity less is than ideal and a chain of cold fronts has riddled the region. All of those factors are setting up for a tough tournament.

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What to expect

Of course, you can’t mention bass fishing on Okeechobee without bringing up the McMillan name. The McMillan family has produced some of south Florida’s most successful tournament anglers. Among them is FLW Tour pro and Okeechobee hammer Jared McMillan, who gave us a rundown of the current situation on his home pond.

“The lake is low, especially for this time of the year,” says McMillan. “It’s basically summertime-level water right now. It’s not really anything to worry about; it means you may have to idle out to the outside grass edge before you take off. The well-known areas of the lake might still play, but they are shallower than normal. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some new places of the lake play.

“It’s also been cold down here,” he adds. “We’ve had multiple colds fronts one after another with no real warming trend in between. But because of that I don’t think there has been a big-time wave of fish that has come up to spawn. I know fish have been spawning, and some people may catch them in the Costa, but the major wave is still waiting for the next big warm-up. The water temperature the other day was around 54 to 56 degrees. It is so close to being good with some warm temps.”

Low water could make it tough to navigate certain sections of the lake, but it also helps to congregate the fish, making them potentially easier to find since they don’t have all that extra flooded vegetation to roam around in.

The other factor to consider in Florida – and especially on Okeechobee – is finding clean water. That might be a tough task this week, according to McMillan. He believes that nearly 90 percent of the lake can be classified as dirty at the moment.

“I really think it’ll be a toss-up how the Costa goes,” the Florida pro adds. “If it warms up it could be really good. If it stays cool like it’s been it could be tough. It just depends on the weather. Three weeks ago it took almost 30 pounds to win a team tournament [on Okeechobee], and that was during a warming trend. So, the fish are still around. We just need the right weather to get them to go.”

 

Patterns to watch

There aren’t many secrets when it comes to catching bass on Okeechobee. McMillan agrees and believes the usual suspects, as far as patterns, will be in play.

“It should be a junk-fishing tournament,” he says. “Figuring out how to catch them in cold, dirty water is tough. You could catch one flipping a mat then two or three on a ChatterBait and a few more on a Senko. You’re going to have to keep moving around to different areas to get bit I think.”

While South Bay, the Monkey Box, Harney Pond and the North Shore are staples of any tournament on Okeechobee, McMillan says that the entire lake should factor into this tournament.

“Avoiding crowds is a big deal on Okeechobee, and it’ll be even more important for this event,” he says. “That’s why I think you’ll see the rim ditch and main lake outside of the grass line be factors. It’s just a different Okeechobee right now.”

 

BFL reflection

Last weekend the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League season got rolling with two events, including the Gator Division opener on Okeechobee. Last weekend’s results might not be the best indicator of how the Costa FLW Series derby will shake out due to the weather changing from cold and rainy to a warming trend, but it provides the most recent gauge of the fishery.

David Anderson of Fort Meyers, Fla., took home top honors with a limit weighing 18 pounds, 1 ounce, which isn’t a terrible bag considering the conditions. However, the weights fell fast from there, with 12-11 being good enough for 10th place.

“I think the winning weight was about right for the time of year and the weather we’ve had,” McMillan adds. “The thing that shocked me was that it took 12 pounds to get in the top 10. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Again, some of that is just how the stars have aligned so far. Plus, January is just a tough time to be on the lake anyway. It can be really good, or really tough. Weather is usually the deciding factor in that.”

Anderson caught his winning fish by blind-casting and dragging through bedding and staging areas on the outside edge and within the middle of grass beds.

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Details

The Lake Okeechobee Costa FLW Series tournament runs Jan. 31–Feb. 2. Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort and the Hendry County Tourism Development Council are hosting the event. Takeoffs and weigh-ins will be held at Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort, with weigh-ins streamed live at FLWFishing.com at 3 p.m. ET each day.

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Tags: kyle-wood  pre-tournament  2019-01-31-lake-okeechobee 

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