UPCOMING EVENT: TACKLE WAREHOUSE PRO CIRCUIT - 2020 - Lake Erie

FLW College Fishing qualifier- the ‘Big O’

FLW College Fishing qualifier- the ‘Big O’
Boater Miles Burghoff of Orlando, Fla., earned $5,632 as the winner of the Sept. 11-12 BFL Gator Super Tournament on Lake Okeechobee.

Relief.

A very appropriate word for what came over me while I was driving home from the "Big O," after a third-place showing at the FLW College Fishing qualifier.

As I stated in my previous blog, I was a melting-pot of emotions heading into the event - anxious, excited, nervous, confident - the list could go on. After all, it was my last college fishing qualifier and I needed to have a good showing.

Luckily, by the time the dust - or the water in our case - settled, the only emotion that remained was relief.

Practice

Truth be told, even though I was so focused on doing well in the college event, I only put in three days of practice in for the event. The other time I spent on the lake was in, or around, the off-limits areas, where I was going to fish the BFL the week before.

I actually found the area that Casey and I fished within the first couple hours of the first day of practice, and the other two days I just went back to check on the condition of the area, and what kind of fishing pressure it was receiving.

I had initially found the area using Ouzo Rip-Tail Minnows, fishing very fast. My plan was to find fish in areas with less-than-ideal water quality so as to (hopefully) receive less pressure during the Everstart event. Luckily, the area I started getting the right bites in was an area I knew really well.

The fact that they were easy to pinpoint, paired with the "ugly" water quality, made it apparent to me that it was the area for Casey and I to fish during the college event.

Game time

Casey and I ended up driving down from Orlando at 3 a.m. to head to the morning meeting. Despite our apparent exhaustion, we were pretty stoked to get the day started.

I wouldn't say I was worried about the fish still being in the area we had found, since even if they did make a move towards their spawning flats, it wouldn't take long to find them in that area.

I knew they would still be there.

The only thing that worried me was the pressure from the Everstart Series field. Since it was so close to the launch it could have easily been pounded pretty hard.

In this game, you cannot control things like that, so I didn't worry about it for long.

At the registration meeting I was able to catch up with some of the friends I have made on the FLW College Fishing tour, which is one of the coolest things about fishing in the college events.

Catching up with friends made the registration formalities a short wait, and we were on the water in no time.

We got to our first spot within five minutes.

It was an area that I had caught a fish over 5 pounds each of the three times I had been there during practice.

This time, however, there were no takers. I thought, "That's okay," it was early, and traditionally the fishing didn't get hot until around 10 a.m.

The next spot yielded three small "squeakers." I was casting a 1/2-ounce black-and-blue Secret Lures HD Flippin' Jig around isolated reeds and flooded terrestrial plants.

I wasn't too excited about the size we were seeing, so we decided to make a short run down to the southern point of our milk-run, which traditionally had a better early morning bite.

This spot had more isolated cattail reeds and bulrushes, with thick hyacinth mats pushed inside. We immediately filled out our limit on the first couple of reed patches and we even culled twice pretty quickly.

A team from North Alabama was fishing pretty close by and was fishing some pretty key stretches, but we were pretty focused on the task at hand and didn't pay much attention - that is until they started celebrating pretty hardily. At that point, I knew they had bagged a nice keeper.

It didn't take long for our rebuttal though, when I wrestled a nice 3 1/2-pound "pig-in-training" to the boat. Then we were able to celebrate a little too. I even made it a little obvious that we were culling as well, just to try to "frazzle" our competition a little. Hey, mind-games are all part of tournaments after all!

We ended up leaving shortly after catching that fish. It was obvious that the other team wanted to fish the same water, and we knew we could hit it in the afternoon, so we left it to them for the time being.

Our next couple spots yielded only small keepers, which nonetheless enabled us to cull up several more times.

With a 1:45 weigh-in, and the clock ticking at around 12:30, we needed to make some moves.

Casey had lost one around 3 pounds. It had gotten pegged in some pretty nasty stuff and the boat was unable to get to it in time. It was a hard blow, but we kept grinding.

With time passing quickly, we decided now was the time to hit our big-fish spot that we had struck out on earlier in the morning.

We got there and fished for about 10 minutes. I had started a little further down the stretch than usual, and it hadn't produced anything, but I knew the best stretch was yet to come.

Sure enough, right when we entered the "hot zone" I pitched into the hyacinth and - thump! -the fight was on.

I think I had a grin on the entire time as I fought that fish to the boat. Casey netted it, and in my estimation, it was a solid 5-pounder.

We ended up running a couple of very specific isolated stuff, with no real success so we decided to hit our other spot that we had shared with North Alabama earlier, with a couple of minutes to spare.

When we got down there I quickly hopped on the bow, grabbed my flippin' stick, made a pitch to an isolated point of reeds and threw the trolling motor in the water - all in one motion. Before I was able to drop the trolling motor cord I almost got my rod ripped out of my hand by a large bass bulldogging me through the reeds. Unfortunately, I pulled the bait out of its mouth on the hookset.

I made a couple more pitches, with no takers, when Casey and I heard yelling. We looked up to see North Alabama several hundred yards away. I knew what was happening. They were dead in the water and needed help, so we quickly stowed our rods, picked the team up and headed back to weigh-in.

National Guard weigh-in

We both knew that we would come up short of the winning sack. You cannot bring three small keepers to the weigh-in on Lake Okeechobee and expect to win a single-day event.

We both had a great time talking with Justin Lucas on the National Guard weigh-in stage, and even had a bit of time on the "hot seat." But when all the teams had weighed their catches, we had been bumped down to our third-place spot.

Though Casey and I wanted a win really badly, I think both of us were happy with our top-five finish and berth into this year's Southeastern Regional Championship.
As a result, it looks like I will have a little more to write about soon enough.

- Sonar

Miles "SONAR" Burghoff is a National Guard FLW College Fishing angler who competes for the University of Central Florida. To visit his personal website click here.

Tags: miles-burghoff  blog 

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