A long drive to Florida

This week, my column is coming from down in Florida as I prepare for my first FLW Tour bass tournament of the season next week at Lake Okeechobee.
Lest anybody feel any jealousy that I’m down south, I can’t write that it is warm and sunny here right now.
The ride down was a workout, too, as we narrowly beat the worst winter storm of the year that hammered much of the U.S. Fortunately, warmer weather is on its way—and hopefully some better fishing!
My friend, Sean McAughey, and I left Kenora late last week and, after a quick stay in Minneapolis on the way south, we hit the road early because we saw that a big winter storm was going to blast much of the southern U.S.
Last year on my way south, we drove through a bad snowstorm in Kentucky and Tennessee that my wife and I dubbed “Snowpocalypse.” It took us about 12 hours to drive what should have taken us two hours.
She opted out of making the big drive with me this year!
We drove because I had to haul my boat down to use in the upcoming bass tournament. And although we dodged the snow, we caught a little bit of freezing rain in northern Tennessee and then drove through pouring rain from there all the way to Florida.
The good news is it washed all of the salt and road dirt off of my boat and truck!
We also made it through this area only hours before the rain turned to snow that essentially shut down Nashville and Atlanta—cities that we drove through on our way that got dumped on heavily.
The FLW Tour has strict rules for pre-fishing before an event and we only get three days to practice just before to the tournament starts. Prior to that, the lakes that we compete on are off-limits to tournament anglers for two weeks.
So we are not allowed to be on the tournament waters at all, nor are we allowed to get any fishing information about those waters.
Our practice for the Okeechobee tournament starts this Sunday (Jan. 31) but I like to come down a little bit early before the first tournament of the year because I have a new boat that I want to break in and use before that three-day practice starts in case there are any kinks that need to be worked out.
As well, the last bass that I caught was back in October, so I need to get back into bass-fishing mode before I jump into fishing against the best bass anglers in the world.
Sean and I have been fishing for a few days—and the cold weather in Florida has made the fishing super tough. But warmer weather is on its way.
We were bundled up in all of the clothes that we brought along over the weekend and earlier this week, including shoes and jackets, so it wasn’t exactly the Florida conditions that we were hoping for!
We have managed to catch a few bass and it’ll get better later this week.
For those of you back home looking to have some fun on the ice, the annual Crystal Harbour Lake Trout Derby goes this Saturday (Jan. 30) on Regina Bay near Sioux Narrows.
The derby hours are from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., and anglers need to bring a cooler to put their trout in to bring them in to weigh in.
The ice conditions on Regina Bay are great so driving around the bay in a truck is fine, says resort owner Matt Rydberg.
I have fished in this derby many times over the years and it’s always a fun day. The entry is $50 per person, which includes a great steak dinner at Crystal Harbour at the end of the day.
All of the trout are released after they are weighed.
A reminder that Regina Bay falls under the Whitefish Bay fishing regulations, so barbless hooks are mandatory and fish or fish parts cannot be used for bait.
Good luck to all the anglers who hit the ice this weekend!