Geared up to take on Lake Okeechobee

Bass anglers across North America will have their eyes on South Florida this week as the 2018 FLW Tour season gets underway at Lake Okeechobee starting tomorrow (Jan. 25).
This is going to be my fifth time fishing a tournament at the “Big O” since 2012. I have had two good finishes and two triple-digit bombs, so my results are quite wild in my visits here.
The interesting thing about this lake, which is big shallow bowl, is that it changes a lot from year to year based on where the weeds grow and the wind exposure. In fact, everything looks extremely different this year as a result of Hurricane Irma that devastated Florida back in September.
Areas of the lake that were protected from the main lake by lines of reeds and cattails now are totally exposed to wind because much of the vegetation in the lake was ripped out.
Okeechobee is the largest natural lake in the United States. It’s big and wide so when the wind blows, it causes many of the prime fishing areas to get muddy and the bass do not seem to like that.
After a couple days of practice, the fishing on the lake has been tough. The good news is warmer weather is on the way this week, which Florida bass prefer, so hopefully the bite will turn on later in the week.
My first day on the lake was not terrible–I did find a couple of areas where I could catch some fish, but they were not the big fish that Okeechobee is famous for. Still, I feel confident I will be able to catch a limit fairly quickly so my plan for the last day of practice is to look for a few areas where I might be able to put a bigger fish or two in the boat.
The lake is loaded with six- to eight-pound bass but the conditions do not seem to be conducive for anglers to make contact with these fish right now.
I’m fortunate this week because my roommate on the road for these tournaments, Brandon McMillan, actually lives in Clewiston, Fla. on the shores of Okeechobee. I’m staying at Brandon’s house this week, which is awesome, as I have a good place to sleep and I’ve been getting fed well.
He also has tremendous knowledge of the lake so he has given me a little bit of direction out there. He won the $125,000 first-place prize in the 2011 FLW Tour event here and has fished the lake his entire life.
In speaking with Brandon and some of my other friends fishing this week, the consensus is that the fishing is tough right now on Okeechobee, so we’re expecting that the weights probably are not going to be as high as they have been for past events.
But you really never know down here with as many big fish as there are in this lake.
My goal this week is to finish in the top 60 in the 189-angler field, and get out of here with some money and good points toward qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup at the end of the season.
Follow the results online this weekend at FLWfishing.com

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