Tough weekend on Okeechobee

The 2018 FLW Tour season kicked off this past weekend on Lake Okeechobee in south Florida. The full field of 187 anglers fished the first two days before it was cut to the top 30 on Day 3 and then the top 10 for Day 4.
Over the course of the three-day practice last week, the fishing was okay for numbers of bass but I struggled to find the big fish that Okeechobee is famous for.
In the last two hours of practice, I stumbled into an area and caught several nice fish, including one over six pounds, so I was very excited for the tournament to start.
Everything went great for me to start Day 1 on Thursday as I had my five-fish limit in the boat by 9:30 a.m. and had one big bass over six pounds.
At the end of the day, while I was unable to cull a few of the smaller fish I had, my 14.10-pound total landed me in 36th place, which I was happy about.
These tournaments pay $10,000 down to 60th place, so being comfortably in the top 60 was my goal after Day 1 and I felt like I had a good chance at making the top 30 cut after Day 2 to fish another day.
My fortunes would not be as favourable on Friday, however, as I only was able to put four bass in the boat and ended up with an 86th-place finish in the tournament.
It was not a very fun day. I remained confident throughout the day that I would be able to catch my fifth fish but at around lunch time, the clock was racing against me and it just didn’t happen.
I did have a couple of bites that I missed and had one fish hooked that got away (it was the only one that I lost during the tournament).
It was disappointing because throughout the week, I had no problem catching numbers of fish.
Since I’ve been away from home for two weeks, and there is a lot of expense that goes into doing this, there was quite a bit of pressure to have a good start to the year. It’s all compounded because I have quite a slump carried over from last year in these tournaments.
After cashing a cheque in nine-straight tournaments, I’ve now gone six events in a row, carrying over from last year, without cashing. With entry fees at $4,500 per tournament, that is not good!
I’m headed home for a couple weeks now before I return to Florida for the next event at the Harris Chain of Lakes, just north of Orlando, in February.
The ironic thing about the Okeechobee tournament is that I pulled up to my first spot and started fishing about 50 metres from the eventual winner, Tim Fredrick. He is from Florida and is a good angler, so I felt good about where I was fishing.
Another local angler, Scott Martin, was fishing the same area, as well. I even was using the baits as these guys but I sure did not get the big bites that they did.
I know I made a few mistakes, and one of the big ones was that I simply was not fishing slow enough. These guys were dragging plastic worms along the bottom very slowly while I was covering more ground just trying to make as many casts as I could, but the fish wanted these worms fished very slow.
Learning the hard way, like I did at this one, is usually how it goes for me so on to the next one. I really enjoy fishing down here in Florida but it is not my favourite place to fish tournaments because for me, there is such a luck factor on catching a big fish or two.
Hopefully, I learned my lesson at this one and can find some success next month. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to coming home and hitting the ice next week for a feed of walleyes!