I just got back from the opening FLW event on Lake Okeechobee. If you haven’t seen the results, or didn’t watch the weigh-ins online, I finished third with 81-01 for four days. Congrats to Brett Hite for taking first and Greg Bohannan for second place.
I’m happy to see Greg do so well. He is a great guy and a great fisherman. We’ve fished against each other on many of the highland reservoirs in Arkansas and Missouri for years. It was good to see two country boys go down to Florida and catch some big ones out of the grass.
The thing with Okeechobee is you have to consistently catch a big one. To contend for the top spot, you have to catch at least one big one each day. This year I was lucky enough to do that. Last year, I couldn’t catch that kicker fish the first day. I did catch two big ones on the second day that helped me place 25th. This year 30 pounds would have been 49th place. Which proves, overall, more fish were caught this year.
I’ve partnered with Maxima Fishing Line this year. I used it last year and was really impressed. I spoke with the company about working together in 2014, and I’m glad they came on board because it was one of the keys to my third-place finish. I had no worries getting the largest fish of my life, 8 pound 5 ounces, in the boat. I used 65-lb braided line when flipping, 25-lb fluorocarbon when fishing the speed worm, and 20-lb Ultragreen when fishing a War Eagle spinnerbait.
In practice, I spent most of my time looking for clear water. Finding clear water is a must on Florida lakes. Unlike many Midwest lakes, where fish sometimes bite better in dirty water, Florida bass bite better in clear water.
The baits I caught fish on in practice were a Medlock jig in black and blue, swimming a Skinny Dipper or a Gambler Big EZ, and a speed worm. They were staging around small areas of eelgrass mixed with hydrilla. The eelgrass was growing on harder-bottom areas, which attracted pre-spawn fish. I found areas where I could catch a lot of fish and every so often a big one. I knew I was going to have to make a lot of casts and try to figure out a more detailed pattern as the tournament went on.
On day one, there was a long fog delay. I was boat 25 with a check-in time of 3:15. I didn’t get to my first spot until 8:45. Fairly quickly, I caught five keepers; nothing big, but it settled my nerves. I caught a couple on a War Eagle spinnerbait in Gold Shiner, and a 7 pound 9 ounce kicker on a speed worm. The conditions set up better for faster-moving baits.
I had a decent bag before noon, so I was feeling pretty good. I thought I had a good chance to upgrade my smaller fish with the afternoon flipping bite. I was right. I weighed in 20 pounds, 13 ounces on day one.
Since I was able to capitalize on a short day one, I felt confident going into day two and having a longer day of fishing. I knew I needed to catch at least one kicker fish each day to make the cut. Day two I brought to the scales 17-01.
I had a good day three. I brought the biggest bag of the day to weigh in with 22-04. I caught the largest fish of my life on a War Eagle spinnerbait. She weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces. That put me in third, and I made the first top-10 cut of my career.
I fished the same pattern on day four and brought in 20 pounds, 15 ounces for a total of 81 pounds, 1 ounce and a third-place finish; a career best finish.
I used a Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier 7 to 1 reel when fishing my moving baits. A Bass Pro Shops Carbonlite reel when I was flipping. These reels were on Waft Fishing Rods. Waft is a new company that makes the Iron Feather 7’6 and 7’10 extra heavy rods. These are great rods for pulling big fish out of thick grass. James Watson
I’ll be working the Luck “E” Strike booth at the Bassmaster Classic, so stop by and say hello.
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