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FLW Tour Lake Okeechobee

Posted by casey on February 26, 2012

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The FLW Tour opener on Lake Okeechobee was a tournament of ups and downs. I had been down in Florida since early January where I fished the Everstart Series as a boater and was fortunate enough to cash a check after a tough second day. I practiced all three days of official practice with FLW pros Craig Dowling and Trevor Fitzgerald, both of whom are very proficient at flipping.

Not surprisingly, we spent most of our practice time looking for areas where the big jig could produce for them. Both pros had found some good stretches of Big O fish but during the tournament both areas were destroyed by the wind. 

On day one I drew FLW and Elite Series pro Fred Roumbanis and we were scheduled for a 3 p.m., weigh-in so we had a short day. I met Fred in the morning and helped him back his rig into the water and went through boat check. Fred was a true professional and very proficient at driving in the big water with winds blowing around 20 mph at takeoff. We started in Fred’s primary area which looked good and he let me know in practice he had a bunch of bites in the area but we soon found out the fish had moved so we went spot jumping and looking for a few sight fish. I ended up getting two bites on the day, one was an 11 1/2-inch short fish on a Houdini-colored Zoom Fluke and the other was from flipping a Gambler BB Cricket. I set the hook on the flipping fish and it came flying out of the mat and over the other side of the boat. Although I didn’t catch any fish I had a great time with one of the best in the sport today. Fred ended up with two keepers for a little over 5 pounds. It was tough blanking on day one, especially after winning the last two co-angler events at Champlain and Guntersville. Bass fishing is definitely a humbling sport, but wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I phoned my day-two partner Dan Welch from West Virginia and he told me we would be flipping most of the day. I decided I was going to flip a lighter rig behind Dan trying to catch enough to salvage a check. Dan was definitely in an area that had fish and I caught a 3-pounder in the first hour. It wasn’t long before I caught my second keeper, a solid 2-pounder and a few flips later and I caught a nice 5-pound Okeechobee largemouth and was on my way to getting a check. We ended up staying in the area all day and I flipped up eight or nine bites worth just under 15 pounds on a 1/2-ounce Picasso Tungsten with a Beaver style bait. I went from dead last on day one to 53rd and ended up getting a check since they were paying down to 70th place. Dan ended up with about 6 or 7 pounds for the day and he was a great guy to fish with and again another true professional. Having now fished five events on the co-angler side of the Tour all I can say is if you have never fished one out of the back of the boat it is a great program to learn from the best in the business and make a little money along the way. In the five events I have fished, I have learned an unbelievable amount from guys like Brent Ehrler, Scott Suggs, Fred Roumbanis, Paul Elias, Gary Yamamoto, Chad Prough, Shad Schenck, Darrell Robertson, Bill Day, Trevor Fitzgerald, Dan Welch, Nick Gainey and Jason Christie. 

Congrats to Randall Tharp for winning his first Tour event. Randall is one of the hardest working pros out there and everyone knew it was only a matter of time before he won a top-level event. Keep an eye on Randall’s future because I have a feeling this isn’t going to be his only top-level win. Also congrats to Aymon Wilcox on the co-angler side for going back to back at the Big O; he definitely has that lake figured out.

I’ll be fishing some BFLs as a boater at my home lake in Guntersville to keep my skills sharp until the FLW Tour event as a co-angler at the beginning of March at Lake Hartwell. See you on the water. For more, visit www.caseymartinfishing.com.