Sight fishing vs. Mat Fishing: The battle for the BIG "O"
By Luigi De Rose
Like in poker, you play what cards have been dealt. But, you also try to play to your strengths. The first stop on the FLW Tour is in south Florida at Okeechobee. The Big "O" as it is called by its fans is fishing amazingly well and hoards of giant bass are being caught. The last three tournament days have been stellar. The final Top 10 anglers are left to fish Sunday. When a lake is fishing so well, almost anyone has a shot at winning but on Okeechobee it is a real possibility to land a 30 even at 40 pound limit. This makes any of the Top 10 lethal. How will it be done is the million dollar question. Among the Top Five, it has come down to two strong patterns. Each one of them are focusing on spawning bass.
CHAD PROUGH , PETE THLIVEROS and TERRY SCROGGINS , who are in first, second and fifth place, have been primarily sight fishing. Giant spawning females are selecting a mate and started spawning. A few glory holes have produced the lion's share of top weights and these three anglers have found them.
Sight fishing is influenced by several different factors: wind, water visibility, moon phase, boat traffic and fishing pressure. The Big "O" is super flat and if the wind starts to howl the water will become turbid reducing visibility to zero preventing anyone from seeing the fish or beds. This will probably not be a factor but it can be devastating. Fishing pressure along with boat traffic will cause the bass to be spooky. If either become too intense, except bass particularly the big ones to split. Fishing pressure has and will become an even bigger factor. Many bass have taken a trip to the weight-in already and are no longer catchable. Ideally, only the big females are kept leaving the male bass to court another female. As catch rates fall, many fisherman have kept these smaller male bass to salvage their fishing day. Once that starts happening the show is really over.
Mat Fishing, often refereed to as Punching, is a high percentage fishing technique in Florida especially when the weather turns cold or fishing pressure drives bass to protective cover. This approach is exactly what RANDALL THARP and BRANDON MCMILLAN who are in 3rd and 4th are banking on. Both have discovered heavy cover that is teaming with bass. The only problem is that they both found the exact same spot. Another huge problem with this style of fishing is the difficultly of landing big ones from inside the jungle. Expect to have a few pull free of the hook is part of the gamble. But, when everyone is catching them, losing even one can be a huge blunder.
Have Chad, Peter T and the "Big Show" Scroggins ran their honey holes dry? Is there enough bass left for Randall and Brandon to share?
We'll have to wait and see.