Tuesday, February 8, 2011

FLW Lake Okeechobee: Flippers Don't Flop While Bedding Bass Bolt

Flippers Don't Flop While Bedding Bass Bolt
FLW Tour Lake Okeechobee
Clewiston, Florida 2011

Before this post can be enjoyed, I must admit that it is easy for writers to see the big picture. Being a Monday morning quarterback allows us to critique from the comforts of home. On the water, trying to fish your way to stardom is a totally different beast.
Cloudy with wind. Not ideal conditions. (photo: Rob Newell) 
The Danger
Multi-day tournaments can be a task of fish management and restraint than solely of catching fish. A dangerous trap is to focus on what worked yesterday than reading the conditions that are unfolding now. During the spawn, all bets are off when the water conditions change especially in south Florida. Even the most astute angler is at the mercy of the fish. If they retreat off the beds or a new wave of bass flood a spawning area, anglers are either blessed or cursed.

On Sunday, a micro weather system greeted the anglers with overcast conditions and a wind change come first light.  With a wind switch to the north east from the south and slightly foggy skies, only time would tell how much would change. By the final FLW Tour Lake Okeechobee weigh-in, change was the name of the game.  

Spawning Bass Blitz and the Bolt
As stated in past entries, even a small weather change can have dramatic consequences this time of year. Last week was stable, clear, sunny and calm, making conditions ideal for viewing shallow bass. One unique approach many top placing anglers used was monitoring the areas that held male bass but hadn’t yet attracted females. These became dynamite areas loaded with unpressured bass. As the tournament wore on, fishing pressure and many bass being brought to the scales in Clewiston, their numbers quickly diminished.

Sunny, calm and clear water are ideal for sight fishing. Alter one of these factors and expect trouble. Cloud cover and a ripple on the water really prevent anglers from seeing well. Another problem is spooking fish. Many times anglers stumble upon a bed only to scare off the mating pair. Even if they return, catching them remains sketchy.

Prough, Scroggins and Thliveros all used topwaters throughout the tournament. Its a great approach but seeing a big momma on a bed can be simply amazing. Terry Scroggins found just that and rocked a true Florida giant that he spotted. The fish weighed a staggering 12-02. “It looked like a log. But we don’t have logs here” joked Terry as he told the story while watching the video of him catching his monster bass during the weigh-in. After landing that fish, Terry was off in search of three different 7 pound fish. Unfortunately,  each one slipped off their bed and couldn’t be relocated.
If Terry connected with any of those 7 pounders, it would have been a much different outcome.

Why Flipping Didn’t Flop 
Tharp and McMillan hunting for a bite. (Photo:Rob Newell)

Flipping is excellent way to fish grass. On the Big O, it is a year round pattern. Not surprisingly, first and second place was captured with a flipping stick. As the weather changed along with increased fishing pressure more bass funnelled into the heavy grass and matted weeds where McMillan and Tharp were fishing.  The cloud cover might have encouraged bass to patrol the edges and not bury way up under the heaviest of cover.

McMillan and Tharp also determined that many of their fish on Sunday were post spawners. Possibly driven into the cover from the masses trying to sight fish for them or just fish trying to recover from mating.  Regardless, as the fishing pressure started to impact other anglers, these two pros consistently did well and their skills and talents won them a stellar one, two showing.  Bravo!

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