Friday, February 5, 2016

2016 Walmart FLW Tour Lake Okeechobee Day 1: Bradley Hallman Leads!

The old saying is that the third time is the charm, but for Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla., it’s more like the first time is the charm. Hallman is fishing his first Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee. It’s the first day of the first Tour event of 2016, and Hallman sits in first place with 25 pounds even.
Hallman's 25 pound limit grabs lead as flooded Big O remains difficult.
(Photo: FLW)
Hallman even contends that this is the first time he has ever fished Lake Okeechobee – the key word being “lake.”
“I fished an FLW Series event here in ’07 or ’08, but the lake was so low we all fished in the rim ditch – we called it the ‘rim ditch tournament,’” he recalls. “I never even got to go out on the main lake for that event.”
Now, some eight years later, at the Tour opener presented by Ranger Boats, Hallman is facing the opposite extreme for his first true visit on Lake Okeechobee: water levels that are some 5 feet higher than the last time he saw it.
Like other pros in the top 10, Hallman found success in the south end of the lake today. He spent most of his day in one of the “main areas” in the lake’s south end but said the key was covering water – lots and lots of water. He idled and trolling motored on high at times to skip over dead water to hit better looking spots within the area.
“I caught them out of stuff that looks just like the stuff you see guys catch them out of on TV shows here,” Hallman says. “I’ve watched umpteen tournament shows from this place over the years, and today I was like, ‘I’ve seen big ones come out of stuff that looks just like that.’ Then I would troll over there and catch one.”
Hallman says his limit today came on a mix of winding baits and flipping. On the day he caught 20 to 25 keepers. He’s uncertain whether his keepers were staging to spawn or actually spawning.
“I really don’t know,” Hallman says. “I don’t know this place well enough to call them spawning fish or not. The water is too high and dark for me to tell if there are beds there or not.
“I’d like to think I’m catching a little bit of both,” he continues. “I always read about guys who catch them here coming and going in that sort of in-between kind of water. And that’s really what I felt like I was fishing – sort of that in-between water. In Oklahoma we have contours and channels that give us a better idea of what the fish are doing. But here, who knows. There are no channels or pinch points to better define where the fish are coming from and going to.”
Hallman is the first to admit that he has a major curveball coming tomorrow in the form of a frontal passage that is forecast to switch the wind from the south to the north to speeds of some 15 to 25 mph.
“It’s enjoyable to be leading the first day,” he adds. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in my area, but I have no idea what it’s going to look like if 4-footers come crashing in there. I simply don’t have the experience here to know. We all hear of the guy who leads with 25 one day on this lake and then catches 4 pounds the next day because the wind blows him out – and that could be me tomorrow. I’ve got some areas up north that I caught fish in, and I may have to go to them if it gets too bad tomorrow. Overcoming bad fronts like this is hard to do on this lake.”

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