Cory Johnston 7th, Chris Johnston 38th, Gustafson 38th & Richardson 131th.
By by Sean Ostruszka
FLW PRESS RELEASE
|Schmitt's 24 pound bag great start on difficult Big O!|
There’s no denying the effects Hurricane Irma had on the Big O. Massive sections of vegetation and reed lines are gone, torn away by the storm. Throw in heavy winds throughout the winter churning up most of the lake, and it’s little surprise that doom-and-gloom was on everyone’s lips during practice for the FLW Tour Event presented by Evinrude on Lake Okeechobee.
If you listened to the dock talk, you’d have thought the anglers were fishing the Dead Sea. Fortunately, changes aside, Lake Okeechobee still can produce like few other fisheries, and she certainly showed off Thursday on day one of the 2018 FLW Tour’s kickoff event, as nine anglers cracked the 20-pound mark, with leader Bryan Schmitt of Deale, Md., weighing in a 24-pound, 11-ounce bag.
“This was not expected,” says Schmitt. “I never caught a good fish in practice, but the final afternoon I found an area where I got a ton of little bites. Apparently, those fish grew up today.”
Starting off, however, the fishing didn’t come easy. It wasn’t until he made a key bait switch after an hour and a half that the “lightbulb went off.” Then it was game on, with his bag eventually being anchored by twin 6-pound, 13-ounce fish.
As pleased as he is with his first day of fishing for the season, there is cause for concern. The forecast for day two calls for more heavy winds and a direction shift. That shift, if it comes true, could force a lot of muddy water into Schmitt’s area.
“I don’t know if [the area] will be toast or not,” Schmitt says. “It’ll be close, as the wind today was just scraping it. If it switches it may be done.”
Schmitt still figures he has to start there Friday based on what it produced, but if it gets trashed, he’ll be forced to make a tough decision, as his only other productive area is so far away it makes him question if he’ll have enough gas to fish both.
Regardless, the shallow grass fisherman from the Potomac River says he was due to finally have a day like Friday.
“The last two times I’ve been here I called my wife after practice to tell her to buy plane tickets to get down here, because I thought I’d found the mother lode,” says Schmitt. “Then this lake burned me both times.
“This time I thought the fishing was terrible and it wasn’t. It was a great change. I’ll take it.”
Top 10 pros
1. Bryan Schmitt – Deale, Md. – 24-11 (5)
2. Mark Rose – West Memphis, Ark. – 24-0 (5)
3. Christopher Brasher – Longview, Texas – 22-0 (5)
4. Britt Myers – Clover, S.C. – 21-8 (5)
5. Tyler Stewart – West Monroe, La. – 21-2 (5)
6. Michael Neal – Dayton, Tenn. – 21-0 (5)
7. Cory Johnston – Cavan, Ont. – 20-11 (5)
8. Brandon Mosley – Chocktaw, Okla. – 20-9 (5)
9. Cameron Gautney – Muscle Shoals, Ala. – 20-5 (5)
10. Bradley Dortch – Atmore, Ala. – 19-9 (5)
Roberts’ Late Heroics take Co-angler Lead
Twenty minutes changed Dustin Roberts’ day from good to a lifetime memory.
Fishing with pro Shane Lineberger, Roberts was sitting on three fish with only 20 minutes until they had to head back to weigh-in. Granted, one was a 9-pound, 7-ounce giant that took Simms Big Bass honors on day one, so he was still pretty happy. Then everything just went right.
“We made a short move and I caught two fish on back-to-back casts,” says Lineberger, whose 23-pound, 13-ounce bag would’ve put him in third on the pro side. “When that happened, I said I was done and packed up all my gear. When I finished, Shane said we still had a minute. So I stood up, made a cast and caught a 6-pounder. It was incredible.”