Canadians: Gallant 9th, Gustafson 30th, Chris Johnston 41st & Cory Johnston 91st
Brandon Cobb of Greenwood, S.C., is leading after Day 2 of the 2023 SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Lake Okeechobee with a two-day total of 55 pounds, 8 ounces. ( Photo: BASS)
OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — Patience and persistence paid big dividends for Brandon Cobb, whose huge Day 2 limit of 32 pounds, 15 ounces boosted him to a two-day total of 55-8, which leads the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Lake Okeechobee.
Starting the second round in sixth place with 22-9, the Elite veteran from Greenwood, S.C., turned in the event’s heaviest bag and heads into Semifinal Saturday with a margin of 2-1 over Tyler Rivet.
Cobb, who won two Elites in 2019 — on Lake Hartwell and at Lake Fork — broke the 30-pound mark twice during the latter (37-15 and 31-11). Reaching this elusive threshold, he said, requires measured aggression.
“You can’t be like ‘I’m going to catch 20 pounds today.’ You don’t know because it’s based on big bites,” Cobb said. “There’s a lot of fish in certain areas and there’s a lot of boats in the areas where there’s a lot of fish.
“You just go fish and try to catch everything you can. It’s just a matter of whether you’re catching bucks (male bass) or females. I wish I could say there’s a real strategy, but it’s mostly just keeping yourself in the right area and hoping you run into some females.”
Cobb’s prime area comprised a small patch of dollar pads with scattered reeds and hydrilla on the lake’s north end. Staying close to takeoff helped him maximize his time, but he believes the timing of spawning movements was the key to his success.
“There were a few boats around me and everyone seemed to be catching them except me, but I was taking my time and fishing really slow like you do down here. I hit one group in one little patch of grass and caught a big one every cast,” Cobb said. “It was literally a one-cast spot. I don’t know if there’s anything (unique) there; I just think it’s a funnel.
“Yesterday, I think I was catching spawning fish. I was catching one here and there. I’d flip and catch a buck, then catch a female. Today, it seemed like I hit a wave of new fish in the funnel as they were coming in.”
One of the area’s key features, Cobb said, was abundant food.
“There were a lot of shiners or shad in the area,” he said. “They came up schooling a few times and I saw bass blow up on the bait. One of the bigger ones I caught, I saw it blow up and I threw at it and caught it.”
Anchoring his bag with an 8-12 that now leads the Phoenix Boats Big Bass standings, Cobb said he started on the specific spot that produced his late-morning flurry but caught nothing. While fishing nearby cover, he saw other boats catch fish as they passed through.
“I went back to it and they were there,” Cobb said. “After that, I just sat there. Even though I didn’t expect to catch any more, people just saw me catch 30 pounds, so I felt like I needed to guard it.”
Cobb caught his fish by flipping a Zoom Fluke Stick and casting a Z-Man ChatterBait with various trailers, including a Zoom Super Fluke. He’ll keep those same baits handy for Day 3 and look for another group of fish to arrive.
“I don’t know how many are left,” Cobb said. “I sat around the spot most of the day, playing defense and hoping they’d show back up. It’s Florida and they’re coming every day, so I hope a few new ones show up.”
Hailing from Raceland, La., Rivet has spent the past two days in the Kissimmee River, which feeds into Lake Okeechobee’s northwest corner. After placing third on Day 1 with 24-5, he added 29-2 and gained one spot with a total of 53-7.
“That was the biggest bag I’ve ever caught in my life and to know I left them biting is crazy,” Rivet said. “I wanted to hit 30, but I said ‘I need to be smart about this.’
“I had to block a few people off of my spot, but they’re there and they’re willing to bite. I think I can do this.”
Rivet caught most of his fish on a prototype jerkbait from Xcite Baits and the Sucka Punch creature bait he designed for Xcite. Most of what he’s targeting are classic prespawn areas.
“It’s hard spots on the bottom and they’re just waiting to spawn,” Rivet said. “It just comes in waves. They’re just coming in and out of that main spot. I have two other spots like that.
“I could literally go down the whole river and do this. It’s all about sitting there and being patient because there’s a ton of fish there and it’s just getting one to bite.”
Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., added 23-9 to the 23-8 he caught on Day 1 and improved from fourth to third with 47-1. Fishing the lake’s upper end, he spent most of his day working a black popping frog over dollar pads.
“I’m having fun,” he said. “It’s an incredible way to get bit, but I’m struggling with execution. I’m about 50/50, but I’m getting some big bites and hopefully, they show up again tomorrow.”
Kennedy also threw a 7-inch Senko in hopes of tempting a big bite, but the frog produced all of his weight. He’s concerned that his area’s opportunity may be dwindling, but he’s hoping tomorrow’s forecast for north winds will help his cause by blowing more clean water out from the shallow, filtering vegetation.
“I’m fishing fast and aggressive and covering a bunch of water,” Kennedy said. “It seems to be drying up. I had eight big bites yesterday and landed two of them. Today, I only had six good bites.”
The Top 50 remaining anglers will take off for Semifinal Saturday at 7:30 a.m. from C. Scott Driver Park. The weigh-in will be held at the park at 3:30 p.m., with only the Top 10 advancing to Championship Sunday with a chance to win the $100,000 first-place prize. FS1 will broadcast live with the leaders beginning at 8 a.m. with continuing coverage on Bassmaster.com.
Cobb earned the $1,000 daily bonus for catching the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day with his 8-12. Florida pro Bernie Schultz took that honor on Day 1 with an 8-10. Cobb's massive catch of 32-15 also leads the race for VMC Monster Bag honors.
Correction: The Day 1 report incorrectly stated that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has applied herbicide treatments to eliminate hydrilla and eelgrass from Lake Okeechobee. According to FWC Lake Okeechobee biologist Matt Stevens, the agency has not treated for hydrilla since 2015 and does not use herbicides to eliminate eelgrass.
The Bassmaster Elite at Lake Okeechobee is being hosted by Okeechobee County.
2023 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2023 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2023 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew's, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC
2023 Bassmaster Conservation Partners: AFTCO, Yamaha Rightwaters
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