Mizell started each tournament morning on the north side of Okeechobee, easing into a staging bay and going to work. His bite shut down before noon each day of the event, though, as anglers coming and going muddied up the water. When Mizell arrived Saturday, he had a small audience of Bassmaster Open pros starting practice, and he put on a show.
“I got there first thing – it was a good thing I was boat No. 1 – and there were already a couple boats, BASS guys, in there,” he said. “But they just sat there and watched. I got my first, second, third, my biggest one. After that, there were boats going in and out, and they stirred it up. I didn’t get a bite after 11 o’clock; it got muddy and (the fish) shut down. But I was lucky enough to get my limit, and get those couple key fish. They were eating a frog like crazy – just absolutely destroying it.”
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All week, Mizell was anticipating the warming water, watching it climb out of the 60s and into the low 70s.
“I knew it was going to happen this morning,” he said. “I wanted to see 74 degrees, that’s the magic number for me. Everybody has their magic number. When I got there, it was right at 74 and started warming up, and that’s when I got my bites. Everything was on a frog, that new Gambler Popping Frog. I normally use my bread and butter (frog), but Val Osinski at Gambler Baits gave me some frogs yesterday, and it’s the same thing, so I broke it in.”
While Campbell and others targeted fish that were spawning or prespawn, Mizell believes he was mostly catching postspawn bass that were easing out of a spawning bay and stopping on isolated pieces of cover on the way out. To catch them, he used a vibrating jig and a worm a little, but mostly relied on a prop bait and a frog.
“They stage in these heads – little buggy whip heads, or cattail heads,” Mizell said. “They’re about as big as a coffee table. I would hit the edges first, and then hit the center, or go through the head and work it through. Today, my biggest one, I threw into the head, and it exploded and totally missed the frog. I went back with a Senko, and it did not commit. But, I know how these fish work when they’re postspawn. They’re worn out from laying eggs, so they use all their energy to bite once. You have to come back to them. So, I went around, gave her five minutes, and then came back and Power-Poled down. I threw, pop, pop, pop, and I didn’t even get to pop it again – she just absolutely caved it in.”
Fishing his frog quickly, with a pop, pop, pop, stop retrieve, Mizell was focused on the key spots within his area.
“Every time I throw, I want to think there’s a fish on that key spot,” he said. “If I was just fishing a pad field, I’d be just randomly throwing, not throwing at a target. I love to fish isolated stuff, I love pointing at stuff, because I feel like a fish is there. I would Power-Pole down, hit every isolated clump, then go forward, Power-Pole down again, and hit every isolated clump.”
A fishing guide and mobile mechanic, Mizell didn’t practice much for the event. He took a guide trip out on Tuesday, then rode around the lake on Wednesday without making a cast. It turned out that was all he needed to earn the win.
“That was my game plan. I did not want to spin out – I knew they were coming and going,” he said. “I didn’t stress about this event; I just wanted to go fishing and do what I do. I knew the fish were in there, because a couple months ago I caught 34 pounds on the outside – they were staging. When it’s your time to shine, it’s your time to shine.”