(Editor’s note: Veteran bass pro Dave Lefebre has agreed to take time to share his insights into each FLW Tour event of the 2011 season. After every event, Lefebre will give his thoughts on tournament strategy, winning techniques and other behind-the-scenes stories/information that is compelling to our readers. The following blog represents his first installment. Lefebre ultimately finished the Lake Okeechobee event in 36th place and walked away with $10,500 in winnings.)
What a way to kick off the 2011 Walmart FLW Tour season! We couldn’t have hit Lake Okeechobee any better than we did – the weather was perfect and the big fish were moving in to spawn. I actually had the best day of my life on the first official practice day. That day I caught my best five-fish stringer that weighed in somewhere around 32 to 34 pounds. I had two fish in the 10-pound range and could have caught another one that size as well. It was a day I will never forget and the first day I actually fished (other than ice-fishing) this entire year.
The area I found on that first day of practice turned out to be an area where I thought the tournament could have been won as there were so many huge fish in there as well as a bunch of quality beds. The area had a mixture of grasses which is always good in Florida lakes. There was eelgrass, lily pads, dollar pads, arrow heads, reeds, Kissimmee grass, and hydrilla. Most of the big females were spawning around the arrow head stalks. The depth was 2 feet or less and the water was crystal clear.
I spent both days slowly picking the place apart. To my surprise, I hardly saw another tournament boat during those initial two days. On the first day of tournament action, I caught almost 24 pounds, but I should have had 30-plus pounds. On the second day I caught almost 18 pounds, but should have had about 23. I just lost a couple really big ones each day and you can’t do that in these big derbies, especially when a slugfest like this was going on. Losing fish is definitely a problem when fishing in such thick cover, especially when the water is so clear and shallow because you have to make longer than normal casts.
During the competition, I was sight-fishing with a green pumpkin Kinami “D” Bug and throwing a 6-inch watermelon/gold Dipper style swimbait in between bed fish. Most of the fish I weighed in were caught on the “D” Bug (and yes, the “D” stands for Dave, lol.) Besides the Bug, one of the best advantages for me in this tournament was using a Power-Pole for the first time. I actually borrowed Scott Martin’s boat this week with two Power-Poles on the back and I hope I never have to fish without them again. I’m excited to be adding Power-Poles to my Z-521 this season as they are a definite benefit to a tournament fisherman.
Obviously, Lake Okeechobee is full of fish and the guys were catching them several different ways and in several different places. I think most of the bigger fish were being caught making long casts with Dipper and swim-style soft plastics, and also by sight-fishing off of spawning beds. I know several guys who made the top-20 cut that were flipping reeds and mats as well. Little craws, creature baits, and tubes were the hot ticket. The main difference in this event as opposed to previous ones though is that the fish were just about everywhere – in the canals, back in the thick stuff, and even out on the main lake. There was more grass than I’ve ever seen here before which also meant there was a lot of clean water and more areas holding fish. When you combine all of that with a major warming trend you get a situation where 41 pounds, 6 ounces gets you 36th place – amazing!
Our next FLW Tour event is on Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark. It looks like it will be a cold pre-spawn event but it should be a lot fun. I only hope it keeps snowing to make it feel more like home. We are going there earlier than we normally do and I think the weights will be a little higher than usual. See you in Arkansas!
To read more about Dave’s life on the road, check out On Tour With Dave and Anne, sponsored by Chevy. Throughout the 2011 FLW Tour season, Dave and his wife, Anne will be keeping a detailed blog of their experiences while traveling the country in their Chevy Trucks.