MLF pro James Elam getting dialed in to Florida conditions with a day on Kenansville Lake. Photo by Tyler Brinks
By Tyler Brinks - February 19, 2020
OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – Just over a week ago, we were watching Jacob Wheeler take the trophy at Stage One on Lake Eufaula, the “Big Bass Capital of the World.” Now, we’re preparing for the Favorite Fishing Stage Two Presented by Bass Cat on Lake Okeechobee in Florida, which is arguably the best “Big Bass State.”
With such a short break between events, some anglers drove or flew home for a quick family visit, but quite a few anglers opted to make their way to the Sunshine State to start fine-tuning their Florida fishing skills and get a feel of what bass in the area are doing.
Bass Are Everywhere
Florida is a unique state, with great saltwater fishing on both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico sides of the state. In between, there is freshwater everywhere, and nearly anywhere you see water, you’ll find big bass. From apartment complexes to golf courses and shopping malls, bass fishing opportunities await on ponds, canals, and lakes.
The area surrounding Lake Okeechobee is also home to numerous big bass lakes, including Lake Garcia (home of last year’s Championship Round for Stage One), Blue Cypress, and Kenansville Lake.
Bass Pro Tour anglers Gerald Spohrer and James Elam sampled the fishing at all of those locales, and they were not alone. Several other anglers were seen at all of these places, including a handful of others when we rode along with Elam and Spohrer on Kenansville two days before the start of practice on Okeechobee.
We watched them break down the waters and test their Florida gear, and came away with some takeaways that could give us clues to how Okeechobee will fish this week.
The Spawn is On
On Kenansville, there were signs of the spawn with bass and tilapia beds in certain areas. No bedding bass were spotted while onboard with Elam or Spohrer, but Elam reported catching and seeing several nice spawning bass on other lakes in the area.
We’re right around the annual spawn in Florida, and it will likely be a factor on Okeechobee.
Typical Florida Fishing
Soft plastic baits dominate in Florida, and popular colors like Junebug and Black and Blue will be part of nearly every angler in the field’s arsenal. The fish were biting them on Kenansville and they will be used heavily on the “Big O” this week.
You’ll likely see the 80 anglers punching mats with heavy tungsten weights, and other fishing Texas-rigs around the grass. Others will be winding swimming worms and swimbaits; each of these methods will undoubtedly play a role in the outcome of Stage Two.
Another thing that happens often in Florida is a string of small bass with a big one mixed in, in the same areas. That happened on Kenansville and will likely be seen on MLF NOW! this week.
Weather Changes Ahead
Snowbirds and bass anglers alike flock to Florida during the winter, and that’s usually because of the weather. It’s sunny and warm, while the rest of the country is bundling up to go outside.
On Monday, air temperatures were in the mid-80s with zero wind. Elam knew that would dictate how the fish would bite, and both he and Spohrer spent their time punching matted vegetation.
“It’s going to be pretty slow fishing doing anything else,” Elam said. “The other day we had some wind and the ChatterBait bite was great.”
That’s something to pay attention to this week, and it will affect how the pros tackle Okeechobee. Elam also pointed out that a cold front is on the way, and the first day of the tournament will feature a 20-degree drop compared to the day before. Florida bass don’t respond well to cold, and that could be a major challenge for Group A as they begin the event.