CLEWISTON, Fla. – The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats is set to visit Lake Okeechobee in Clewiston, Florida, next week, March 30 through April 1, for the second event of the season in the Toyota Series Southern Division – the Toyota Series at Lake Okeechobee. The three-day tournament, hosted by the Hendry County Tourism Development Council, will feature a roster of the region’s best bass-fishing pros and Strike King co-anglers competing for a top prize of up to $100,000 in the pro division and a new Phoenix 518 Pro boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard motor in the co-angler division.
“This is going to be a good tournament,” said pro Matt Wieteha of Miami, Florida, who has two Top-10 finishes on Lake Okeechobee in MLF competition. “The water is still very high – almost 15 feet – and with the high water, the outside grass doesn’t do a good job of filtering, so the wind is going to be a very important factor.
“The fish don’t like the dirty water, but they are getting a bit more accustomed to it and you can still catch them,” Wieteha said. “Managing the wind and finding the clean water is going to be the key in this one, though.”
Wieteha said that the Lake Okeechobee community holes will still be big players – areas like Tin House, Indian Prairie, and the entire South Bay area.
“If the wind lays down, guys might be able to find something off the beaten path with not as much pressure,” Wieteha said. “But those spots are not going to reload as well as the community holes, and it can be tough to try to win a multi-day event with those types of areas.”
Wieteha said that he expects casting tactics to be more effective than flipping and punching.
“I’m a big Gambler (Lures) guy – I’d have a GOAT Swim Jig tied on, black and blue because of the dirty water,” Wieteha said. “If you can find a nice expansive grass flat, that’d be tough to beat. Or a Gambler Big EZ, buzzing around and covering water.
“Regardless of the weather, it’s still Lake Okeechobee and it’ll still kick out some good bags,” Wieteha said. “If there is a cold front in the mix, I think it’ll still take 20 pounds a day to win. But, with stable weather and light winds, it easily could take 23 (pounds) a day – 69 pounds overall.”
Anglers will take off each day at 7 a.m. ET from Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort, located at 920 E. Del Monte Ave., in Clewiston. Weigh-ins will also be held at the marina and will begin at 3 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend and encouraged to follow the event online through the “MLF Live” weigh-in broadcasts and daily coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
In Toyota Series regular-season competition, payouts are based on the number of participants competing in the event, scaling up for every 20 boats over 160 and scaling down for every boat below 160. With a 160-boat field, pros fish for a top prize of $40,000, plus an extra $35,000 if Phoenix MLF Bonus qualified. Strike King co-anglers cast for the top prize of a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard (valued at $33,500). With a 260-boat field, pros fish for a top award of $65,000, plus an extra $35,000 if Phoenix MLF Bonus qualified. Strike King co-anglers cast for the top prize of a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower outboard (valued at $33,500) plus $5,000 cash.
The 2023 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats consists of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and the Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International and Wild Card divisions. Anglers who fish in any of the six divisions or the Wild Card division and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Championship for a shot at winning up to $235,000 and a qualification to REDCREST 2024. The winning Strike King co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard. The 2023 Toyota Series Championship will be held Nov. 2-4 on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, and is hosted by ExploreBranson.com.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Toyota Series include: 4WP, 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Black Rifle Coffee Company, E3, Favorite Fishing, Fox Rent a Car, General Tire, Gill, Grundéns, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Wiley X and YETI.
For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular Toyota Series updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the MLF5 social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.