Quick Bites: FLW Okeechobee, Day 2 - Major League Fishing

Quick Bites: FLW Okeechobee, Day 2

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Robert Blosser of Poynette, Wis., won the day's big bass award in the Co-angler Division after registering a fish weighing 8 pounds, 7 ounces. Blosser, who finished the tournament in 44th place, won $500 for his efforts. Photo by Gary Mortenson. Angler: Bob Blosser.
January 23, 2003 • Patrick Baker • Archives

Wal-Mart FLW Tour
Lake Okeechobee, Clewiston, Fla.
Opening round, Thursday

Angling art … Lake Okeechobee isn’t called the “Big O” just because of its massive size; it also is famous for producing big bass. Pro David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., said a lot of the anglers most adept at reeling in the lunkers on the lake make it look easy; Walker said the process is much more difficult than it would seem. “There really is an art to catching big fish on this lake,” he said. At the head of the art class sits pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., who almost broke the 10-pound barrier today with a 9-15 fish that earned him pro big-bass honors. Morgan edged past Boca Raton, Fla.-pro Mike Surman’s day-one big bass by a single ounce. Surman, who also landed a 7-pounder today, said the secret to catching the big ones on Okeechobee can be found in thick of it. “What happens is, you get these boats running around all over the lake, and it pushes the bigger fish into the heavy cover,” he said. Surman said he routinely targets the big bass by fishing some of the thickest grass he can find on the lake. Robert Blosser of Poynette, Wis., caught his co-angler big bass today in thick cover, too. However, he admitted that he might have been lucky to land it: The 8-7 fish exceeded the recommended strength of the 8-pound test line he was using. Blosser said he hooked it flipping to some cattails on the lake, but the bass quickly moved into heavy cover. Of pulling big bass out of such cover, he said: “You have to have strong line, which I didn’t, and you have to get their head up. As soon as you get the hit, turn its head and pull it up out from underneath the mat.” When asked onstage by weigh-in announcer Charlie Evans how he caught such a huge bass on such puny line, Blosser offered a less revealing, albeit it a more entertaining, answer: “You just real him in.”

Pro prognosticators … Surman and pro Pat Fisher of Buford, Ga. – who both qualified for the finals – were almost dead-on yesterday when they predicted that a two-day total of 30 pounds would be the gateway to the final round of pro fishing on Lake Okeechobee. Tenth-place Rick Couch of Ocala, Fla., just made it into the finalists’ bracket with a weight of 29-6. Surman’s savvy guesswork on his own fishing gameplan also hit the mark. Finishing day one of the tournament with a whopping weight of 27-6, Surman assumed he would make the cut so he decided to practice fish today “just to see if I could expand on what I found yesterday.” Though he only caught two fish today, the gamble paid off. However, Surman said he would return to his prized day-one area at the start of tomorrow’s competition.

$50 promise … A surrogate co-angler surprised the weigh-in audience today when she left the FLW Tour tournament with a check, despite the fact that she was not a registered competitor. Laura Aldridge, who hails from Michigan but winters in Clewiston, was on the co-angler waiting list for the Big O tournament. She said she had been notified that she would not fish in the tournament, but she got a call from tournament officials this morning at about 6:30 a.m. who told her there was an opening to fish. “I thought it was fishing, fishing, like competitive, so I was all excited,” she said. “Then they told me I was just an observer, so I was so bummed out.” Aldridge spent the day fishing with pro Jim Tutt of Longview, Texas, whose scheduled co-angler was unable to compete today. To ease her suffering, tournament director Bill Taylor told Aldridge he would pay her $10 for every keeper bass she brought to the weigh-in. Aldridge caught seven keepers, but could only weigh in the five allowed under tournament rules. When asked onstage if she intended to collect the $50, she steadfastly replied, “Yes I am,” which prompted much cheering from the crowd of onlookers. Oddly enough, Aldridge’s near 7-pound catch – despite only one day of fishing – would have garnered a $400 payout based on co-angler standings at the end of today’s competition. However, Aldridge was not upset by the news. Of her day on the water with Tutt, she said: “He was awesome. He knew I was bummed out, so he said, `Fish it just like it’s a tournament.’ I learned a lot.”

Quick numbers:

100: the actual number of dollars Taylor paid Aldridge for her catch as a fill-in, noncompetitive co-angler.
97: number of five-bass limits caught by pros and co-anglers on the second day of competition. The pro side lost a limit today, catching 80 compared to 81 Wednesday, while the co-anglers racked up 17 compared to nine yesterday.
1: the loneliest number of the only sack weighing more than 20 pounds caught by pros or co-anglers on the second day of competition. Morgan, fresh off an early January EverStart Series win on the Big O was the sole proprietor of the 25-1 sack.
940: total number of fish caught by pros – who held steady landing 617 today compared to 620 Wednesday – and co-anglers – who boosted their total to 323 today compared to 247 yesterday – on day two.
29: the cutoff weight in pounds that separated the 10 pros who will fish in the forthcoming finals from the 166 who won’t. Also the scant number of degrees expected to register on thermometers overnight in Clewiston.

Sound bites:

“I know. Just be nice, shut up and weigh my fish.”
– Bee Branch, Ark.’s Larry Nixon responding to Evans right before Evans read the official weight of Nixon’s five-bass catch, one which visibly did not possess the weight necessary to keep Nixon in the top 10. Evans pointed out that, despite the diminutive nature of the fish, they would weigh enough to keep him on the top shelf if only temporarily. Evans then said, “I’m only trying to be nice.”

“That one fish is bigger than all five of mine.”
– Pro Dwayne Horton of Knoxville, Tenn., who had to follow Morgan and his 9-15 bass at the weigh-in scale.

“I needed to be flying a kite today. I don’t think I needed to be fishing.”
– Pro Greg Hackney of Oak Ridge, La., describing today’s windy fishing conditions. Despite being blown out of the top 10 with a day-two weight of only 8-9, Hackney still finished the tournament in 12th place thanks to a strong showing on day one.

Quick links, Day 1:

Wendlandt grabs overall lead, nets third top-10 finish on Lake Okeechobee
Results of day-two pairings
Day-three pairings
Press releases