CLEWISTON, Fla. – After day two of the Walmart FLW Tour season opener on Lake Okeechobee, it was revealed that pro leader Chad Prough and Fred Roumbanis were sharing a small stretch of prolific water. After day three we learned several others are fishing the same area. One of those fishermen is renowned Florida stick Peter Thliveros. And while Thliveros is welcomed, others are not.
Thliveros has fished this area, located on the lake’s north end, throughout the week but he’s focusing on different sweet spots. And today he was the one who had the most success – catching 33 pounds, 14 ounces, while Roumbanis and Prough, to a lesser extent, struggled.
Prough didn’t come close to the 30-pound stringers he caught on days one and two, but he was satisfied with his performance. While he left an opportunity to shut the door slip away, he’ll still start the final day with a 5-pound lead in his first tour-level event.
“I’m happy with that,” said the Chipley, Fla., pro. “I caught what I caught so I can’t complain. But there was definitely more pressure in the area, both from locals and other tournament boats. And there’s another 50- or 60-boat tournament tomorrow going out of the north end.”
All this pressure has Prough debating whether or not to start on his honeyhole tomorrow morning.
“I might and I might not. There are fish in my secondary spot, but I don’t think any females are moving in.”
All week long Prough has been pretty secretive about his pattern. His throws both a moving bait and also spends considerable time sight-fishing. He said today’s stringer came equally via both techniques, but sight-fishing was more difficult with increased winds. Most of his fish are either prespawn or spawning. When it was insanely good the big females were funneling to him. But the question remains whether or not more are coming.
“If I don’t catch anything tomorrow I’ll still go home happy. The big females just weren’t moving up in my area today. I think that was because of all the pressure. There are plenty of bucks in there, but to win this tournament I am going to have to find those big females again.”
Prough did lose one female he estimated at 6 pounds near the end of the day. Other than that, he’s fishing clean and having a blast.
“This has been such a phenomenal week of fishing; I feel like I am living a dream.”
Peter T surges to second
Rising to second place was Saint Augustine, Fla., pro Peter Thliveros, who caught a limit weighing 33 pounds, 14 ounces, the heaviest day-three weight ever recorded in FLW Tour history. It’s also the biggest bag in his illustrious angling career. But more important than breaking records, Thliveros closed the gap to first significantly. Ironically, he’ll fish within sight of Prough tomorrow as the two jockey for the tournament title.
“I’ve been fishing this lake for over 20 years and I’ve never seen it any better,” he said. “This rivals anything Texas and Mexico have to offer. I’m as fired up as you can get right now.”
Thliveros is no longer the biggest fan of sight-fishing. Instead he’s become a master of bed-fishing via blind casts to lighter, isolated cover. Three of his fish came that way today – the other two by looking at them.
“I’m catching most of my fish on a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm. But my two biggest I caught as they were moving up on a bed. I saw more fish today as I was leaving. Maybe they’ll bite tomorrow, maybe they won’t. As long as they don’t see you they’re more apt to bite.”
With one day remaining, Peter T’s total weight sits at 82 pounds, 14 ounces.
Tharp rises to third
Rising two places to third was EverStart pro Randall Tharp. After sacking 21-8 and 31-1, Tharp managed another limit from the same area that weighed 28 pounds, 12 ounces. His total weight now stands at 81-4.
Tharp has been living at the Big O for nearly three months. He loves this venue and while he has had some great finishes, he also has some haunting memories. More than anything else, he wants a win tomorrow. To get it, he’ll have to execute as he brings the giant females through the thick Okeechobee mats. Like he has each of the first three days, he’ll also be sharing water with Brandon McMillan.
“Every cast you’re really holding breath,” explained Tharp. “It’s that good out there right now. I think I’m going to get the bites (to win), but getting them out of there is so tough. Today I only got six big bites and I got three of them in the boat.”
Tharp’s main bait is the new Attraxx Predator Craw, a bait he specifically designed for flipping thick grass.
Despite catching a 25-pound, 5-ounce limit, McMillan, the Belle Glade, Fla., pro, fell one spot from third to fourth. But he’s still right in the thick of things with day remaining and a total weight of 81 pounds, 3 ounces.
McMillan’s bread and butter consists of flipping to matted junk – a combination of eelgrass, hydrilla and reeds. Most of his fish are prespawn females that are extremely close to spawning in the warm weather. If he’s sees one on bed, he’ll stop and pitch to it, but flipping the thick mats is his primary strategy.
The 27-year-old’s bait of choice is a black and blue Bruiser Intruder.
“It’s unbelievable out there,” McMillan said. “I hate to see it end tomorrow; I don’t want to go back to work Monday.”
As the only true local left in the field, McMillan really wants the trophy.
“The money would be great, but that (trophy) is what I live for.”
`Big Show’ rises to fifth
Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., cracked the top five Saturday after catching a limit worth 27 pounds, 7 ounces, his heaviest of the tournament. After three days on the Big O, his total weight stands at 77 pounds, 8 ounces.
Scroggins is sharing a spawning flat with fellow Florida pros Glenn Browne and Trevor Fitzgerald. Today he caught a 5-pounder on his first cast, then turned left 100 yards and caught a 7-9, his biggest fish of the day. Tomorrow he’ll have the entire flat to himself as Browne and Fitzgerald finished 11th and 12th.
“I’m using mainly a Smithwick Devil’s Horse,” said the man better known as the “Big Show.” “It’s a great topwater bait during the spawn because I can stop it right over a bed and it holds its position. A lot of times they just roll on it, but then they’ve shown themselves and I can pitch back to it.”
Scroggins says he left three 7-pounders in his area for tomorrow. Whether or not they will bite remains to be seen.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros who made the cutoff after day three:
6th: Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va., 76-14
7th: Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., 73-2
8th: Jake Morris of McKee, Ky., 72-13
9th: Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Okla., 72-4
10th: Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 69-8
Day four of the FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee will begin Sunday at 7 a.m. from Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort located at 920 East Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston.