Big bass, sunshine and one of the most famous lakes in the country make for the perfect combination to start the 2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit presented by Bad Boy Mowers season. The nice thing about Lake Okeechobee is that it seems to be a different lake each time the Pro Circuit visits, and for this event, which is sponsored by 13 Fishing, that will likely be the case.
Feb. 11-14, 2021
13 Fishing Stop 1
Hosted by Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort and the Hendry County Tourism Development Council
When it comes to bass fishing, Lake Okeechobee is probably one of the most talked about and dreamt about fisheries on the planet. The Big O, as it is commonly called, covers more than 450,000 acres – making it roughly half the size of Rhode Island. The lake boasts nearly every type of bass-holding cover you can think of, from eelgrass to hyacinths to lily pad and everything between. The lake is teeming with all sorts of gamefish and prey, which, paired with its rich habitat, makes it the fishing Mecca it is.
While you could catch a bass almost anywhere on Okeechobee, the north and south sides are the most popular areas. Up north, flipping and punching reeds, mats and cattails and throwing a ChatterBait in hydrilla are extremely popular tactics. On the south end, anglers tend to flip cattails and wind Zoom Ultravibe Speed Worms and swim jigs through the extensive fields of hay grass.
The last time the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit stopped on Lake Okeechobee was in 2018 when Tim Frederick grabbed the first major win of his career. Frederick targeted spawning fish he couldn’t see around the Spoil Islands by pitching a Texas-rigged Strike King Perfect Plastics Ocho to sack up 85 pounds, 4 ounces over four days.
In 2020, the Toyota Series rolled out of Clewiston in March and Okeechobee hammer Brandon Medlock got his third Series W with 54-4 over three days. Medlock flipped reeds nearly the entire time with his namesake jig as he targeted fish moving out towards the main lake.
If history on the famed body of water shows us anything it’s that you should expect the unexpected. Okeechobee hasn’t really shown it’s true colors over the last several years of Toyota Series and Pro Circuit competition, mostly because of weather that impacts the bite.
With this event taking place early in February, the chance of a major cold front is still there, though things should be trending closer to spring weather versus winter.
A full moon will take place a few weeks before the event, but a new moon will occur as the tournament begins, and that could help push some fish onto beds. There’s always the potential for spawning fish to play in Florida and this tournament should follow that rule.
Early reports indicate that the grass is looking better after being wiped out in many areas of the lake after Hurricane Irma blew through the area in September of 2017. With more emergent grass prevalent, a punching bite could something to look out for, especially if a cold front hits the area close to the tournament.
Okeechobee is also known for its stellar winding bite – whether it be a swim jig, ChatterBait or swimbaits like a Gambler Big EZ. Some of the best topwater bites in history have come with winding baits on Okeechobee, and it can be an electric way to catch bass.
Probably the biggest Okeechobee staple is a Texas-rigged Yamamoto Senko – or similar bait – pitched to spawning fish or areas fish are likely to spawn on like pad stems and reed clumps. It’s almost a guarantee that this rig will be spotted on most front decks come day one of the derby.
It’s been a bit since we’ve seen a full-blown punching tournament on the Big O, but if the stars align a big weight might be a more common sight, especially if the hyacinths are plentiful in key areas.
One of the main things to look out for during this event is how many new faces make the first weekend cut of their careers. Probably the biggest takeaway from Okeechobee events over the years is that it’s a lake where anglers can make a name for themselves on the big stage. So, look for a few of the Pro Circuit rookies, or even a few pros that have laid low over the last few seasons, to come out swinging on the Big O.
The other, and maybe more obvious thing, is how big bags have eluded anglers over the last several tournaments MLF has held on Okeechobee. Lately, the lake has been fishing well and there is better grass around the lake. So, it seems like this could be the year anglers find bags pushing the 30-pound mark and maybe, just maybe, even make a run at the Century Club for a winning weight if the stars align.