CLEWISTON, Fla. – Tournament mornings are always exciting, but today was the dawn of a new season. Fresh boat wraps and jerseys were unveiled and each of the 162 anglers in the field had the same optimism for the new season and what will unfold in 2021 on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit presented by Bad Boy Mowers.
It didn’t hurt that 13 Fishing Stop 1 was held on sunny Lake Okeechobee in Florida while most of the country is in the midst of a “polar vortex.”
Air temperatures in the 80s greeted the anglers as they took to the legendary lake, and even though the Big O changes year-to-year with varying water levels and changing vegetation, it’s still the same old Okeechobee. Some anglers will catch them flipping and pitching, and some do it by winding various baits.
That was the case on Day 1 as each of those methods accounted for some solid bags of Florida bass, but leading the charge was Tennessee’s Jim Neece Jr. with a limit weighing 27 pounds.
Timing is everything on a lake like Okeechobee, and being in the right area when the fish start biting is crucial to a good day. It can be the difference between a middle-of-the-pack limit and a mega bag. That’s what happened for Neece today and things changed for him in a hurry.
“I started the morning catching a few and got my limit by around 10 o’clock,” Neece recalled. “I was happy to have five, but they only weighed around 12 pounds. Around noon, the big ones started to bite.”
His bag included two bass in the 7-pound range, and he rounded out his limit with three more solid fish. Even with a massive first-day bag, his lead over second-place angler Miles Burghoff is less than a pound.
Neece shared that he caught his limit with moving baits and that the general area is on the lake’s north end. He found the area in practice but wasn’t sure what he’d truly found until midday on Thursday. In total, he estimates he boated 15 bass on the day.
“Practice was OK in that area, but you don’t just sit there and catch them in practice, so you never really know what you’ve found,” Neece said. “I got some bites in there and hoped for the best when I came back today. That area is all I got, so I am going to go back and see how it goes tomorrow.”
Top 10 Pros
1. Jim Neece Jr. – 27 – 00 (5)
2. Miles Burghoff – 26 – 02 (5)
3. Anthony Gagliardi – 24 – 00 (5)
4. Jamie Horton – 22 – 06 (5)
5. Tyler Stewart – 21 – 11 (5)
6. Clabion Johns – 20 – 12 (5)
7. Dicky Newberry – 20 – 12 (5)
8. Tim Frederick – 20 – 05 (5)
9. Justin Lucas – 20 – 05 (5)
10. Mike Surman – 20 – 01 (5)