The Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division event on Lake Okeechobee was won by Taylor Ashley of Warrior, Ala., who fished a swim jig “Alabama style” through reeds and lily pads.
Behind him, many other top-tenners were casting and winding as well. Here’s a closer look at how the rest of the top 10 got it done at the Big O.
Joshua Weaver of Macon, Ga., stunned the weigh-in crowd on day two with an enormous 32-pound, 10-ounce catch of true Okeechobee giants. The big bag put him in the lead going into day three, but a scant 11-pound, 2-ounce catch in that final round left him in second place with a three-day total of 61-2.
Weaver’s week centered on what he likes doing best: casting and reeling moving baits in the scattered vegetation of South Bay.
When he got around holes in vegetation, Weaver sampled them by pitching a Zoom Speed Craw on a 1/2 –ounce tungsten. If he felt that he needed to punch, he went with a Zoom Z Craw on a 1-ounce tungsten.
All of his lures were tied to 65-pound-test braided line.
Derek Yasinksi of Senoia, Ga., brought in a pair of 20-pounds-plus bags the first two days to enter the final day with a chance to win. But he struggled with just 11-15 in round three, leaving him in third place for the event with 61-1.
Yasinski staked his claim in the far northern end of the lake, casting Chatterbaits in scattered fields of vegetation in Eagle Bay. His primary bait was a 3/8-ounce Chatterbait with a Yamamoto Swim Senko. His alternated between black and blue and green pumpkin and tied the lure to 17-pound-test fluorocarbon.
“The bigger fish seemed to be on the more isolated stuff in those backwater ponds,” Yasinksi says. “If there was a reed clump or some of those stickups sitting out there by themselves, that’s where the better fish were set up.”
Gary Milicevic of LaBelle, Fla., took an early lead in the Costa event on day one with a 25-pound, 5-ounce catch, then backed it up with two mid-teen limits that put him in fourth with a three-day total of 57-12.
Milicevic’s fished several areas around the lake for his catches. One spot set up well for pitching a ¾-ounce Medlock’s Double Guard jig trailed with a big Zoom Super Chunk (black/blue) to isolated reed clumps. His other productive water was more suited for a Spro Bronzeye Poppin’ Frog (black). He also caught a few weigh-in fish on a ½-ounce Chatterbait with a Gambler Big EZ (Copperfield).
Scott Byrd of Ocklawaha, Fla., was the only pro to make the top-10 off of the punching technique, scoring daily weights of 22-13, 13-9 and 15-15 for fifth place.
Robert Beatty of Clermont, Fla., rode a big day one of 23 pounds, 11 ounces to a sixth place finish with a three-day total of 51-4.
Beatty stayed in the north end of the lake, meticulously needling bedding areas for wary spawning females. Some of Beatty’s tactics included poling down and then sitting for a lowered profile to wait out the spawners. He made repeated casts to likely bedding spots with a Gambler Fat Ace topped with a 3/16-ounce tungsten weight tied to 15-pound-test fluorocarbon. When moving between beds, Beatty would cast a Bitter’s Vibe worm with a 3/16-ounce weight tied to 50-pound braid.
Brian Holder of Denver, N.C., finished his week at the Costa event in seventh with a three-day total of 49-3. One-fifth of his total weight resulted from a 10-pound, 8-ounce giant he caught the first day.
“I had intended to pitch reed heads that first day, but I couldn’t get a bite doing it,” Holder says. “So I pulled out a spinnerbait to start covering water and that 10-8 just walloped it, so I stuck with a spinnerbait after that.”
Buddy Gross of Chickamauga, Ga., finished in 8th place with a three-day total of 45 pounds, 2 ounces.
Gross spent his week in the Eagle Bay area of Okeechobee, primarily using a ½-ounce homemade swimjig teamed with a Zoom Z-Craw tied to 50-pound-test braided line on a 7-foot heavy action Hammer rod.
Bill Tervin of Pocola, Okla., wound up ninth with a three-day total of 44 pounds, 14 ounces.
Tervin spent his week in the Monkey Box fishing a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper with 3/16-ounce tungsten weight on a 5/0 Trokar hook. He also used a Gambler swimjig with a Skinny Dipper trailer in Houdini as well. He targeted small pockets of open water in and around the thick reeds.
On the way back to the weigh-in each day he stopped on a stretch of riprap in the rim ditch and cranked the rocks with a Strike King KVD 1.5 crankbait. Good move; he caught a couple of bonus bass, including a 6-pounder on the second day.
Ron Nelson of Berrien Springs, Mich., finished out the top 10 with 44 pounds, 1 ounce.
Nelson spent his week on the west side of the lake targeting “wind trails” with a Zoom Magnum Ultravibe Speed Worm (junebug) topped with a 1/8-ounce weight.
“I was fishing shallow hydrilla and eelgrass where bass were bedding,” Nelson recalls. “The openings and lanes where they were bedding were given away by a little ripple on the water – I just call them wind trails.”