Troy Roder set the bar at 19 pounds, 15 ounces on day one of the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division event presented by Power-Pole on Lake Okeechobee. Behind Roder, the rest of the top pros are stacked closely together.
As you’d expect in tough conditions, getting a kicker bite can be the difference in 30th place or third. Here’s a rundown of how the rest of the top five got their better bites and made it to the top of the leaderboard.
Nick Thliveros, son of legendary pro Peter T, is the sole Florida pro in the top five.
“On Tuesday I got on a pattern,” Thliveros says. “I put it to the test on Wednesday, and I caught an 8-pounder, so I knew I was on something. I had probably 10 bites in practice, and six of them were keepers.”
While leaning on his fish during the tournament, Thliveros squeezed out more than he expected.
“I caught eight or nine keepers today and lost a 4-pounder, which hurt,” he says. “I caught my biggest one early, and I’m actually catching my fish where I caught them last year.
“I’m fishing a lot of places within a main area, and it’s real specific what the fish are on,” he continues. “There’s a decent amount of people around, but I’m not sure if everyone is doing what I’m doing.”
Tomorrow, he’ll see if the pattern holds true.
“I got lucky today and got a good bite. I need that to happen again tomorrow, and I hope it does.”
Being able to adapt on the fly is a trait of any good pro. Though, it takes some nerves of steel to scrap your entire practice and run new water on day one of a tournament. Apparently, Kyle Welcher has those nerves.
“I boxed myself in during practice down in South Bay,” says Welcher. “I spent my entire practice there. When I found clean water, it was too shallow. When I found deeper water, it was too deep. I decided this morning that I was just going to run and check canals and see if I could find some clean water, and when I did, it was on.
“I only caught two fish in four days of practice, so when you do that bad it’s a lot easier to try and run new water,” he adds.
Fishing canals is no secret this week, and the particular one Welcher fished had plenty of company.
“There’s a lot of pressure where I’m at, but most people are fishing different than I am,” he continues. “I’m fishing slow and getting bites. I caught eight keepers today, but I didn’t get my first one until noon.”
The sun finally popped out this afternoon, and there was a noticeable bite window once that happened.
“I have a long day tomorrow, and I’m pretty excited,” Welcher says. “There are enough fish where I’m at for it to go down tomorrow.”
Making the trek from Alabama, Will Yelverton is another pro who got only a few bites, but found good quality.
“In practice I had one area I felt good about, but other than that practice was horrible,” Yelverton says. “The area I felt had fish in it, I went there yesterday and never got a bite. So I started somewhere else today, and around 11 o’clock I ran back to that spot because I didn’t have anything else. I caught five but got eight bites. The other three I had on just came off.”
While Yelverton doesn’t feel too crowded by the competition, he did have about 10 or so pros fishing nearby.
“The water is good and clean where I’m fishing, and I’ve always been told by guys who are good down here that’s what to look for,” says Yelverton. “You’ve got to find clear water to catch good fish. There is so much water out there that is not fishable. The only problem when you find clean water is that everyone else finds it.”
Yelverton is concerned about putting all his eggs in one basket, but he doesn’t have anything else.
“I’m flipping a big stick with a short string,” says Yelverton. “The good thing about it is that I didn’t have to re-rig but one rod. Though, it sure would be nice if had a couple other ways to catch some. I hope I don’t miss any tomorrow because I’m not getting many bites.”
Lance Oligschlaeger weighed in 14 pounds, 6 ounces on day one, which is a solid feat, but it’s even more impressive that he did it with just four bass.
“I never had a fifth bite today; it’s tough,” says Oligschlaeger. “I got two big bites in practice, and one was an 11-pounder and the other was an 8-pounder. I also have an area where I felt like I could catch a limit, but numbers are hard to catch right now.”
Oligschlaeger found a limit spot and a big-fish spot in practice. His two smaller fish came from the limit area, and the two better ones came from the big-fish spot. So, overall, the game plan is working.
Mixing up bait presentations is also part of the plan to really dial in what these Okeechobee bass want. He says he rifled through 15 or 20 colors on various baits.
Oligschlaeger is from Tennessee, but this isn’t his first time on this pond. He knows he’s close to something special and just needs to hunker down and get after it.
“I’ve been here before and understand that the goal is to find clear water,” Oligschlaeger says. “It’s so hard to do right now, so I’m just making the best of what I have. I’m going to cover a little more water tomorrow and expand a little more in my areas and see if I can’t find five.”