Fishing as a whole is still tough on the Big O, but there was definitely an improvement today – especially for the guys at the top of the leaderboard. Nick Thliveros improved on his day-one catch and brought 19 pounds, 4 ounces to the scale today to take the lead by 4-7 heading into the final round. His total weight is 35-2.
Behind him is a group of equally hungry pros that also bested their day-one limits today. Here’s a look at how they did it.
Lance Oligschlaeger might be a long way from home, but he’s acting pretty comfortable on Okeechobee right now. Despite only weighing four bass yesterday, Oligschlaeger hauled in 14-6 to start the derby in fifth. Today, he got a limit and increased his catch to 16-5.
“It started off a little better today,” Oligschlaeger says. “I caught my first fish in the first 30 minutes and stuck with my pattern covering lots of water.”
His plan this week has been to utilize two main areas – one for a limit and the other for big upgrades. Today, he put most of his effort into the big-fish spot, and it paid off.
“I made the decision this morning to spend most of my time going for bigger bites,” says Oligschlaeger. “The fish are staging, and I’m catching them as they move up. I bounce from stretch to stretch where I’ve caught fish. Some are 200 yards long; others are 50. I’ve caught my three biggest fish off the same place where I caught an 11-pounder in practice.”
The Tennessee pro has fished the Big O several times throughout his career, but this is his first time back in a decade.
“My kids are older now, and I have time, so I decided to come back. Plus, it’s just a fun place to fish. I looked at not being here in so long as kind of an advantage. I started from scratch this week and stuck with what was consistent.”
Though the 4-7 deficit he faces is easily overcome on Okeechobee, Oligschlaeger is happy no matter the outcome.
“I’d rather be in second than first, but I don’t like being 5 pounds back. I don’t feel any pressure. I’m going to go back to my big-fish spot and see what happens.”
Alabama’s Cody Nichols had a solid start to the tournament with 12-10 to sit in 12th on day one. The bite turned on today, and he caught 17-6 to climb all the way to third to make his first top-10 cut in the Costa FLW Series.
“I’m fishing a half-acre spot, and I’m just pounding it,” Nichols says. “There were eight boats in there yesterday and probably 25 in there today. I had one fish by 1 o’clock, and then they turned on. By 2:30 I moved out by the main lake, and that’s when I caught my bigger fish.”
Nichols decided that hunkering down in a promising spot was the best call, and it’s paying off. The scary thing for the rest of the top 10 is that his bite might be fixing to bust loose.
“I settled in the best-looking water I found. The bite is getting hotter, but I need some wind. Every big fish I’ve weighed [over 4 pounds] has been a new fish. They’re coming. If I can keep from missing fish like I have been I feel good.”
One of the best rallies of the event goes to Preuett, who caught just 8-8 yesterday for 74th and threw down 18-14 today to jump all the way into the cut.
Preuett is no stranger to Okeechobee and has a fairly good relationship with the lake, so it’s no surprise that he made the necessary adjustment.
“I was mad at it [Okeechobee] yesterday,” he says. “I got three bites in practice, so yesterday I just went off instinct and flipped mats. By about 11 I ran back close to Clewiston and got two bites and decided to grind it out. I wound up losing a 7-pounder with five minutes left yesterday.”
He went back there today and kept a Treeshaker Shaker Blade and a Smithwick Devil’s Horse in his hand most of the day.
“It’s a big area I have mostly to myself,” he says. “I’m around good fish. I just need to put them in the boat. I lose a lot of them, but I get one big bite about every hour. If I can get them all in the boat I think they are the fish to win.”
David Parsons has had a long career with FLW, but this week will be his first FLW Series cut. The Alabama pro caught 12-8 on day one and backed it up with 13-15 today – proving to be one of the more consistent anglers in the top 10.
When it comes to his previous experience on Okeechobee, Parsons lists it as “terrible” all the way back to 1990. This week may just change his mind.
“I caught them good on Sunday in one area,” says Parsons of his practice. “I had probably 20 bites, and then the rest of practice was worse. I went back to that spot yesterday and just stayed in it. There’ve been about 20 boats in there, but I’m fishing basically a 100-yard circle. I’ll Power-Pole down and cast 360 degrees. I could catch a fish from anywhere.”
Numbers of bass are hard to come by this week, but Parsons has been doing OK in that department. Size, however, has been the bigger battle.
“I caught probably 15 fish yesterday, keepers,” Parsons explains. “I changed to a bigger bait and culled everything out. So today I kept the bigger bait in my hand and got bigger bites. I did catch a few on a fluke today because they wouldn’t eat my big bait that good in the morning.
“I’m going to keep my big bait in my hand all day long [tomorrow] because there is no sense in weighing 7 pounds tomorrow.”