Bakewell racks up 23-2 on tough Day 1 at Lake Okeechobee, Crowder second with 21-8 - Major League Fishing

Bakewell racks up 23-2 on tough Day 1 at Lake Okeechobee, Crowder second with 21-8

Image for Bakewell racks up 23-2 on tough Day 1 at Lake Okeechobee, Crowder second with 21-8
Bobby Bakewell set the pace on Day 1 at the Big O. Photo by Charles Waldorf. Angler: Bobby Bakewell.
March 30, 2023 • Sean Ostruszka • Toyota Series

CLEWISTON, Fla. – “I thought it was going to be tough, but not this tough. Like, the only time I’ve seen (Lake Okeechobee) like this is post-front when it’s freezing in the 30s or it’s blowing 30 mph.”
– Christian Greico

Well, it’s certainly not freezing down here in Florida, or all that windy. So whatever is happening on the Big O, it’s not good, as Florida pro Christian Greico’s words above pretty much sum up the fishing on Day 1 of the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats event.

Sure, the top of the leaderboard looks great, with Bobby Bakewell crushing 23 pounds, 2 ounces, and a second 20-plus pound bag behind him courtesy of Marlon Crowder’s 21-8. But after that … yikes. Only five more bags broke the 15-pound mark, and a mere 10 pounds nearly got you in the top 50.

“This time of year, I’ve never seen it like this,” Greico said.

Yet, it’s still Okeechobee. So while it looked questionable for most of weigh-in, 20-pound bags are bound to happen. Bakewell admits he certainly didn’t think he’d be one of the ones to do it.

“I’m absolutely blown away,” Bakewell admitted. “No exaggeration, I only caught three fish over 2 pounds all of practice. I was asking guys at registration, ‘Am I missing something?’ But it was just as tough for them.”

With so little to go on, Bakewell decided to make a run to the north end and hunker in an area and “milk it for all it was worth.” What changed, he has no idea, but it did in a big way, as not only did he have the biggest bag of the day, but his co-angler, Benjamin Morrissette, sits in second with 16-7.

Needless to say, Bakewell was tight-lipped about where and what he was doing, but he definitely was doing something different than most. Still, while even a small bag tomorrow will get him to Saturday’s final, he has no clue what Friday holds.

“I hope there’s more fish there because it’s all I’m on,” Bakewell said.

Marlon Crowder holds down second place with 21-8 on Day 1. Photo by Charles Waldorf

Crowder crowds into second

Crowder is also on the north end doing something different, but he’s doing it in one of the well-known community holes. He figures he saw nearly 40 boats today, but what he’s doing he has to himself for the most part. It’s not hard to understand why, as it’s feast or famine.

“I’m getting a lot of bites, but most of them were little,” Crowder said. “Like, really little. But every couple hours I’d get a quality bite.”

One of those was a 7-13 giant that certainly helped the cause. Crowder feels a bit more confident than Bakewell about what he’s on for Friday, but he still admits seeing the weights that he’s “spooked” those quality bites could disappear.

Then again, big bites on such a tough day were obvious separators. Just one 5-pounder skyrocketed most pros up the leaderboard, like Ted Bennett and his 7-8 that accounted for nearly half his weight. Colbie Cagle also had a 6-plus-pounder and another 5-pounder to get him to 19-1 and third place.

So, those kickers, doing something a little different and a tough bite are about the only knowns going into Day 2.

On the Strike King co-angler side, Skip Reed leads with a whopping 19-10.

Top 10 pros

1. Bobby Bakewell – 23 – 2 (5)         

2. Marlon Crowder – 21 – 8 (5)        

3. Colbie Cagle – 19 – 1 (5)   

4. Hunter Weston – 18 – 0 (5)          

5. Bill Troyer – 17 – 5 (5)       

6. Ted Bennett – 15 – 3 (5)   

7. Todd Olds – 15 – 2 (5)       

8. Jonathan Semento – 14 – 14 (5)     

9. Ken Thompson – 14 – 11 (5)           

10. Joel Richardson – 14 – 10 (5)

Complete results