CLEWISTON, Fla. – There’s Bobby Bakewell, and there’s everyone else.
After two days of the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats, there are just two certainties: Lake Okeechobee is fishing as tough as anyone has ever seen it this time of year, and the 24-year-old Bakewell is doing something different from the rest of the field. You don’t build a near 11-pound lead by accident.
After leading Day 1 with 23 pounds, 2 ounces, he backed it up with another 19-2 bag for 42-4 total. Considering his next closest competitor is Dillon McMillan with 31-5, one might think you could almost hand Bakewell the trophy at this point.
Then again, if you knew how he was fishing, you might not feel all that comfortable.
“I’m getting one bite every hour,” Bakewell said. “And today, my co-angler zeroed. So, I don’t know what’s left there.”
“There” is a 50-yard stretch about as far up the Kissimmee River as you can go where he’s Carolina rigging a shell bed. To say there is a ton of bait and activity in the area is an understatement, as there are near-constant boils and splashes on the surface, and a few shiner fishermen thrown in, too. Yet, despite all that bait and activity, Bakewell has struggled to get bites with any regularity.
Fortunately, the ones he is catching are the right ones, and they’re coming at the right times, as he culled out a 1-pounder with a 6-pounder with minutes of fishing time left today. But as today showed, Okeechobee can humble a pro quick. Colbie Cagle brought in just two fish today after 19-1 yesterday.
Then again, a lot of today’s struggles could be due to the wind.
“Today was some of the worst fishing conditions I’ve fished a tournament in out here,” McMillan said, as strong winds ended up trashing a number of anglers’ areas, especially on the north end.
Marlon Crowder’s area was ruined and he salvaged a limit by hunkering in the Kissimmee River to stay in the top five, and McMillan admits he had to make a key switch that helped keep him in contention.
“My area got dirty, real dirty,” McMillan said. “I had to work inside and fish the hard wall, which was still gin clear. I just needed the fish to move to it, which they did toward the end of the day.”
The fact McMillan was able to still catch what he did in these conditions certainly had him optimistic for tomorrow, and on a lake like Okeechobee where a 30-pound bag is always possible, no lead is ever safe.
That’s something Bakewell certainly understands, but he’s put himself in position to finally get his first big win.
“I just hope and pray I can get five more in the box tomorrow,” Bakewell said. “If I can do that, I’ll have a shot to win, which would mean the world to me.”
1. Bobby Bakewell – 42 – 4 (10)
2. Dillon McMillan – 31 – 5 (10)
3. Marlon Crowder – 30 – 11 (10)
4. Jessie Mizell – 29 – 8 (10)
5. Hunter Weston – 28 – 4 (10)
6. Mike Surman – 27 – 11 (10)
7. Joel Richardson – 27 – 9 (10)
8. Alex Terescenko – 27 – 6 (10)
9.Destin Lesesne – 26 – 13 (10)
10. Tony Couch – 26 – 12 (10)