Mizell sets the pace at Okeechobee - Major League Fishing

Mizell sets the pace at Okeechobee

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Once again, Jessie Mizell proved he's hard to beat on the Big O. Photo by Rob Matsuura. Angler: Jessie Mizell.
January 25, 2024 • Jody White • Toyota Series

CLEWISTON, Fla. – Overall, Day 1 of the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Southern Division opener on Lake Okeechobee was solid, but unspectacular. Bags in the teens went down past 50th in the standings, but the bevy of mid- and upper-20s bags that many hoped for didn’t quite materialize.

Still, Jessie Mizell and Kyle Wieczorek got things kicked off right, both sacking up 24 pounds and change to get out ahead of the pack. In the lead with 24-8, Mizell is looking to go back-to-back after winning last year’s Toyota Series event on the Big O.

Leading on the Strike King co-angler side, David Honsted had a huge day and weighed 23-12.

Fishing clean puts Mizell ahead

Mizell has five MLF wins to his credit on Okeechobee (including a 2017 stretch when he went three for three in BFL events), so it’s no surprise to see him start off well. While lost fish have plagued him in the past, he ran slim margins with no issues today.

“The last day at the Toyota last year I lost two 7-pounders back-to-back,” Mizell said. “That was the same story at the Harris Chain – I was throwing a jerkbait, and they kept coming unbuttoned. That three-day event, I lost six or seven fish that were over 5 pounds.”

Today, things went smoothly.

“I just fished clean,” Mizell said. “I only had six bites all day, but I guess they were the right ones.”

According to the Florida pro, his primary water was pretty affected by boat traffic. After catching an 8-9 and a few others on a topwater, things slowed down a bit.

“I feel like I could have caught more, but where I’m fishing is a little bay, and beyond that bay is where the fish are spawning,” he said. “I feel like the fish are staging right there, but the problem is boats are going to the back and running it. So, it was muddying up my water. Everything happened real early; I don’t think the fish could handle the stress.”

Mizell thinks his big fish was an indicator of how good the area could be.

“I think she was done spawning; her stomach had no eggs in it, and she was real weak and all beat up,” he said. “She was done and trying to get a big meal. That’s why I’m thinking the fish are staging right there – coming and going, they set up there.

“That water temp got up to 72 today, and I would like to see 74 tomorrow,” he said. “They could turn on really good.”

An 8-15 went a long way for Kyle Wieczorek on Day 1. Photo by Rob Matsuura.

Key bites also power Wieczorek

Like Mizell, Wieczorek didn’t get a ton of bites to put together his 24-6 limit. He did, however, catch the big bass of the day – an 8-15 that earned him $500, with hopefully more on the way.

“I caught them winding,” said the Nokomis, Florida, pro. “It was very slow. I only had seven or eight bites all day.”

Like the rest of the field, Wieczorek is hoping for big things from the weather and the full moon. In his case, getting off to such a good start is a bit of a bonus.

“I knew if everything went right, it was possible,” he said of his day. “I didn’t think it was going to come today, I thought it would come tomorrow or Saturday.”

Fishing around another 10 or 12 boats, there’s some definite competition in the area for Wieczorek. But, with the continued warm weather, the Okeechobee bass should keep moving around.

Top 10 pros

1. Jessie Mizell – 24 – 8 (5)   

2. Kyle Wieczorek – 24 – 6 (5)              

3. Al Hopkins – 22 – 15 (5)       

4. Benny Townend – 22 – 14 (5)            

5. Anthony Ford – 21 – 7 (5)

6. Brandon Tallhamer – 21 – 3 (5)    

7. Robert Camp – 20 – 5 (5)

8. Steve Lopez – 19 – 12 (5)    

9. Wade Grooms – 18 – 4 (5)                

10. Brad Robinson – 18 – 1 (5)            

Complete results

Fishing Clash AOY

Toyota Series anglers are competing for the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year award and a $5,000 payday. Fishing Clash – an interactive 3D fishing simulation game that’s been downloaded by more than 80 million people worldwide – will reward the AOYs in all divisions of the Toyota Series, and is the official AOY sponsor of the Bass Pro Tour, Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Toyota Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League. 

Download Fishing Clash for free in the App Store and on Google Play or log on to www.fishingclash.game for more information.