Top 10 baits from Lake Okeechobee Toyota Series - Major League Fishing

Top 10 baits from Lake Okeechobee Toyota Series

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Each of the Top 10 anglers on Okeechobee made it with their own unique approach. Photo by Charles Waldorf.
April 4, 2023 • Sean Ostruszka, Charles Waldorf • Toyota Series

CLEWISTON, Fla. – To say that Lake Okeechobee didn’t fish its best last week during the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Southern Division event is an understatement. In fact, many locals argued is may have fished its worst.

That didn’t stop the Big O from producing some big drama, as Jessie Mizell overcame a near 13-pound deficit the final day to take home the title. 

Here’s a look at the equipment that helped the Top 10 anglers. 

1. Jessie Mizell – 51-15 (15)

When the wind finally settled down, Mizell’s frog bite could finally get right, which it did on the final day. His frog of choice was a customized SPRO Bronzeye Poppin’ Frog 70 (killer gill) where he added flashabou to the legs, which shimmer and “fan out” on the surface when sitting still to tempt lethargic bass. He also mixed in a Medlock Jig.

2. Bobby Bakewell – 50-6 (14)

Considering his dismal practice, Bobby Bakewell’s second-place finish is a triumph. But when you lose an 11-pound lead the final day, it’s hard to see it as such. Still, Bakewell once again showed the Kissimmee River as a tournament player, focusing on a 50-yard shell bed near one of the locks. 

He wasn’t getting many bites, but the ones he got were the right ones on either a Carolina rig or jerkbait. His C-rig featured both 3/8-ounce cylinder Flat Out Tungsten and ¼-ounce regular Flat Out Tungsten weights, with a 20-pound test Yo-Zuri T7 Fluorocarbon leader and 5/0 Gamakatsu Offset SuperLine Worm Hook rigged with a Bruiser Baits worm. He threw that on a 7-foot 6-inch Heavy Enigma HPT rod and Enigma Phenom reel. The jerkbait was a Yo-Zuri 3DB Series SP Deep jerkbait with Gamakatsu No. 4 Short Shank Trebles, which he threw on a 7-foot 2-inch medium-heavy Enigma Phenom rod and Enigma Ippon reel spooled with 14-pound test Yo-Zuri T7 Fluorocarbon.

3. Brandon Medlock – 49-10 (15) 

Brandon Medlock has already created one heck of a flipping jig, and based on his final day, his new swim jig might be just as good, as he used it to weigh in the biggest bag of the event. Now a big key to that was the wind laying down so he could toss his jig on the inside edge of the outside reeds in the Tin House area. He also mixed in a Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer with a Big Bite Baits Kamikaze Swimon trailer.  

4. Mike Surman – 45-4 (15)

Mike Surman knows as well as any that you shouldn’t fish muddy water on Lake Okeechobee. Yet, that was his big mistake the first day that cost him. Still, he more than made up for it by running clean water near Horse Island the final two days with a Gambler Burner Worm and Gambler Ninja Spin

5. Destin Lesesne – 45-2 (15)

It was simple gameplan for Destin Lesene. Every day he’d start with a swimbait to catch a small limit, and then he’d put a Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer (golden shiner) with a Berkley The Deal trailer in his hands around 11 a.m. and never put it down, culling out everything he had by fishing everywhere from South Bay to Harney Pond. 

6. Alex Terescenko – 45-0 (15)

His Scenko Stix rods are quickly gaining a name as some of the best custom rods, but Alex Terescenko proved he’s more than just a quality rod maker with his Top-10 finish. Fishing the north end, he mixed it up with a Gambler Fat Ace thrown on a 7-foot, 3-inch medium-heavy Scenko Stix All-Purpose rod, a Gambler EZ Swimmer (copperfield) on an Owner Flashy Swimmer hook with a 7-foot, 2-inch heavy fast Scenko Stix Royal Flush and a homemade vibrating jig with a green pumpkin Gambler Komodo Trailer dipped in chartreuse tossed on his 7-foot, 4-inch Scenko Stix Chattertrap rod. 

7. Jared McMillan – 44-11 (13) 

The thought of a McMillan not being in the Top 10 in a Lake Okeechobee event is almost as inconceivable as one not catching a limit there. Well, Jared McMillan somehow did the latter while still accomplishing the first. The Florida pro only weighed in three fish the first day because he didn’t trust his gut and fished the north end. A switch back to the south end on the final two days prompted his comeback, focusing on small hard spots with a Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer (black and blue) with a Yamamoto Zako trailer and a SPRO Bronzeye Poppin’ Frog 70 (killer gill).

8. Marlon Crowder – 42-12 (15) 

Had the wind not blown out his outside reeds pattern in Tin House, maybe Marlon Crowder could’ve kept up his torrid Day 1 pace. Alas, it was not to be, as he ended up scrambling the final two days in the Kissimmee River. His 21-pound-plus bag on Day 1, though, came flipping a Googan Baits Nuke Punch Craw behind a 1 ¾-ounce weight and a SPRO Bronzeye Poppin’ Frog 70 (killer gill). 

9. Dillon McMillan – 41-14 (15) 

Seemingly the only person who could catch Bakewell going into the final day (outside of Mizell’s surprise comeback), Dillon McMillan never really had the opportunity when he experienced boat issues. Still, he made it two-for-two in the Top 10 for the McMillan family last week thanks to hunkering in the Three Pole area, mixing it up with a Gambler Fat Ace (JB blue), a topwater bait, a popping frog and doing some flipping.

10. Casey Warren – 41-5 (15)

Casey Warren basically spent the week “riding and looking” for clean water on the north end. If the water was dirty, he got back on the big motor. If it was clean, he’d fish it with a Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer with a Zoom Z-Craw Jr. trailer.