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Hopeful the bite heats up

If you’ve been following this column over the past couple of weeks, you know that I’ve been down in Florida preparing for the FLW Tour bass tournament I’m fishing this weekend at Lake Okeechobee.

Our official practice started Sunday after the lake was off-limits to tournament anglers for the past two weeks.

I was fortunate last year and had a great tournament, ending up with a 20th-place finish. I found one really good stretch of lily pads that gave up nearly all of the fish that weighed in.

Alas, so far this week (about halfway through my practice), I’ve yet to find that magical stretch like I had last year. The area I fished last year has become heavily vegetated to the point where it actually was tough to get around with my trolling motor.

I did catch one small bass there, but it’s just not the same.

My dad is down for the week to pre-fish with me for this event along with Darryl Galusha from Kenora, who is fishing the tournament on the co-angler side.

Fishing has been tough so far for us this week. One thing about Florida bass is they do not like it when the temperature dips—even a little bit. They just get much harder to catch.

Over the past weekend, south Florida experienced the coldest nights it has had all winter and that seemed to have slowed the bite. The good news is that the weather is supposed to be hot and sunny through the weekend, which should improve the fishing.

Lake Okeechobee is so much different than our lakes at home because there is literally no structure. It is pretty flat and seven feet of water is considered deep.

The thing I think is making it difficult for me is that there are no points or ledges to look for fish. There are just endless miles of weeds to fish.

The one prediction I’ll make right now and is that this tournament will be won by a technique known as “flipping.” Anglers flip and pitch their baits into pockets in the weeds.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of flipping, but I’m just not connecting with very many fish. The problem that I’m faced with is that it is a slow technique, so I’m not able to cover a lot of water while I’m doing this.

Once I find a congregation of fish, then I think I can slow down and pick an area apart. I just need to find a hot zone.

I don’t want to leave anybody with the impression that I’m down and out for this tournament. I still have a day of practice left and come Thursday morning, I’ll be ready to go. I’m just giving everybody the scoop on what I’m finding down here.

I’m sure plenty of other anglers down are going through the same thing.

One thing I can tell you is that we’re in Florida and somebody is going to catch some big bass this weekend. Hopefully, I’ll be one of them!

The entire field of 175 anglers fishes Thursday and Friday, then the top 20 will advance to Day 3. Then top 10 fish a fourth day with a $100,000 prize on the line.

You can follow the results live on Thursday starting at 3 p.m. on FLWOutdoors.com