OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – After seven 20-pound plus limits crossed the EverStart weigh-in stage on day one, day two’s number of 20-plusers fell to just two.
While the overall number of bass weighed in was still about the same for both days, the bigger bass just didn’t show up as often today. The replenishment of new-moon females does not seem to be happening as fast as many had hoped.
Some blamed today’s weather – a gray, overcast day that even drizzled out a little rain shower from time to time – for holding the big girls back. Many of Okeechobee’s top sticks believe the calm, sunny days are the ones that seem to be an aphrodisiac for nesting females and today the sun did not really shine until weigh-in began.
Others think the fishing pressure kept the shy gals at bay. Increased boat numbers inherently seem to follow the leaders on day two of a tournament, and today was no exception.
After sacking a dream bag of 31 pounds, 7 ounces on day one, leader Ben Todd of Pierson, Fla., was able to hold his top spot with an 11-pound, 9 ounce catch for a two-day total of 43 pounds. He now has a 5-pound lead over Okeechobee’s own Brandon McMillan who climbed from 7th to second today.
And while no one wants to enter the final day of an Okeechobee event with Big Mac lurking behind them, Todd remains optimistic.
“I fished the same area today and caught 12 or 13 bass, but just no big ones,” Todd said. “The weather was completely opposite of yesterday. Yesterday was sunny and bright all day. Those big females were set up on the beds perfectly and you could almost call your shot. But today, it was dark, cloudy and rainy and I just don’t think those big females feel comfortable getting up there and laying eggs on dark days. I don’t know, that’s just my guess.”
Todd also felt the increased pressure was a factor.
“Yesterday, I could move around the area freely and fish where I wanted when I wanted,” he said “But today, I was kind of boxed in. When I went back to rotate through my area I had to get in line. So much of this fishing here is a timing thing. You have in your mind the little places you want to hit a certain times and when you get out of that timing it throws you off.”
“I still feel good about the area though,” Todd added. “There are still plenty of bucks around. And I think the females are sitting out there wanting to come in. Hopefully with some sun and a few less boats tomorrow that wave of big ones will come on in and set up.”
Brandon McMillan of Clewiston, Fla., put himself in prime position to contend for another win on his home lake today with a 17-pound, 5 ounce limit that puts him in second place with a two-day total of 37 pounds, 15 ounces – just a fin over 5 pounds out of the lead.
“There were some really good flippers in the area I started in this morning,” McMillan said. “And when guys like JT Kenney and Randall Tharp aren’t swinging much, chances are ol’ Brandon isn’t going to be swinging much either. So at about 9:30 I bailed and headed south for a gamble on a place I figured might come into play. I caught 8 or 9 keepers down there, including two that I weighed in, but it didn’t really pan out like I hoped. The water is still a touch too dirty. So I headed back up here to finish the day and caught my biggest bass of the day up here.”
As for tomorrow, Big Mac will be watching the wind.
“I think if the wind would switch up just a little bit for me, I’ve got a place that might pay off,” he added. “But if the wind doesn’t cooperate, that area might not get right.”
Chris Brill of Lehigh Acres, Fla., slipped a spot to the third place position with a 13-pound, 10-ounce catch for a two-day total of 37 pounds, 11 ounces.
Brill made a long run to the south pay off on day one with a 24-pound catch, but today the cloudy weather hindered his primary bite so he switched tactics.
“I didn’t switch areas, just techniques,” Brill said. “I really swung for the fences and I don’t regret it. I weighed in 13-10, but I only had four fish. I only had six bites and lost two nice ones.”
“Tomorrow I’m going to go back to what I was doing yesterday,” he continued. “If the sun comes back out all day, things could get good. I’m looking forward to it.”
Malone’s limit was anchored by an 8-pound, 14-ounce bass, which claimed the day-two big fish honors in the Pro Division.
“The sickening thing is I had one bigger than that in my grasp and it came off,” said Malone. “I’m pitching a big jig to reeds. They’re spawning around the deep reeds. The water is too deep and dark to see them, but I know that’s what they’re doing.”
Later in the day, Malone switches to mats.
“I’ve found the reed fish to bite better in the morning and the mat fish bite better in the afternoon,” he added. “That big one I caught today came from the mats.”
Rounding out the top five is Keith Fels of Ocala, Fla., with a two-day total of 36 pounds, 2 ounces.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 pros in the EverStart Series event on Lake Okeechobee after day two:
6th: Casey Martin of New Market, Ala., two-day total of 35-14
7th: Trevor Fitzgerald of Belleview, Fla., two-day total of 33-9
8th: Preston Clark of Eagle Lake, Fla., two-day total of 33-6
9th: Kyle Monti of Okeechobee, Fla., two-day total of 33-6
10th: Brandon Medlock of Lake Placid, Fla., two-day total of 32-12
Guerra leads co-anglers
Raymond Guerra of Port Saint Lucie, Fla., now the leads the Co-angler Division with a two-day total of 32 pounds, 15 ounces.
William Wood of West Palm Beach, Fla., is in second place with a two-day total of 29 pounds, 4 ounces.
Wood has found success this week with an old Okeechobee standby, a watermelon red lizard.
“The old lizard used to be a killer down here when the fish were on beds,” Wood said. “I have not thrown one in years and since the fish were on beds here I figured I give it a whirl and it worked – that’s what I caught my good limit on yesterday and I caught some on it again today.”
George Saliba of Lakefield, Ontario, is in third place with a two-day total of 29 pounds, 4 ounces.
Howard Poitevint of Bainbridge, Ga., caught the big bass in the Co-angler Division on day two weighing 8 pounds, 12 ounces, which propelled him to fourth place with a two-day total of 27 pounds, 2 ounces.
Michael Wiles of Perry, Fla., rounds out the top five among co-anglers with a two-day total of 25 pounds, 8 ounces.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers in the EverStart Series event on Lake Okeechobee after day two:
6th: Dean Harcourt of Sebastian, Fla., two-day total of 23-7
7th: Kevin Thomas of Miramar, Fla., two-day total of 23-5
8th: Jim Austin of Lithonia, Ga., two-day total of 23-4
9th: Cole Bailey of Thamesford, Ontario, two-day total of 23-3
10th: Donnie Dodd of Guntersville, Ala., two-day total of 23-2
Day three of the EverStart Series Southeast on Lake Okeechobee will begin Saturday at 7:30 a.m. at C. Scott Driver Park.