CLEWISTON, Fla. – It’s a rarity in professional bass fishing when a lake produces better on the second day of competition than on the first. But that’s exactly what happened on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour opener on Lake Okeechobee.
As expected, warmer temperatures and an impending new moon have Okeechobee fishing better and better each day. That allowed several big sticks to make huge comebacks – including Keystone Light pro Chad Grigsby, EverStart pro Randall Tharp and Straight Talk pro Scott Canterbury, among others. However, the most impressive improvement of the day came from Rick Cotten, who cracked the coveted 30-pound mark a day after catching a 24-pound limit.
With a total weight of 54 pounds, 3 ounces, Cotten is ahead of schedule to surpass 100 pounds, a feat just about no one thought was possible two days ago. But that’s not what the Alabama pro is thinking about at this point.
“There’s a lot of work left to do,” said Cotton. “If I had a 20-pound lead I’d be tickled. But, I don’t.”
Cotten started the day by fishing where he caught the 24 pounds yesterday. That area failed to produce anything but a single 2-pounder, so he moved to a spot that didn’t produce Thursday and voila – 30 pounds appeared. It sounds simple, but of course that was hardly the case.
“I actually caught more fish yesterday,” Cotten said. “I only caught eight or nine keepers total today. I just stuck five that were the right five. Two of my biggest ones today came around 10 a.m. pretty much on back-to-back casts. After that I was shaking; that’s what fishing is all about. Then it was a few hours until I caught another big one. When I boated my last kicker at 1 p.m., I quit for the day.”
Cotten said he’s committed to the jig, but he’s switching between a couple different trailers.
“When they quit hitting one, I’ll pick up the other.”
The pro leader also explained that he’s sharing a large area with several other anglers, a few of whom also made the top-20 cutoff.
“I wasn’t for sure if I was going to catch them today. I’m hoping that they will stay there and I can catch them again tomorrow. The key is going to be making the right move at the right time, like I did today.”
Benton rises to second
The 24-year-old started on a big spawner (estimated 7 pounds) this morning, but was able to catch only the buck. Benton then covered some water with a swim jig and a Bass Assassin Die Dapper to accumulate a small limit. When the sun came back out, it was time to hunt females again.
“I caught a few off the bed with a Pure Craw and then I had like 16 or 17 pounds so I switched back to covering water with the Die Dapper and a spinnerbait,” said the Panama City, Fla., native.
Benton said he has two separate areas – one for hunting spawners and one for fishing moving baits. He bounces between them depending on the conditions – running approximately 25 miles each way. And as much as he loves to sight-fish, the other pattern is working well too.
“The fishing fish are just coming; they’re prespawners. It’s a pretty exciting deal when you catch them and they’re white; you could tell they’d been offshore. But at the same time, with this new moon the sight-fishing is going to get better and better and that’s what I really want to do. Late in the day, I found a 7-pounder and a 5 on bed to go to tomorrow.”
Benton’s second-day stringer went 23 pounds, 9 ounces, pushing him to a total weight of 47 pounds even.
“I had a bad practice, but I tried to stay positive knowing it was going to get better. It is pretty frickin’ exciting to be sitting in this place, to be honest with you.”
Martin slips to third
“I struggled; it was a grind,” said the Canadian-born rookie. “I don’t know how I put together 18 1/2 pounds.”
He started the day punching mats then later went between the mats with a ChatterBait. With five minutes left before he had to come in, he caught a 4 1/2-pounder that culled out a 2-pounder. In total, he boated four keepers on a bluegill-colored Omega Custom Tackle swim jig, seven or eight keepers on a green-pumpkin-colored Z-Man ChatterBait and seven or eight keepers flipping.
“In hindsight, I think I would’ve reversed my two patterns. I should’ve started off with the ChatterBait while it was cloudy and then flipped when the sun came out. I really think I would’ve done better.”
Martin said his best areas are pretty beat up and it might be time to fish new water. As the tournament progresses, Martin keeps checking the water clarity at certain locations. He has one area from the EverStart event that he feels is clearing up and “getting right,” hopefully just in time for the weekend.
“I could go back and catch a limit on old areas, but I don’t think I have a chance of winning there. I think tomorrow I’m going to try some different stuff because I want to have a chance to win. Today I was looking for keeper bites to make the cut. But now I’m looking for big bites.”
Grigsby rallies to fourth
With the second biggest stringer of the day, Keystone Light pro Chad Grigsby rallied from 52nd to fourth. Grigsby’s official weight registered 25 pounds, 11 ounces, giving him an opening-round total of nine bass weighing 38 pounds, 5 ounces.
“Everything went wrong yesterday and everything went right today,” said the Maple Grove, Minn., resident. “Those big ones moved in and man that was fun.”
Grigsby said he’s pitching a Charlie’s Worms Flippin’ Bug (sapphire blue) at isolated reeds where the big girls are spawning. He can’t see them in the tannic water and that’s exactly the way he prefers it.
“I fished them yesterday and only caught one. I think they moved in last night. I put my poles down, flip in there and basically feel the bottom with my bait. If it’s a clean bottom, I’ll keep flipping in there. If not, I’ll move on. I’m just trying to visualize where the bed should be.”
At one point in the day, Grigsby broke off a 4 1/2 –pounder. After retying, he pitched at it again, she bit and this time made it to the boat. Right before he had to come in and call it a day Grigsby popped a 7-pounder that culled out a 1 1/2-pounder. That type of fortune makes up for the fact that he failed to bring in a five-bass limit on day one.
“I had the bites yesterday, they just came off. I’d love to win this thing with 19 fish; I don’t know if that’s ever happened before.”
“I had one at least 10 pounds on that got away on my second cast,” said the Thompsons Station, Tenn., pro. “It jumped twice and just got off. It was about enough to make a grown man cry. It was one of those things where I wasn’t quite ready, but I guess in Florida you should always be ready.”
From there, Hendricks steadily improved – culling five times and catching an 8-14 and a 5-pounder. His two-day total sits at 38 pounds, 4 ounces.
“I used mainly topwaters and moving baits while it was cloudy this morning. I like using those because the cover is so vast here it’s so much easier and more efficient to find them with a moving bait.”
Several times Hendricks would have a fish blow up his topwater and then he’d pitch around to the general area and catch the fish. His bass are both prespawn and postspawn.
“I’m catching them coming in and going out. I haven’t caught one with a worn-out tail.”
Hendricks is worried a switch in wind direction will force him to pitch and flip more than burn topwaters.
“I do know that I’m around some giants so that has me excited.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros on Lake Okeechobee after day two:
6th: Michael Neal of Dayton, Tenn., 38-3
7th: Adrian Avena of Vineland, N.J., 37-11
8th: Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., 37-3
9th: Philip Jarabeck of Lynchburg, Va., 36-9
10th: Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., 36-1
Terry Seagraves caught the 3M ScotchBlue Big Bass Friday, an Okeechobee behemoth weighing 9 pounds, 4 ounces.
Jones retains co-angler lead
Justin Jones led last year’s EverStart Series event on Lake Okeechobee after the first day, but then zeroed on day two and tumbled down the leaderboard. Today he made sure there were no replays. Determined to at least catch a limit, he managed five bass worth 10 pounds, 4 ounces.
Jones, the Apex, N.C., native, has a two-day total of 32 pounds, 15 ounces after catching 22-11 by flipping a Bruiser Intruder (Knockout color) on opening day. With one day of competition remaining, he has a 5-pound lead.
Goggins up to second
After starting the day in fifth place, co-angler Anthony Goggins of Auburn. Ala., rallied to second thanks to a 13-pound, 2-ounce limit. Goggins has a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 27 pounds, 15 ounces.
Scott, Iwahori, Pauley round out top five
Greg Scott of Dearborn, Mich., retained third place after catching an 11-pound, 12-ounce limit Friday. Paired with his 15-8 from day one, Scott has a total weight of 27-4.
Wataru Iwahori of Palestine, Texas, sits fourth with a two-day total of 27 pounds, 1 ounce.
Brook Pauley of Morgantown, W.V., rounds out the top five with 26 pounds, 10 ounces.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers after day two:
6th: Ronnie Green of Tampa, Fla., 25-9
7th: Bill Cowart of Kissimmee, Fla., 25-2
8th: Mike Comeau of Winooski, Vt., 24-10
9th: Jeff Sprague of Point, Texas, 23-14
10th: Greg Knick of Ansonia, Ohio, 23-9
Johnny Manning won the 3M Peltor Big Bass Award in the Co-angler Division after catching an 8-pound, 9-ounce fish on day two.
Day three of the FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee will begin Saturday at 7:30 a.m. as the top 20 pros and top 20 co-anglers take off from the Clewiston Boat Basin.