In professional tournament fishing today there always seems to be a prevailing pattern or area that holds most of the anglers who do well in a certain event. Guys are just flat-out good at figuring out what the dominant pattern is and where it is on the lake.
In the first FLW Tour event of the year at Lake Okeechobee, most of the anglers who did well fished the giant grass beds in and around Harney Pond, the Monkey Box area, Fisheating Creek, Bird Island and the North Shore on the northwest part of the lake. Many of the top anglers in the event fished different patterns within the giant area. Some were flipping, while others cast swimbaits, jigs and ChatterBaits over and around the grass. Both techniques worked well and many used a one-two punch employing both patterns.
Okeechobee has always been one of those lakes where you have to be around other boats to really do well. Every year I try to find some place that other anglers are not fishing, but most of the time that strategy does not go well. It has occassionally worked for me there finding my own area, but it has not happened very often. I finished fourth in the first FLW Tour event I fished on Lake Okeechobee and had no company at all. But for every good tournament I’ve had there going my own way, there are two or three bad ones. In the long run, it just doesn’t pay to get away from the crowd at the “Big O.”
Some lakes you can find fish that you have for yourself. Lake Hartwell and Sam Rayburn, the next two stops, both have big populations of bass and can be won nearly anywhere on the lake. One huge key is grass – but not just any grass, it has to be hydrilla. If there is an area with a lot of hydrilla on a lake then it will usually dominate. Take Okeechobee for example. The area where nearly everyone fished was where all the hydrilla was. Rayburn has hydrilla as well, but thankfully it is much more widespread on that giant body of water.
At the end of the day, tournament fishing in general is a lot like fishing Lake Okeechobee. It is often about fishing around other boats and just beating them. It takes being mentally tough and not worrying about the other guy. It’s hard, but it’s the way it is sometimes.