Roland Martin Marine Center Series Recap
I took practice for the Roland Martin Marine Center Series a lot differently than I have in the past on Lake Okeechobee, and I think it worked out for the best. Basically what I was looking for was water quality. Since hurricane Irma hit all of Florida, Lake Okeechobee has been very different than the lake I’ve been learned the past three years. With some vague leads on good areas I set out to go check them out. A lot of it looked excellent, but it’s always about finding that spot on a spot. In one area I was in, there was a legitimate current running through the lily pads. I was able to catch a few small fish on swimbaits in the pads adjacent to that current. I saw some bigger fish moving around in the area, and with the good hard bottom along with clean water, I knew this was going to be the spot. Did I know exactly what I was going to do? Not at all, but I knew I was going to be picking it a part come tournament day.
Being boat 107 basically gave us a guaranteed fact that we would not have a spot over in that spawning field.
Not too far away, outside of where I was going to start, the armada was already there when we arrived on the morning of the tournament. Being boat 107 basically gave us a guaranteed fact that we would not have a spot over in that spawning field. All good to me, I don’t fish well in crowds anyways. As we set down and started fishing, Trathen caught about a three pounder immediately on a double buzz bait. Our next bite didn’t come for a while, but between soft jerkbaits and Bruiser Big Sticks, we started to fill in a small limit. Our first good fish came when Trathen was working a popping frog along the outside ledge of the pads where I was catching small ones on swimbaits the night before.
The sensitivity really made a difference because of how light the bite was
We had a good cull by then, and started working our way around the small area and back up some pig trails. Unfortunately gar were very much at home up those trails and there were few bass. On our way back I started slowly working a Big Stick along the edges of the grass, fishing extremely slowly. On an extremely light bight, was able to pick up our biggest of the day, right at six pounds even. This fish came on a Bruiser Baits Big Stick Black with Blue Tip and I was using my DD26 7ft MH Fast action rod with a 13 Fishing Concept Z reel. The sensitivity really made a difference because of how light the bite was.
It was then a bowling ball landed on his frog.
We fished our way out of that hole and began to move towards scattered patches of eel grass in clear water I had found the day prior. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a “find” as there was a literal armada sitting on top of it. I counted 45 boats in that area when we decided to leave. We headed to another area of Lake Okeechobee where we were able to find clean water and a shad spawn going on in some dollar pads. Trathen slung his frog up into those pads with about ten yards of pennywart between us and where he was fishing. It was then a bowling ball landed on his frog. In perfect form using the strength of his Big Bear ¾ Heavy rod he was able to set the hook hard on that fish. He pinned it against the mat of pennywart, and this is where things got interesting. I tried to use the trolling motor to get back there, but even with the Weed Chopper and Weed Blocker on my 112lbs of thrust it was just too much. I grabbed his life jacket, slung it over his shoulders, put mine on and used 250 horses to push the boat back into the little bay and finally net his fish. All that work, only to find about a nine pound bowfin with its mouth stapled shut with the dual frog hooks!
We fished around that area and weren’t able to conjure up any more bites so we decided to go check out some other areas. The water is not yet as clean as I’d like it there so we didn’t stay long until we moved to the rim ditch and began to fish the docks at Uncle Joe’s Cut. Trathen was able to pull out a decent cull from under those docks with his frog until we had to call it a day.
Lake Okeechobee is starting to fish like the stories I’ve heard before moving down here
All in all it was a pretty good day of fishing. It took a lot of patience and we definitely had to work for the fish we took to weigh in. Starting the series in 38th is definitely a good place to be when we’re fishing against the best teams in Florida; even if points don’t mean much in this series (points in this series really only matter for launch position in the classic). Lake Okeechobee is starting to fish like the stories I’ve heard before moving down here where 20 pounds will barely get you in the top 20 of an almost 200 boat field. Now it’s time to just put it together and join those coming in with 25 plus on a regular basis.