Week 5- Okeechobee FLW
For the second year in a row, Texas pro Kelly Jordon led Team Lucky Craft's charge into the tour season. He built upon his 2005 FLW Tour victory at Okeechobee with a 4th-place finish in this year's season opener on the big pond. As described elsewhere on BassFan, he fought the crowds in Moonshine Bay to make the cut and cash a check for 20 large.
But he wasn't the only member of the elite pro staff to fish the event. Fellow two-tour pro Takahiro Omori survived a potential disaster to head home with a check, and Brent Ehrler brought not only his Lucky Craft arsenal but also a bit of California hardware to salvage a decent finish. Here's how they did it.
Okeechobee is about as far away from Brent Ehrler's California home as you can travel and still be in the continental United States, but he brought a bit of California with him in the form of a big swimbait and rode it to a quality 12-10 first-day limit before he fell a bit when the lake glassed off on Day 2.
"My practice went fairly well," he said. "But in Florida the weather dictates so much. It changes day to day. Some of my good areas, the wind just destroyed them, turned them into chocolate milk. I had to write off three of my good areas.
"I practiced for 5 or 6 days and only caught two fish that were solid 3-pounders," he added. "I caught a lot of 1- to 1 1/4-pound fish and a couple of 2s. I thought I could catch a limit each day and just hope for a bigger bite."
He spent the tournament in Moonshine Bay along with what seemed like the entire rest of the field. "Everyone was catching fish down there on spinnerbaits, Rat-L-Traps ・just about anything," he said.
He got on a specific topwater bite in practice and managed to catch two fish on a Lucky Craft Splash Tail before the last flight's wake had settled. "I really like the way the double propbait sits flat in the water."
In practice, conditions seemed perfect for a topwater, but he couldn't muster a bite that way until "one day it was super-calm and the water temperature dropped. My bite on the LVR D-7 I'd been using slacked off so I pulled out the propbait and within an hour I had 10 bites. The temperature had dropped 15 degrees, they shouldn't have eaten a topwater, but I'd let it sit for 10 seconds and they'd bite it."
Practice had also shown him that his home-state swimbait tactics aren't limited to the left coast, so at 9:30 on Day 1 he began to heave a 22nd Century Tripple Trout, a large three-piece swimbait. "It was in the 'hitch' color like we use up at Clear Lake, but it really looks like the big shiners (at Okeechobee) and that's what they catch all the big fish on down there," he said.
He missed a bite almost immediately, then three casts later stuck a 4-plus. "Three more casts and a nice one boiled on it," he said. "That gave me the confidence to throw it the rest of the day. I threw it from 9:30 until weigh-in and caught three more and that was it." His limit weighed 12-10 and put him within reach of the Top 10 cut.
On Thursday, conditions changed drastically. "There were bright blue skies and it was windier," he said. "I didn't think it would be as tough as it was, but it took me a long time to catch my first fish. My big mistake that day was that I didn't commit to anything. I should've committed to the LV. I caught two on it at the end of the day that saved me, otherwise I would've only had one bass."
He did take away a new appreciation for braided line. "They wanted the bigger bait (at Okeechobee)," he said. "They liked the 1/2-ounce LVR D-7 vs. the 1/4-ounce LVR Mini. Skeet told me the key is to use 30-pound braid. I used Sunline 34-pound braid and it was absolutely amazing, night and day. When you get hung up in the grass or stuck on the tules, you can pop it free. There are no wasted casts."
He also learned further distinctions among Lucky Craft's line of lipless lures. "When it got calm and I felt the fish were pressured, I went to the LV-200, which has no rattles. They bite it better under those conditions and it got me a couple of extra bites."
With Lake Murray next on his agenda, he remains upbeat. "This didn't change anything for me," he said. "I wanted to be in the Top 100 in Florida. You have to make the Top 100 every time, with a few top 30s, to make the Championship. Murray should be a lot clearer and deeper ・more like what I'm used to in California."
Takahiro Omori, 2004 Bassmaster Classic champion, felt fortunate to leave Okeechobee with a 35th-place finish and a check for $10,250. "I got here Friday night and started practicing on Saturday," he said. "I had a brand new boat and before I even made a cast I hit a log. It damaged my engine and I lost most of my practice. Considering my practice, I'm real happy."
He too decided to join the majority of the field in this year's parking lot. "I was in Moonshine like everybody else. I couldn't get a big bite. My biggest was a 3-pounder and the whole key was to get one big bite a day to make the cut."
His consecutive limits weighed 11-01 and 8-12 for 20 pounds even. Every one of them was caught on a black and blue Gary Yamamoto Craw, fished with a 3/8-ounce lead weight on 58-pound Sunline braid. He used a Team Daiwa reel and Team Daiwa TDS flipping stick.
He refused to look too far into the future. "You never know what's going to happen. There's a long way to go in the season. This is a pretty good start. I'll work hard and hopefully have a good year." He similarly refused to name a particular Lucky Craft bait that excites him. "There are a few, but I'm not going to tell you. I don't really look at baits that way anymore anyway. Whatever works good, I'm going to fish with it."
He'll fish both tours, and is particularly stoked that BASS will return to his adopted home state of Texas for Amistad and Rayburn, but most importantly he intends to "keep an open mind right now (and) focus on each week."