The Okeechobee tournament was held over two days (March 23rd -24th).  The weather leading up to the event was very windy, especially on Friday.  To my knowledge, only a few chose to venture out on Friday to pre-fish.  One of those was the author (me) who ended up underestimating how dangerous Okeechobee can become in such a short period of time.  I ended up finding clean water near Indian Prairie canal.  After finding fish and landing a five pounder, I decided to head back to Harney Pond which is about 12 miles away.  I left at 12PM to give me some time since the 15-20 mph wind was not supposed to turn out of the southeast until mid to late afternoon.  Once I made the route into the main lake, it became clear that the forecast was way ahead of schedule.  What I should have done (lesson learned) was to head into Indian Prairie Canal and wait it out at the boat ramp … but I did not make the safe choice. I proceeded to idle back thru five-to-ten-foot waves.  My bilge pump was constantly running since water was breaking over the bow.  This means you are either barely keeping up or losing the battle.  When I arrived at Dyess Ditch, I decided to cross the channel since the water was high. This proved to be the next bad decision. A wave landed me on rocks, and I spun my prop to break free.  Obviously, I did manage to get back to the boat ramp and fish the tournament with my spare prop.  I have never been more scared for my life.  Fortunately, I did not damage my hull in the ordeal.  So here are the lessons I learned. 

  1. Never underestimate how conditions can change for the worst in a short period of time.
  2. Unless you are absolutely sure a safe passage can be made, find an alternate plan if you can. 
  3. ALWAYS have a back-up plan, such as where wind breaks are and alternate boat ramps such as Indian Prairie in my case.
  4. Overconfidence can kill you.

On Thursday, Roger was pre-fishing when his trolling motor stopped working.  Mike from Land and Sky was able to help him out by calling Roland Martin’s Marine who provided the part Roger needed to repair it in a couple hours.  Unfortunately, Mike Calloway also had a trolling motor fail on day one of the tournament, forcing him to drive home and grab his spare and install before the three-hour trip back.  This tournament proved to challenge all the board members, except for Keith. 

Day one of the tournament experience better weather conditions.  Temperatures were in the mid-seventies with winds 5 to 10 mph mostly out of the west. Day one results did not bring any big bags.  There were fifteen teams competing and nine were able to secure a full bag limit. Third place went to Brian Cole with a full bag at 10.14lbs.  Second place went to Gary Hinman and Bob Hall with a full bag at 10.84 lbs.  First place went to Clark Ford and Mikhal Moberg with a full bag at 11.53 lbs.  The big fish for the day was caught by Mikhal Moberg with a 4.41 lb. lunker.  Also, Day 1 saw the smallest fish of the tournament weighed by Daville Williams and Alan Elder, a .77 lb behemoth.  

Day two of the tournament saw more wind but from safer directions for fishing most areas on the north side of the lake.  There were west winds in the morning and shifting to north at noon.  Temperatures were lower on Sunday but comfortable. Water temperatures both days were in the low to mid-seventies.  Day two brought a few large bags which shifted the final results. Third place finish went to Larry Cruce and Mike Watson with a full bag at 11.42 lbs. Second place went to Mike Calloway and Mike Morrison with a full bag at 18.38 lbs. Mike Morrison landed the big bass for the day weighing in a 7.22 lb. fish.  First place went to Roger Averill and Dustin Beard with the biggest bag of the tournament at 23.44 lbs.

The final tournament results were as follows.  Third place went to Gary Hinman and Bob Hall with a two-day total of 21.73 lbs. Gary and Bob are new members in the club … welcome aboard and congrats.  Second place went to Mike Calloway and Mike Morrison with a two-day total of 26.63 lbs. First place went to Roger Averill and Dustin Beard with a two-day total of 32.7 lbs.  Congratulations to all top finishers!  Many challenges were met and overcome, and lessons were learned.  We all need to stay safe so we can fish another day.

Fred Reid and John Kinchen won the StrikeZone gift cards.  Thank you Shawn Mecchella and StrikeZone!

A short meeting at the end of the tournament was held to vote on any new rules or changes.  None were recorded. The next time to make any rule changes is at the September tournament next season.

Attached Media
Submitted by Clark Ford on