While northern chills have sent me into hibernation southern anglers like Jason Smith of Leesburg, GA can be found working his way through the grass flats of Lake Okeechobee. My hook setting dreams are in contrast to Smith’s dream of becoming a full-time Professional Bass Angler. With a long list of consistent top finishes and southern tournament wins Jason Smith, supported by his wife April and of course Grandma, have decided ‘2009 is the Time’! Time that is for Jason to test his angling skills in the Big Leagues of the FLW Outdoors Eastern BP Series, by registering to compete as a Pro Angler
“I have decided that if I don’t try I will never fully understand the limits to my angling ability,” echoes Smith. The Eastern BP Series first stop is February 28th on Lake Okeechobee in Florida. “I have never fished the ‘Big O’ before, however I have competed on several bodies of water similar to Okeechobee’s heavy vegetation and shallow water impoundment.”
Realizing his need to explore Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, Georgia’s Jason Smith headed south to Clewiston, Florida for a little ‘PT’…..Practice Time! “This lake is so massive, then filter in the fact that everything looks exactly the same, I honestly believe a fella could get lost there and never be found,” chuckled Smith. Guided by his sonar’s GPS system, Smith headed towards several areas he had pre-planned earlier by marking and researching a paper map. “It’s so imperative to utilize every single second on the water to your advantage,” suggest Smith. Adding, “Florida bass are the first to spawn, so I concentrated on the North West Factor to warm the areas I choose.”
Jason Smith’s log revealed slightly higher water temperatures, according to Smith 1-2 degrees in Florida can mean the difference of bass spawning or just cruising. “Cruising bass are extremely difficult to catch, and more often than not they will not be where you spotted them in the first place.”
Armed with an arsenal of Big Bear Rods (www.BigBearRods.com) mated with Quantum reels, spooled with 20 lb P-Line Fluorocarbon, Smith searched his chosen area for every minute difference he could muster. “The water level on Lake Okeechobee had been down, allowing the Hydrilla to grow so thick in areas it’s impossible to fish it with anything other than a totally weedless bait.”
For this Gambler Bait Pro Staffer that meant only two possible presentation techniques, were possible, horizontal or vertical. (www.Gambler-Bang.com) “In order to penetrate through the thick vegetation, I pegged a heavy Gambler Florida weight to the nose of a large Gambler Tube,” says Smith. Smith also, mentioned he would ‘Grease’ up his Gambler Tube by coating it heavily with scent, which in turn allowed his tube rig to slither through the thick matted Hydrilla and into the open pockets below. “To cover the surface quickly and locate areas holding bass, I would fan cast a Gambler Cane Toad, tied to braided line, utilizing a Big Bear ¾ Heavy Casting rod paired with a fast retrieve Quantum reel,” recalls Smith.
With his trolling motor on high, a pair of Copper colored Eye Surrender Sunglasses (www.EyeSurrenderonline.com) to filter out the suns blinding rays, Georgia’s Jason Smith continued his pre-tournament search for spawning areas, areas with slightly deeper water (These would be the areas bass would retreat to should a cold-front come by tournament time.), isolated opening for spawning beds with thick vegetation close by for fry to take refuse in, as well as any other pieces of cover that was different than the predominate cover in the area.
“It’s imperative to be prepared for a sudden change in conditions, especially since my tournament is almost a month away,” voiced Smith. Assembling a combination of waypoints in his GPS system Jason Smith established a milk-run pattern within his chosen section of the massive ‘Big-O’. “Rather than try to cover the entire lake which in and of itself is merely impossible, I decided to take a much smaller section and divide it into three distinct areas.”
Elaborating further Smith enlighten me to his game-plan come tournament time. “By locating pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn areas within a specific area, I have increased my chances of producing quality limits of bass each of the competition days, which in turn increase my chances of collecting a check, and thus eliminate running time verse fishing time on the water!”
With his section of Okeechobee divided into three distinct types of cover and holding areas, Jason Smith placed another Big Bear Rod on his Ranger’s flipping deck. “Big Bass just seem to devour lizards, and I have had enormous success with this Gambler Loco Lizard! Besides the fact that it seems to actually glide and swim in the water, it also sends out tremendous waves of vibration, telegraphing its presence, allowing bass to simply inhale it!”
Smith spent the rest of his practice time honing in on specific spots within each area, as he searched for Big Bass. “Bass have a tendency to group up by size, and Big Bass seem to always utilize the same isolated areas to spawn, by locating these isolated spawning areas, I believe I will also be in an area that will hold many larger bass.
With Jason Smith honing in on the official FLW BP Eastern Series practice days, Florida suffering an ice-chilling cold front, this Rookie Pro Angler will have to utilize every bass-angling ounce of confidence in his Ranger’s Rod locker during his first Professional Bass Tournament!
God Bless and Best Bass’n