Florida South Opens Season On ‘Big O’

ATHENS, Ala. – The Florida South Division 7 of the American Bass Anglers Open Series, Presented by Caymas Boats, begins its new season on Jan. 28, 2023, on Lake Okeechobee.

The anglers will run out of Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina Resort, located at 920 E. Del Monte Avenue in the town of Clewiston, Fla. To register for this tournament, CLICK HERE.

About the size of Rhode Island, “Big O” as many people call it, covers more than 730 square miles, making it the largest freshwater lake in Florida and the second-largest freshwater lake completely within the borders of the lower 48 contiguous states. It’s also the largest freshwater lake contained entirely within one state. The massive ancient natural lake averages less than nine feet deep with some deeper water in the Rim Canal and elsewhere.

One of the best bass lakes in the nation, Lake Okeechobee consistently produces giant largemouth, probably more than any other lake in the nation. The lake record topped 15 pounds. Any angler could hook a hawg anywhere in the sprawling inland sea at any time.

Some of the best action occurs in late January when fat females swollen with roe begin to move up shallow to spawn. The north end of the enormous lake tends to warm faster, so bass begin spawning sooner in that part of the lake. Abundant grass mats and reedy flats dominate much of the lake. Many anglers flip the vegetation with jigs, tubes or other soft-plastic baits in junebug, redbug, watermelon red, black and blue, or crawfish colors.

During a Jan. 22, 2022, division tournament that also ran out of Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina Resort, Donald “Durand” D. Locke from Loxahatchee, Fla. won the Boater Division with an impressive 5-bass tournament limit weighing 28.14 pounds. Locke anchored that bag with a 6.26-pound bucketmouth to finish the 2022 division season opener with a 5.63-pound average and a check for $5,200. Jessie J. Mizell of Myakka City, Fla. landed the tournament lunker at 8.98 pounds.

“I fished the shoal about 30 minutes from the landing all day,” Locke advised. “I caught fish many different ways, by flipping, on frogs, swim jigs and ChatterBaits. I caught fish on everything I picked up and didn’t lose any fish.”
In the Co-Angler Division during that tournament, Scott A. Crawford from Jupiter, Fla. won with a 3-bass division limit going 18.39 pounds for a 6.13-pound average during his first time to fish Lake Okeechobee. Rene A. Castellon from Port Saint Lucie, Fla. took third with three bass at 13.39 pounds, but he earned the division big bass title with a 7.10-pounder.

“We only went about three miles from the launch,” Crawford recalled. “Together, we caught about 35 fish. One of my weigh fish was on a black and blue ChatterBait with a neon blue craw trailer. I caught the other two on a shad-colored Rat-L-Trap. I thank my boater, Frank Kitchens III of Oxford, Ga. who got a sixth place with 22.26 pounds. He put us on fish.”

Other hot lures on that on a cold, stormy January day included Gambler Fat Ace stickbaits, Texas-rigged worms, and Gambler Big Easy swimbaits.

Anglers can sign up to fish ABA Open Series divisional events and a 2-day division championship. In a Pro/Am format, boaters fishing the Open Series pay $210 in entry fees for each divisional 1-day tournament. Co-anglers pay $105 per event.

The top 20 percent of registered anglers will receive cash payouts based on the total number of entries. If at least 60 boaters enter the tournament, the Boater Division winner will receive a minimum of $5,000.

New this year, each division will hold a 2-day divisional championship after completing all four regular season. To qualify for the divisional championship, each boater and co-angler must fish at least three 1-day divisional events. To fish a 2-day divisional championship, anglers who qualify as a boater must fish as a boater. Anglers who qualify as a co-angler must fish as a co-angler. 

Also, new this year, 1-day and 2-day show points will be counted differently. Previously anglers received 50 show points for a 1-day event and 100 for a 2-day event. Divisional 1-day events are now worth 250 points to the winners. Points will be awarded in 1-point decreasing increments. Contestants not weighing fish will receive last-place points minus 10 . Keeping anglers much more competitive through events three and four of the division as they head into the two-day divisional championship.

Divisional 2-day events are worth 500 points to the winners. For all other competitors, points will be awarded in 2-point decreasing increments. For example, the second-place boater will receive 498 points and third place 496. In addition, competitors not weighing fish will receive last-place points minus 10.

Points accumulated throughout the season also determine the division Anglers of the Year from both the boaters and co-anglers who fished that division. After the 2-day championship, the top 10 boaters and the top 10 co-anglers by points will be eligible to fish the Ray Scott Championship. The 2023 Ray Scott Championship will be held April 2-7 on the Red River at Shreveport, La.

A computer randomly pairs boaters and co-anglers who will fish together in a designated tournament. The two anglers do not fish as a team. Boaters compete against boaters and co-anglers compete against other co-anglers. If an insufficient number of co-anglers sign up to participate, ABA guarantees that all boaters who wish to compete will be able to fish from their own boats.

In addition, anglers may qualify for bonus money offered by such tournament sponsors as Caymas Boats, Mercury Marine, the T-H Marine Atlas Awards program and Power Pole. Anyone who qualifies for Caymas Cash rewards could receive up to $7,000 for winning any ABA Open Series event. If the winning boat carries a Mercury motor, the angler could receive an extra $1,000 in cash from Mercury Marine. See each manufacturer’s website for details, rules and qualifications for more information on their contingency programs.

Anyone who wishes to fish an ABA event, must become an ABA member. ABA members can receive discounts from some sponsors. For example, Optima Batteries will give ABA members 25 percent off and free shipping on any battery. Membership costs $35 a year, but anglers can save money by signing up for multiple years. A Life membership costs $450.

For more information about this tournament, call Tournament Director Billy Benedetti at (256) 230-5632.

American Bass Anglers is sponsored by Caymas Boats, Mercury Marine, T-H Marine, Power Pole, RT Outdoors, Optima Batteries, Hotel Planner.com, and LurePartsOnline.com.

About American Bass Anglers: American Bass Anglers is committed to providing low-cost, close-to-home tournaments for the weekend angler and, at the same time, offering each competitor an upward path for individual angler progression.

For more information about American Bass Anglers, the Open Series, the American Fishing Tour, the American Couples Series, the annual Military Team Bass Tournament, and the Top 150 Solo Tour, all presented by Caymas Boats, visit www.americanbassanglers.com or call (256) 232-0406

This story was written by ABA staff writer John N. Felsher. To submit articles of interest email info@americanbassanglers.com.
 

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© 2018 American Bass Anglers MBAA Since 1975 - All Rights Reserved American Bass Anglers, Inc Logos and other data within this website is the property of American Bass Anglers, Inc and may not be copied or reproduced without express permission of American Bass Anglers, Inc. American Bass Anglers, Inc PO Box 475 Athens, AL 35612 email: call us 256-232-0406. This web site is provided by ABA and resides on a server with 99.99% up time.

© 2018 American Bass Anglers MBAA Since 1975 - All Rights Reserved American Bass Anglers, Inc Logos and other data within this website is the property of American Bass Anglers, Inc and may not be copied or reproduced without express permission of American Bass Anglers, Inc. American Bass Anglers, Inc PO Box 475 Athens, AL 35612 email: call us 256-232-0406. This web site is provided by ABA and resides on a server with 99.99% up time.