The Big Deal On The Big "O"

 Photo: Jason Stemple

Photo: Jason Stemple

Question:  What should I throw if I fish lake okeechobe this time of year, and should I go to deep water or stay back in the grass flats?  -DUSTIN

Answer:  

Great question Dustin!

Lake Okeechobee is as legendary as it gets when it comes to bass fishing destinations, and in my opinion it deserves every bit of its excellent reputation.

Joey pokes fun at the fact that I have a hundred different "home lakes" due to the fact that I have pretty much lived in every corner of the country, and had the pleasure of having some pretty epic lakes close to home.  However, of all the lakes I've frequented, Lake Okeechobee tops the list of the ones I feel at home on.  

Despite it's stellar reputation, the Big O, like many Florida grass lakes, also is known for being a hard nut to crack, mostly due to the overwhelming amount of vegetation anglers must sift through to get to the mother load.

Here are some tips on how I break down this massive fishery.

Flats, Flats & More Flats 

The first thing I need to hammer home is that fishing on the Big O is all about fishing flats.  There are very few instances where you will be fishing any areas with drastic variation in depth contours- like the Rim Canal or Kissimmee River- but otherwise the only fishing you should be concerned with is on the grassy flats.

You can always have the canals as a backup, but my guess is that you didn't come to Okeechobee to fish a canal, so I would focus on fishing the main lake to at least get that experience.  

 Lake Okeechobee bass fishing revolves around its large grassy flats.  Photo: Jason Stemple

Lake Okeechobee bass fishing revolves around its large grassy flats.  Photo: Jason Stemple

Depth Matters Not

The hardest habit that I had to kick when I first started fishing Okeechobee was my tendency to focus on depth contours when I was trying to find productive fishing areas based on seasonal patterns.  

Of course, depth is always going to be a key ingredient in a productive area, however, on Lake Okeechobee the key is just having "enough" water for the fish to survive, but the even bigger ingredient is having a good mix of healthy vegetation and hard bottom composition.  

Now, I do want to mention that the fish will relate to different parts of a grass flat during different parts of the year.  During the spring, for instance, the fish will be on the inside edge of a grass flat where the grass starts to thin, making for suitable spawning habitat, and on the flip side, during the summer the fish will relate best to the outside grass edge.   

Depth is something to pay attention to once you find a productive flat and you then try to fine tune your approach to that area, but it shouldn't be the primary focus when choosing where to fish.  

One thing I will mention is that even though depth contours are not as important to me, I still rely heavily on my Lowrance HDS units and my Navionics maps, especially when it comes to visualizing where the grass lines are on the lake and anticipating what areas will be protected from the wind, which during the spring can be a deal breaker.

Burn Water

Lake Okeechobee fishing is very simple in my book.  Where things start to get tricky is when you fall into the trap of fishing everything that looks good……BECAUSE IT ALL LOOKS GOOD!  

The best advice I can give you is to start fast before you go slow.  What I mean by this is that you need to just drop the trolling motor and cover as much water as possible looking, for a few bites, and then, and only then, can you slow down and pick apart an area.  Fish on the Big O group together, so once you start getting bit in an area, there is likely a bunch more.

The absolute best lure to cover water during all season on Okeechobee is a Zman Grass KickerZ.  

The Grass KickerZ is a swimbait that is designed to come through cover easily and I Texas Rig it with a pegged 3/16oz bullet weight, and use a 5/0 Trokar TK125 hook, and I complete this heavy cover rig with 50lb Vicious Braid, a heavy-action casting rod, and a Quantum Smoke Speed Freak casting reel.  

 The Zman Grass KickerZ is one of the best presentations to find productive water on Okeechobee.  Photo:  Jason Stemple

The Zman Grass KickerZ is one of the best presentations to find productive water on Okeechobee.  Photo:  Jason Stemple

The presentation is very simple with the Grass KickerZ, you essentially just make long casts and reel the bait back in through any cover that you come across until you start getting some bites, at which time you can then switch to other techniques that are better suited for picking apart an area.  

I hope that my insights on this awesome fishery help you figure out one of the best bass lakes in the world.  

Enjoy!

-Sonar

PS- Keep an eye out for an upcoming episode of Sweetwater called "Frigid Flats" on Lake Okeechobee, where Joey and I use these techniques to catch some Big O biggins!