Florida South Division To Open On Okeechobee

ATHENS, Ala. – The Florida South Division 7 of the American Bass Anglers Open Series, Presented by Caymas Boats, begins its new season on Jan. 22, 2022, 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. Anglers can fish anywhere in the massive lake but cannot lock into the Kissimmee River, Caloosahatchee River, or the Port St. Lucie Canal.

About the size of Rhode Island, "Big O" covers more than 730 square miles. It ranks as the largest freshwater lake in Florida, the second-largest freshwater lake completely within the borders of the lower 48 contiguous states, and 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 largemouth lakes in the nation, Lake Okeechobee consistently produces giant bass. More double-digit lunkers probably call Lake Okeechobee home than any other bass lake in the nation. The lake record topped 15 pounds. Any angler could tie into a monster anywhere in the sprawling inland sea in late January.

Abundant grass mats and reedy flats dominate much of the lake. At this time of year, many anglers flip the vegetation with jigs, tubes, or other soft-plastic baits. Hot colors for soft plastics include junebug, redbug, watermelon red, black and blue, or crawfish colors. Anglers might also find some action with white or chrome lipless rattle baits, swim jigs, spinnerbaits, and topwaters. Work any baits as slowly as possible at this time of year.

In January, the best bass action tends to occur in the northern portion of the enormous lake. The north end of any lake traditionally warms a little faster. With the sun in the southern sky during the winter, the warmest and strongest solar rays hit the northern shorelines more intensely. In addition, cold north winds blow water southward while warm south winds push waters northward. Moreover, since the sun sets in the west, eastern shorelines receive the most direct afternoon sunshine. Therefore, the northeast portion of a lake warms first, followed by the northwest, southeast, and finally southwest portions.

Look for bass around Observation Shoal, the Monkey Box, Dupree Bar, and Indian Prairie. Also, try the Buckhead area. Toward the middle of the lake, fish shell beds and other structures with Carolina rigs, deep-running crankbaits, or other temptations.

In 2021, Trevor Hamlin of Cape Coral, FL, won the first Okeechobee tournament with 17.57 pounds. Then in the March tournament, Gary Milicevic of Labelle, FL, won the second event in March with 26.16 pounds. When Okeechobee comes alive, it produces some of the biggest one-day bags of any lake in the country.

Each ABA Open Series division offers four one-day qualifying events in a boater/co-angler format. Boaters pay an entry fee of $210, while Co-Anglers pay $105.

The boats will launch around 7 am or safe light with weigh-in at 3 pm local time. Each boater can weigh up to five bass, each at least 12 inches long. Co-Anglers can bring in a three-bass tournament limit.

To register for this event, Click Here 

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

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, MotorGuide, and Power Pole. Anyone who qualifies for Caymas Cash rewards could receive up to $7,000 for winning an 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. If that boat comes with a MotorGuide Trolling Motor, the angler could win an additional $500. 

See each manufacturer's website for details, rules, and qualifications for more information on their contingency programs. 

The top anglers could also earn invitations to fish area championship tournaments with a guaranteed $6,000 to the winning boater for a field of at least 60 boats. If 100 or more boaters participate, the winning boater in a championship event will take home a guaranteed minimum of $10,000. 

People can stay at the hosting Roland Martin Marina & Resort. Call (800) 473-6766 or see www.rolandmartinmarina.com. For area information, contact the Okeechobee County Tourism Development Council at (863) 763-3959 or see www.co.okeechobee.fl.us.

For more information about this tournament, call tournament director Billy Benedetti at (256) 230-5632. For more information about any American Bass Anglers tournament series, 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.