Back on Jan 26th, my traveling partner Jimmy Reese and I started our long haul from California to Florida to fish the first FLW Tour stop on the Big O. I was prepared for a lengthy road trip, but it took us nearly 49 hours to get there – yee haw!
Jimmy kinda sorta likes barbecue and he planned on sampling as much barbecue as possible on every stop we made from Ca to Florida. I had prepared myself for this onslaught of meat by sustaining from barbecue for four whole months. Our first smoked meat stop turned out to be a bust but exceptionally low diesel prices eased the pain somewhat.
Traveling with Jimmy is never dull. He’s extremely observant and picks up on little things like the fact that I sometimes where mismatched socks (but not on purpose). After killing some time playing “name that tune” The conversation naturally progressed to what baits might come into play at in early February on Okeechobee. We both agreed Junebug Senkos (9-10-213) and Heart Tails (128-05-213) would work. Oops! Jimmy forgot to order those – better call Heidi for some help. And by the way I beat Jimmy 20 to 1 in “name that tune.” We played 80’s rock and the only one he got correct was Olivia Newton John (which is totally not 80’s rock).
We took the southern route, traveling on Interstate 10 through Texas, taking advantage of the 80mph speed limit (sweet!). It’s a sluggish 55mph in Ca if you’re towing. We also came across a few inches of snow and 35 degree temperatures which I don’t think is normal in southern Texas. I’m guessing this because the bathroom stall walls in that area were only 5′ tall and pretty much open with a bit of a covering overhead.
We stopped at our first Buc-ees in Baytown, Texas where we were greeted with 96 glorious gas pumps and 26 urinals. I guess it’s true what they say about things being bigger in Texas. We made an obligatory stop at Dickeys BBQ and I enjoyed a free ice cream. Yeah, baby, free is my favorite price.
After driving 39 hours straight, we took a quick break to visit Jimmy’s dad and stepmother in Slidell, La. We arrived just after midnight but we talked until 2:00 am. Then it was up and at ‘em at 8:00 am for breakfast and more chatting until we hit the trail again at 10:00am.
Upon arriving in Florida we decided to spend the night at Lake Hatchineha and go fishing there the next day as Lake Okeechobee was off limits, and official practice didn’t start until Sunday. That first day on the water, I made a cast and set my rod down to get my sun gloves out of the locker. When I picked up my rod my line was tangled at the very bottom of the power pole. I grabbed the power pole and leaned way out to untangle it, and right at that time Jimmy decided to lower the power pole. In the water I went. I was hanging on to the boat with one hand, half submerged in the water, as he ran back to help pull me back into the boat. Luckily, I had a pair of extra shorts with me and Jimmy had an extra sweatshirt. We kept fishing even though I had to go “commando” the rest of the day.
Saturday morning we headed to Clewiston, stopping to get supplies for the week. We settled in our room and did some laundry (needed to after that fall into the lake). The first morning of practice we made a long, cold run to the north end of the lake. I was grateful Jimmy got a dual console so I could be comfortable (I’m being sarcastic, folks).
Practice was tough the first two days with very few fish caught and nothing of size to write home about. We found an area up north on the morning of our third practice day where Jimmy caught a 7.9lber punching a Okeechobee Craw Pyscho Dad (3K-05-962) with a 1 1/2 tungsten weight. I later caught a 4 lber flippin a black and blue flappin’ hog with a 1/2oz weight. In the afternoon we found an area that produced six fish on top, buzzing a weightless, Goby colored Heart Tail (128-05-967).
Jimmy fished those two promising areas during the tournament with the same baits to finish 36th and a $10,000.00 check. I drew two pros that elected to fish south both days. The first day the water was clear with winds blowing out of the south, and the second day the wind did a 180 and blew out of the north, gusting at times to 35mph and dropping the water temperature by 10 degrees.
Out of the ten fish I weighed in, three were caught on a black and blue 6″ Senko (9L-05-021) and two were caught flippin’ a black and blue Flappin Hog (FH-07-021) which propelled me to 2nd place – a great start to the season for both Jimmy and I.
We’re both looking forward to the next event this week at Lake Hartwell. Jimmy warned me that I should be prepared all season long to be asked if I am Gary Yamamoto. So far, it’s only been eight times.