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New Title, Huge Turnout, Big Haul Expected in Lake O Bass Tournament
by Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer
The 2016 Costa FLW Series opens Jan. 14-16 with a fleet of 250 boats with 500 pro- and co-anglers anticipating big sacks of bass on Lake Okeechobee.
The kickoff of the former Rayovac series, renamed for new title sponsor Costa del Mar sunglasses, comes to south-central Florida just as unseasonably warm winter weather gives way to cooler, blustery conditions that could send hungry hawgs into overdrive.
“This place is going to go off like a bomb,” predicted Fort Lauderdale competitor Anthony Hunt, a co-angler who doubles as a five-star chef. “The big spawn is probably going to happen in this tournament. I caught one over eight in practice, so I know there’s a lot of fish moving up right now.”
Last year’s winner Val Osinski of Pompano Beach, who totaled 70 pounds, eight ounces over three days, agrees.
“The lake is fishing very well from north to south,” Osinski, president of Gambler Lures, said. “It’s already taking 25 to 28 pounds [per day] to win the local tournaments right now.”
Osinski predicts a sack about as heavy as his last January will top the event. But weather, he says, will be the key factor in deciding where to go and what to do.
“I’m still wide open,” he said. “I don’t have a good feel. I’m not locked into anything.”
Lake levels are deep for January at just under 15 feet, scattering fish which are in various stages from pre- to post-spawning. If a cold front brings strong northerly winds to the tournament, Osinski believes that finding clear water on the lake’s north end could be the ticket. If that happens, he plans to use his brand’s Why Not craw-style bait to flip the outer edges of grass lines for “lake fish”– meaning groups of big bass heading from offshore to inshore to spawn.
But the defending champ also is prepared for changing weather which could send him to the lake’s distant south end.
“I’m going to be on the go, trying to catch pre-spawn and post-spawn fish going either way,” he said.
The top pro at the Okeechobee event will take home $60,000 plus a Ranger boat while the winning co-angler gets a Ranger boat plus $5,000. The tournament is one of three to be held in each of five divisions around the U.S. leading up to the Costa FLW Series Championship on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake in November.
Daily weigh-ins–free and open to the public–will take place at 3 p.m. at Scott Driver Park in Okeechobee.
Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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