By Rob Newell – 29.Jan.2010

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – There was little change in the overall landscape at the FLW Series event on Lake Okeechobee at the conclusion of day-three action.

With sunny skies, light winds and temperatures near 80 degrees, pros were able to sight fish Okeechobee’s bass as they have done the last few days.

The leader board remained mostly unchanged with the exception of pro J. Todd Tucker who rocketed into the top 5 with the day’s biggest catch: 21 pounds, 9 ounces.

Debary, Florida’s John Cox widened his lead to nearly 11 pounds with a respectable 14-pound, 2-ounce catch, while Martin, Gagliardi and Mann also stayed inside the top-5 cut.

A common theme among the leaders today was that the large females, which had been easy to entice the last two days, had gotten a little smarter and were now harder to catch. The “caught her on the first cast” days maybe over as pros are now having to work big fish longer to get them to bite – if they bite at all.

Cox was one of the first to say that the low hanging fruit of the last two days has mostly been plucked. Some of the females left in his area tried his patience today and he had to rely on buck bass for his catch. His three-day total now stands at 62-1.

“In retrospect, maybe I should not have caught the males so fast today,” Cox said. “I got nervous and I got in a hurry and a started catching the males just to get something in the box. Instead, I probably should have waited them out a little longer and let the females get in there and lock on little better before taking the males.

“Sometimes taking the males too fast makes the females lose interest and they kind of disappear and that’s what happened today. I got bogged down on a couple of big ones that would not bite and they eventually left, probably because I had already caught the males.”

Martin holding the No. 2 spot
National Guard pro Scott Martin held his second place position today with a 12-pound, 4-ounce catch for a two-day total of 51-6.

During the morning hours, Martin has been taking advantage of a small window of time when the big females will actively feed. He has been catching these bigger fish on a Lake Fork Live Magic Shad and a Reaction Innovations Trixie Shark.

“For about an hour, right at first light, those big fish will crush anything that comes around them – they’re real defensive,” Martin explained. “But once the sun gets up, they lock on the beds and become uninterested in eating. So I’ve been getting that big bite early, but this morning was a train wreck. I just kept missing them. It’s like they were hitting the bait with their mouth closed, not really eating it.

“After missing all those fish, I started to kind of panic and started catching the males off beds, just to have something to weigh in,” he said. “But, like I said before, I don’t like removing those males because they help keep the females around. Once you start taking the males out of an area on this lake, the females move on somewhere else.”

Gagliardi still clings to third
Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi sight-fished 13-13 today to hold onto his third place spot with a three-day total of 49 pounds, 8 ounces.

Gagliardi had two mishaps that made him cringe today. One was a 4- to 5-pound female that he accidentally snagged. Per FLW rules, any sight bass that is hooked outside the mouth must be released immediately.

“I haven’t done that in years,” Gagliardi said. “And that’s one of the main reasons I use a light colored bait when sight-fishing. I want to see the fish eat it and make sure she has it. Well, I saw her eat it, but when I set the hook, it ended up hooking her under the gill. Sometimes bucks will actually bite again after being snagged like that, but females usually won’t.”

His other frustration came with finding a 6-pounder on the bed with just 20 minutes left in the fishing day.

“It was one of those deals,” Gagliardi said. “She was getting hotter with every pitch and was about to commit to the bait, but I just ran out of time. Another five or ten minutes and I would have caught her.”

Tucker busts 21-9 for fourth
J. Todd Tucker of Moultrie, Ga., brought in the biggest limit of day three – 21-9 – to move into fourth place with a three-day total of 48 pounds, 1 ounce.

Tucker has been throwing topwaters and sight-fishing for the last two days, but today he did something a little different in his technique that made a huge difference in his catch.

“I’ve mostly been sight-fishing out in front of the thick cane and reeds,” Tucker explained. “But today I got my push pole out and pushed back into those thick reeds. And wherever there was on little hole or small open spot back behind that cane, there was a big one on bed. And since there’s been no pressure back in those places, the females were a lot easier to catch.”

Mann in fifth

Tom Mann, Jr., scored yet another FLW Series top 5 with a three-day total of 47 pounds, 13 ounces.
Mann continued to milk his primary areas with his favorite Florida bait: a 5-inch Senko in a watermelon red color.

The Senko produced a five bass limit for 13-13 today giving Mann his fifth top-5 qualification in the last 12 months in FLW Outdoors competition.

Rounding out the top-10 pros in the FLW Eastern Series on Lake Okeechobee after day three:

6th: Scott Canterbury of Springville, Ala., three-day total of 47-5, $8,500
7th: Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., three-day total of 46-10, $17,006
8th: Bob Izumi of Milton, Ont., three-day total of 44-9, $11,252
9th: Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., three-day total of 44-9, $9,788
10th: Nicolas Supik of Natrona Heights, Pa., three-day total of 44-2, $6,500

Day four of the FLW Series Eastern on Lake Okeechobee will begin Saturday at 7:00 a.m. at C. Scott Driver Park.