FISHING A BUCKETLIST LAKE- THE BIG O
Many would argue that Florida is the Fishing Capital of the USA. Those making that argument often use Lake Okeechobee as Exhibit A. This iconic largemouth fishery covers more than 730 square miles of water full of largemouth. If you need an escape this winter- and you will need to do your COVID homework and take appropriate precautions- consider Okeechobee. Don't be overwhelmed by such a huge body of water with such diverse, high-quality habitat. Take it as given that this is a lake where guide services such as those associated with Tom Mann Jr. Fishing, or Roland and Professional Angler Scott Martin / Scott Martin Challenge TV, would definitely be a benefit.
Even if you plan to bring your own boat, it makes sense to hire a guide on a lake this big. These services will also give you tips such as knowing that Pahokee Marina & Campground offers quick access to Lake Okeechobee bass fishing along the southern and eastern shorelines. and that their marina is state-of-the art. Traveling with non fishermen? It’s also hard to beat this spot for sunsets. The non fishing members of your entourage might appreciate that Torry Island Campground And Marina in Belle Glade is the closest to West Palm Beach. Slim's Fish Camp is one of the oldest and best freshwater fishing outfitters on the Lake. The campground is great for anglers with RV’s. The lake’s west side brings you to Clewiston and Roland & Mary Ann Martin's
Marina, about 45 minutes from Fort Myers, Their team of guides is excellent, and the facility offers RV hookups, rooms and condos. Boat mechanics are on site, and the tackle shop’s selection includes exactly what you need to catch fish.
Founded by the Griffin family, Uncle Joe's Fish Camp is located between Clewiston and Moore Haven, and also offers an excellent guide service, as well as camping and air-conditioned cabins. Moore Haven stands between the Big O and Caloosahatchee River where you will find Moonshine Bay Guide Service and the vintage Rice Motel, another classic Florida base camp for your adventure.
Scott Martin may be a bit biased by he recommends the Clewiston area for its diversity and access via the rim canal, its big bays, and the Clewiston Channel. This area is also known to be good for anglers who want to fish topwater baits and flipping baits. Scott's best advice is to find
good water clarity of at least a foot or two. Big O bass just can’t resist live wild shiners and guides are always ready to fish live bait, but most experienced anglers will want to throw artificial lures so make sure you have that dialog with the Captain before you even leave home.
Here are a few other tips for your Okeechobee adventure: Make safety a top priority. Check with Florida authorities and run through your safety gear checklist to ensure you have all of the required equipment. This is a big lake with some very remote sections. Bring along an EPIRB- an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (GPS) and a personal locator beacon. Remember, EPIRBs aren't just for large boats; you can bring along the best EPIRB for small boat use and have peace of mind in the event of an emergency.
Speaking of emergencies, check the weather conditions prior to your trip and plan accordingly. If it appears that you'll have some wind to contend with, try fishing the Rim Canal instead of battling the wind out in open water. If you read a Lake Okeechobee fishing report, you'll often find Rim Canal spots mentioned southeast of Clewiston, near the Moore Haven Lock, and near the mouth of the Miami Canal in South Bay. Popular Okechobee fishing hot spots include South Bay, the Shoal, Monkey Box, Harney Pond and the North Shore. If wind is factor, keep in mind that
Harney Pond is a bit more protected than the four other spots. You'll have better luck if you can find clear water that hasn't been stirred up by the wind.
Have weedless soft plastic baits (Texas-rigged worms or craws) rigged and ready as you use your trolling motor to approach bulrush points. Bass hang out in bulrush year-round due to stable oxygen levels associated with water flushing through the open root systems and an abundant supply of forage. Finally, tap into your angling network. There are a number of fisherman who have had multiple successful outings on Okeechobee, such as our member Scott Cormier. Contact him on FB or Messenger for his advice. Covid has put some restrictions on all of us, but if you can find a way, plan to cross a bucket list lake off your list. #LiveThePassion!