We couldn’t believe it, but it’s 100-percent true. It’s been nearly 10 years since the last time the Elite Series has been to Lake Okeechobee.
Actually, the Elite Series has never been down there, because BASS didn’t call the tour that back in 2003. That’s how long it’s been.
So how do you go about predicting favorites on a body of water that 1) is notorious for having temperamental fish 2) many pros haven’t fished competitively on in nearly a decade 3) most pros know well? We’re glad you asked.
Going by average, Zell Rowland has been the most consistent angler in the field at Okeechobee with his 876.632. Problem is, if you’re looking for a guy to win, he may not be the best pick. His best finish in four events is 20th and worst is 44th. That’s pretty consistent on a lake that rarely offers consistent finishes. Just look at Kevin VanDam. His four events either offer hope or doom. He’s finished second there in 2001 (hope), but his finishes only went downhill from there, with his last trip to Okeechobee netting him an 84th-place finish (doom).
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a good pick for the top 10, go with Greg Hackney and his 864.787. He has two at the Big O, and another three top 20s. Plus, he’s coming off a top 10 at the St. Johns River.
Speaking of the St. Johns River, some of our picks from last week sure panned out, and they easily could do so again. Terry Scroggins, fresh off his sixth last weekend, brings four Okeechobee top 10s, including a win, to the table.
Texans like Alton Jones, Todd Faircloth and Keith Combs could strike again. None has done particularly well there, as they only have one finish in the top 20 apiece (Alton’s best finish is 12th. Faircloth’s is fifth. Combs’s is 18th ), but they’ve all proved to be experts when the fish are on beds, which may or may not be a factor. However, if the bite is postspawn and a lipless rattlebait is the key, Texans are masters at ripping them over grass.
What about the Lane brothers? They’re Okeechobee sticks. Problem is, they’ve fished enough tournaments to tank a few and ruin their averages (Chris Lane: 621.549, Bobby: 585.093). Chris has the lone victory on the lake in a Major or Minor event, but Bobby has six top 10s compared to his brother’s two.
Some other pros with potential include Tommy Biffle (a pair of top 10s and a few top 20s), Dean Rojas (three top 10s at Okeechobee and coming off a near top 10 at the St. Johns River) and Kelly Jordan (used to be a lock to do well at Okeechobee with back-to-back top 10s and a win, but he’s been slumping, so tread carefully).