Okeechobee is a huge lake, full of fish including huge ones – and Tyler didn’t even fish it! Lol, here’s what he did:
> “In practice I was mainly staying in the lake. I did have some canals – I went pre-fishing a month before the tournament. It was a cold front, windy…knew I could get bit in the canals…about 17 lbs if I needed to. I had almost an 8-lber, so I knew I could catch big ones, but it was just a backup plan.
> “…that first day in practice, at the end of the day I put my boat in the Kissimmee River. I went bass fishing for a little bit, but then was like, Let me go catch some crappie. Crappie boats were everywhere. I turned on LiveScope and got off the bank, and ended up catching 20 of them.
> “…started looking…Dang it looks like some bass are up there. I picked up a jerkbait, my first cast I catch a 6-lber. 20 yards down I see a couple more roaming around suspended, threw over there and caught 4.5-lber. I ran up 2 miles, same thing. I found a little hard spot on a point of a canal and got 2 more good bites right there.
> “I stayed all practice out in the lake. I thought the canal was a limit spot for the tournament. …nothing really good in the lake. I found some 3-lb males in one spot. One guy I room with went there and caught 20 out of it….”
> “The first day I went upriver. I thought, Let me just go try to catch 3-4, maybe I’ll get lucky and get a limit. I caught 2 right off the bat, 3 lbs, and was about to pick up my trolling motor and leave to go in the lake but I made one more cast and caught a 6-lber. I put that one in the well and literally the next cast caught one almost 5.
> “After that…looks like I’ll just stay here. …lights out [there] the first 2 days.
> “There were 3 main spots, kind of points of ditches or canals coming out. The corners had little shell beds, hard spots…dragging a Carolina rig on them you could feel all the shell on them.
> “I’d go down the bank and stay off of it – my boat was in 18′ of water. I’d throw up on an 8′ ledge, where it goes from 6′ to 8′. They were suspending…just swimming around.
> “I’d throw at like 80 fish on the LiveScope and maybe 1 would commit. A lot were crappie – they’re so big there they almost look like bass…garfish, catfish and stripers too.
> “You needed the perfect cast. If you came from behind them with that jerkbait, they would swim off. You’d spook them. If it was dead even with them or below them, they wouldn’t eat it. It had to 2′ above the fish and in font of him.
> “You had to see them on LiveScope – how they’re swimming, how fast they’re swimming, then you have to make that perfect cast. That’s why you’d throw at 50-60 fish at least to get 1 to commit.
> “The 3rd day I went in there thinking, Oh yeah we’re gonna wreck ’em – because it was perfect jerkbaiting conditions. The water dropped, it was windy, cloudy…they’re gonna stack up on those hard spots. Sure enough it was the hardest day…. I guess they just didn’t bite at all that whole day for everybody.
> “That day was same conditions [as his pre-fish] when I caught them in the canals. I should have went, but it was hard to leave that area.
> “The 4th day was the same conditions as the 1st and 2nd days so I figured they’d go back to eating…. Sure enough the first fish was a 6.5…that gave me the momentum….
> “Every day of the tournament I should have had at least 25 lbs. I never lost a fish the whole tournament…they were inches away from the jerkbait every time [following it]. They would not eat anything slow [for a followup bait]. I threw crankbaits, worms – the only thing I could get them to eat was a Carolina rig. [When they would] stop eating, stop moving, I’d pick up the Carolina rig and catch 1 or 2, they’d get fired up again and I’d throw the jerkbait back in there.
> “I’d go down the banks [between spots] and throw a swim-jig and punch. I’d pick up a few, only 2-3 lbs, and would hope to cull them out.”
> Berkley Stunna jerkbait (stealth shad with #4 Owner Stinger trebles). “One of my best friends is Hank Cherry, it’s his jerkbait, and I’m always picking some off from him. That’s the main reason I throw ’em.” 15-lb P-Line Tactical Fluoro, Shimano SLX Reel (7.2), 6′ 9″ M F5 Rods Ghost Code Rod – “the sensitivity in that jerkbait rod kept them from jumping off.”
He said he had a prototype Xcite Baits jerkbait too but broke it.
> Punching rig: new Xcite Baits Sucka Punch which he designed (b/b). “I found I would get more bites punching on that bait than anything. I got it designed to where it hides the hook and there’s no appendages on the side. Basically it’s just a simple bait, it’s smaller, the plastic floats. The main thing is it hides the hook, it’s a different look for the fish, and you can use a 3/4-oz weight instead of 1- or 1.5-oz. It’s slimmer so it gets through easier.”
> C-rig: Xcite Baits Hawgalicious (gp/green glitter), 3/0 Owner Wide Gap Hook, 2′ leader, 1/2-oz Rougarou Tackle Tungsten Weight, 20-lb P-Line Tactical Fluoro, Shimano SLX Reel (7.2), 7′ 3″ MH F5 Rods Ghost Code Rod.
> “I used the Garmin LiveScope with the LVS34 transducer. Basically I was just scanning with it – it was a key to finding what fish were active. I’d see if they were there, and if they were there I’d sit there and wait for them to bite. I’d be able to tell if they were active.
> “I caught every fish on it. I could see everything, from trying to commit to the second they ate it. If you go without it now you’re gonna be left behind.
> “The Garmin Force trolling motor held up through thick grass and everything all week. My Dakota Lithiums – I literally wouldn’t have to charge my batteries all week and it would have been perfectly fine” [He did charge ’em just in case, but did not charge ’em in practice.]
> “My main sponsors – Huk and Xcite Baits.”