January 14, 2016 by Kyle Wood
The opening day of competition for the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division event on Lake Okeechobee – which is presented by Power-Pole and hosted by Okeechobee County Tourism – was a textbook example of what a cold front does to Florida bass. Catching a limit wasn’t the issue, however, connecting with 4- and 5-pound bites was. Peter Cherkas of Des Moines, Iowa, was able to scrounge out a strong limit worth 20 pounds to take a narrow lead over Zach Crider of Tunnel Hill, Ga., by a mere 12 ounces.
With so much water to fish on Okeechobee that virtually all looks like it should hold a 10-pounder, settling in on a certain area and combing it thoroughly can be the best bet for success. Most anglers find an area roughly the size of a few football fields to pick through during tournament hours, while Cherkas dialed in an area big enough to cover with his Power-Poles down.
“When I pulled into my area this morning there were some other boats around it so I stayed off,” says Cherkas. “When the other boats moved out enough that is when I moved in. I dropped my Power-Poles and didn’t touch my trolling motor until 10 a.m.”
Cherkas bucked the trend of fishing slow and worked one area thoroughly to rack up the bulk of his weight by 11 a.m. Due to how tough the tournament is you can understand why he opted to remain tight-lipped about his presentation and type of area he is fishing.
The Iowa pro did unveil that the area he is fishing is something you can pattern. He got one bite from the specific area in practice – an 8-pounder – and spent more time just searching for other places like it. While he succeeded in doing so, he also isn’t too sure if they are as good because he didn’t want to burn his areas up by checking them today.
“I have been down [in Florida] for almost three weeks now,” explains Cherkas. “The fish have moved around so much from day to day and that is my biggest concern. I think I know where they may move to if they pull off of my primary area. It shouldn’t take long to find out if they are still there come tomorrow morning.”
Top 10 pros
1. Peter Cherkas – Des Moines, Iowa – 20 (5)
2. Zach Crider – Tunnel Hill, Ga. – 19-04 (5)
3. Justin Morgan – Okeechobee, Fla. – 18-04 (5)
4. Lavoyd Lemmond – Decatur, Ala. – 17-14 (5)
5. Juan Ruiz – West Palm Beach, Fla. – 17-11 (5)
6. Wayne Christopher – Huntsville, Ala. – 17-08 (5)
7. Joseph Kremer – Osteen, Fla. – 17-03 (5)
8. Chris Johnston – Peterborough, Ontario – 16-14 (5)
9. Jason Lambert – Pickwick Dam, Tenn. – 16-09 (5)
10. Bradford Beavers – Ridgeville, S.C. – 16-04 (5)
10. Glenn Browne – Ocala, Fla. – 16-04 (5)
Black Locks Down Co-angler Lead
Michael Black holds the co-angler lead with a five-bass limit weighing 14 pounds, 3 ounces. The Toledo, Illinois native spent the day with reigning Forrest Wood Cup champion Brad Knight. He caught his fish punching Texas-rigged soft plastics through heavy mats. Black culled twice throughout the day, which says a lot on a day where bites were tough to come by from the back of the boat. While Knight’s kicker came on his first cast, Black’s came on the very last.
Top 10 co-anglers
1. Michael Black – Toledo, Ill. – 14-3 (5)
2. Dean Harcourt– Sebastian, Fla. – 14-00 (5)
3. Mark Howard – Mesquite, Texas – 12-14 (5)
4. Austin Baskette – Leesburg, Fla. – 12-07 (5)
5. Richie Riddle – Columbus, Ind. – 12-06 (5)
6. Linda Robinson – Miami, Fla. – 11-15 (5)
7. Mike Mueller – Berryville, Va. – 11-12 (5)
8. Don Lewis – Jacksonville, Fla. – 11-09 (5)
9. Stephen Kocell – Waxhaw, N.C. – 11-01 (5)
9. Greg Miele – Bonita Springs, Fla. – 11-01 (5)