Fishing the Big “O”.


Michele Fanfani

2023 February 08-10  

MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitational, Stop 1

Clewiston, FL


To start this intense fishing season well, Jacopo chose Lake Okeechobee. This wonderful body of water, almost in the center of Florida, covers an area of approximately 1890 km² and is the third largest freshwater lake in the United States.
The name Okeechobee comes from the language of Native Americans and simply means “Big Water” (from oki, “water,” and chubi, “big”). However, in modern slang, it is often called “The big O.”
During the test phase, Jacopo had good results fishing fast with Chatterbait and Swimmjig and even better fishing on a rock structure with a deep crank.
But on the first day of the competition (Day 1), as often happens in the States, the weather conditions were different from those of the test days.
With the increase in outside temperature, the lake water had changed, and large masses of dirty water were moving in the strong wind.
In these conditions, perhaps due to lack of oxygen, the fish had almost blocked all activity.
In fact, in the spot with the rocks that had done well in the test, the water was very dirty, making it impossible to fish with the crank.
However, Jacopo noticed that there was still activity in the subsurface, and by changing his approach, he began to catch some interesting fish by casting a light Texas rig right up against the shore, where probably some female fish were already spawning.
After exhausting the potential of this spot, Jacopo moved into a “residential” canal (i.e., near houses) that had performed well in the test phase.
Here, the water was not dirty, leaving good chances of catching with a technique that Jacopo described as follows: “To get the best bites, I had to cast into the subsurface at some obstacles, such as submerged branches or roots, let the rig get stuck a little, and then start shaking the bait repeatedly…at that point, the bigger fish would react.”
In this way, Jacopo caught some significant fish, from 5 to almost 7 pounds, which allowed him to bring in a weight of 26-11 pounds and happily position himself in second place for the day.
On Day 2, comforted by the result of the first day, Jacopo did not change his approach or technique and repeated the successful fishing experience more or less.
Probably because the spots were already a bit too beaten, Jacopo did not even manage to complete the limit and brought in 4 fish weighing 11-5 pounds.
Despite this, he maintained a good position in the ranking and moved on to the third day of competition.
Given the performance of the first two days, on Day 3, Jacopo was forced to radically change his approach.
In the first spot of the day, he managed to catch a lot, but they were all small male fish.
In the second, a rather narrow body of water but with a large grassy area, he met a great American bass fisherman, the famous Paul Elias. And with him, other boats in the competition…
To not disturb other fishermen too much, but also relying on the fact that in the central areas of this spot, the fish were probably well-beaten and scared, Jacopo started fishing on the sides.
Even in this case, Jacopo had to make special choices to catch significant fish, which he described as follows: “Fishing with a Chatterbait, a technique that I really like and that adapted perfectly to that vegetation-rich spot, I chose a completely camouflaged model colored green pumpkin. In this way, by jerking the Chatter out of the weeds, I provoked a violent vibration that the fish perceived, but did not see exactly, so that they would eat more aggressively”

At the end of the tournament, Jacopo can consider himself satisfied with a total weight of 61-13 pounds, earning him 5th place and $17,000 in winnings.
Certainly, the second place finish on Day 1 had fooled us all, including Jacopo, but the season didn’t start off bad either.

Equipment used.
For light fishing with a Texas rig, Jacopo used a 13 FISHING ENVY 7’6″ Extra Fast casting rod weighing 1 1/4 oz. paired with a CONCEPT C2 casting reel with a 8.3:1 gear ratio. He spooled a 50-pound Sufix 832 braid and a 20-pound Sufix Advance fluorocarbon leader on it.
The rig consisted of a 3/16 oz. bullet weight, a size 3.0 BKK Chimera hook, and either a Molix Freaky Craw or a 5″ pencil bait.
For Chatterbait fishing: a 13 FISHING “New Prototype” 7’4″ 3/oz. casting rod paired with a CONCEPT C2 casting reel spooled with a 17-pound Sufix Advance fluorocarbon leader.

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Michele Fanfani
Michele, 60 years old, Florentine like Jacopo, followed him during all phases of his sporting career in Italy and accompanied him to America at the start of his professional career. He achived several successes fishing along with Jacopo but above all he conceived and created the Italian magazine “Bassfishing” and the publication “The Secrets of Bassfishing”. He currently follows Jacopo along his career and is the creator and administrator of the “Curva Gallelli” Fans Club.