Saturday, March 2, 2024

Martin maintains a commanding lead at Bassmaster Open on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee

Date:

Elite Series pro Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., maintains the lead on Day 2 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Okeechobee presented by SEVIIN with a total of 58 pounds, 15 ounces. 

Photo by Andy Crawford/B.A.S.S.

February 2, 2024

Martin maintains a commanding lead at Bassmaster Open on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee

CLEWISTON, Fla. — Slowing down and methodically fishing his areas, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Scott Martin maintained his lead on Day 2 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Okeechobee presented by SEVIIN with a catch of 25 pounds, 13 ounces.

Added to his massive Day 1 catch of 33-2, Martin has a two-day total of 58-15 — good for a lead of 7-13 over Tucker Smith of Birmingham, Ala., who is holding down second place with 51-2.

Martin, who grew up in Clewiston and guided out of his family’s marina, which is hosting the event, raved about the opportunity to shine in front of so many familiar faces.

“It’s a blessing to be standing here in front of my hometown crowd, my whole family and friends,” Martin said. “I grew up right here and watched my dad (nine-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Roland Martin) win a Bassmaster tournament here and that was kind of the defining moment for me. I practiced with him and he gave me credit onstage for helping him. That’s when I thought to myself, ‘I might be able to do this.’

“To be able to win this thing, I have a lot of work ahead of me. But this lake has been good to me.”

Martin returned to the general area that produced his Day 1 mega bag, but he worked several different spots. Throwing a mix of reaction baits and pitching-style baits, Martin said a measured pace was essential for producing his bites.

“Like I said yesterday, patience was the key,” he said. “I was just taking it one fish at a time.

“Some of my fish were on beds, but some of them were coming and going. I was just casting around different spots within my area.”

Martin’s day was unfolding less productively than the first until a late-afternoon stop yielded an 8-pound kicker. He’s hopeful he can locate more of the big bites that fueled his first two days’ success, but he said he may need to integrate new water into his game plan.

“I’m not sure where I’m going to fish tomorrow,” Martin said. “The Lord blessed me this week, so I’m just gonna let Him take the reins and just go with it.”

Martin said he’s optimistic that Championship Saturday may bring the week’s most favorable weather. Stable, warming conditions in South Florida could deliver fireworks, but even with a smaller field of Top 10 finalists, Martin knows he’ll need to step on the gas.

“I’m going to have to catch everything I can catch tomorrow,” Martin said. “I’ll have to catch 25 pounds tomorrow, because somebody could catch 30. With those warming conditions, it could be really good.”

After catching 27-6 on Day 1, Smith backed that up with 23-12 to reach his second-place total of 51-2.

“I just found multiple places where they were staging,” Smith said. “Basically, those fish were prespawn and postspawn. So, I think I’m getting the best of both worlds.”

Making the same long run he made on Day 1, Smith found his opportunities more dispersed.

“I had 14 pounds until the last hour and caught most of my weight in that last hour,” he said. “I pulled up on a place and caught three big ones — a 6- and two 4 1/2-pounders — on back-to-back-to-back casts.

“I’m hoping this area will produce tomorrow. There’s good fish in there, but I have to fish as hard as I can and run off gut instinct. That’s what I did today and ended up landing on them.”

Paul Marks of Cumming, Ga., placed third with 46-5. Marks caught a first-round limit of 26-7 and added 19-4 on Day 2.

“It was pretty slow until lunchtime and then I caught a couple big ones on my last stop,” Marks said. “I think maybe the pressure got to them today.”

Marks caught his bass mostly on reaction baits, which seemed to produce best in the stained water he was fishing.

Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., is in the lead for Big Bass honors with the 10-3 largemouth he caught on Day 1. Tharp placed fourth with 44-14.

California pro Ish Monroe had the Big Bass on Day 2 with a 9-11.

John Goul of Philadelphia, Miss., won the co-angler division with a two-day total of 24-5. Goul, who also won the co-angler title at the 2020 Open at Neely Henry, caught 16-15 on Day 1 and added 7-6 to edge Jason Shapiro or Concord, N.C., by 11 ounces.

Goul caught his first-round bass on a Texas-rigged Senko in junebug, black/blue glitter and black/blue tail colors. He rigged his bait with a 1/8-ounce bullet weight and fished it at a glacial pace.

“I was dragging it really slow and I guess it made those big girls mad,” Goul said. “It was just random casting and pray for a bite.”

Sean Neifert of Lantana, Fla., won the $250 Big Bass award among co-anglers with his 8-10.

The Division 1 season opener includes 175 competitors who have committed to all nine Opens events in the Tackle Warehouse Elite Qualifiers division, which will award Bassmaster Elite Series invitations to the top nine finishers in Angler of the Year points standings.

In addition to the top prize of $49,860, the winning pro angler will qualify for 2025 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic, assuming he fishes all three Division 1 events.

The Top 10 will take off Saturday at 7 a.m. ET from Roland Martin Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the marina at 3 p.m. 

All coverage from the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Okeechobee presented by SEVIIN will be available on Bassmaster.com.

The final day of competition will be broadcast live on FS1 Saturday morning beginning at 8 a.m. ET, with streaming available on Bassmaster.com, as well as FS2 and the FOX Sports digital platforms.

The tournament is being hosted by the City of Clewiston.



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