Martin’s mega sack leads Bassmaster Open on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee

Local knowledge certainly helped, but Bassmaster Elite Series pro Scott Martin said patience was the key to his massive limit of 33 pounds, 2 ounces, which leads Day 1 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake Okeechobee presented by SEVIIN.

Martin, who grew up fishing Florida’s largest lake, heads into Day 2 with a lead of 5-12 over Tucker Smith of Birmingham, Ala.

“When you fish in Florida, you have to be slow and methodical and make accurate casts and pitches,” Martin said. “That’s the only reason I caught ’em — I stayed very patient.”

Noting that he did not fish the same places he targeted during the 2023 Elite Series opener on his home lake, Martin said he dialed in his main area late Wednesday afternoon. Knowing how to exploit what he found was the difference maker.

“I got very fortunate yesterday, in the last 20 minutes of practice, I found where I wanted to start and we just rolled with it,” Martin said. “It wasn’t a secret bait, it wasn’t a secret deal. I was around a bunch of people.”

Starting with a big bite at 7:45 a.m., Martin’s action lasted through the afternoon. Anchoring his bag with a 9-12 that bit around 12:30 p.m., Martin said he caught bass on a mix of presentations that included a ChatterBait, a swimming worm and Texas-rigged pitching baits.

Locating a strategic area in about 3 to 5 feet of water, Martin put himself in position to catch bass in multiple stages of the spawn.

“It was an area that has some spawning fish, some prespawn fish and some postspawn fish, so there was a lot going on in there,” he said. “When you find the right water, when you find the right clarity and when you find some areas that these fish are starting to pull into, that’s how you do well on Okeechobee.

“When you find where they’re pulling into, you can catch them coming and going.”

Sizing up his second-round potential, Martin said he suspects he’ll need to move around and fish other spots within his main area.

“You usually don’t sit in areas, but this is a little different deal,” Martin said. “I found some stuff late in the day where I think I can catch a few fish, so that’s probably where we’ll start and we’ll take it from there.”

Placing second with 27-6, Smith’s day required mobility and patience. Diligently working through his options was tedious, but a late-day cull gave him the surge he needed.

“I bounced around and hit three main areas,” Smith said. “Some set up the same, but others were a little bit different. I was fishing groups that I had found off the bank. There was a mix of prespawn and post. I think the fish were just moving back and forth.”

Using reaction and slower-moving baits, Smith had a solid limit by 9:30, but his best bites came during the midday period.

“I caught most of my fish when that sun popped out and warmed the water,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, I caught a 6 that culled out a 3.”

Matt Adams of Oxford, Ala., is in third place with 27-4. His day started quickly, with BassTrakk showing an unofficial limit of 23 pounds by 8:49.

“I had some missed opportunities, but all in all, it was a good day,” Adams said. “I caught all but one keeper in the first 45 minutes.”

Adams said the key to his success was solitude. He managed to avoid the crowds and, while that’s no easy feat on a legendary fishery like Okeechobee, his seclusion was the result of practice disappointment.

“I think these fish are unpressured,” he said. “The way these fish are eating, I don’t think they’ve seen a bait. A tough practice will make you do things that are outside your norm. It makes you look outside the box.

“When practice is a struggle, you really start trying to figure out something that no one else is doing. I think I found that, but whether there’s enough fish in there for three days, I don’t know that.”

Noting that he caught his fish on a mix of reaction baits and bottom-contact baits, Adams said he worked a large area that he believes has sufficient potential for a solid Day 2 effort.

“I saw the right bites in practice,” he said. “I just didn’t see a lot of numbers. Also, I left some stuff untouched, so I don’t really even know what I’ve got.”

Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., is in the lead for Big Bass honors with his giant 10-3 largemouth.

John Soul of Philadelphia, Miss., leads the co-angler division with 16-15.

Jason Shapiro or Concord, N.C., holds the Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 7-11.

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 full field will take off Friday at 7 a.m. ET from Roland Martin Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the marina at 3 p.m. The co-angler champion will be decided Friday and the pro field will be trimmed to the Top 10 for Championship Saturday.

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

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

The tournament is being hosted by the City of Clewiston.