CLEWISTON – When the heat is on, the big sticks come out to play on Lake Okeechobee. With a stacked lineup of 158 teams rigged to do battle with the monsters of the Big O, the SPF Factor was high — as in Sack Phat Fish. Remember what happened last month (30 pound bags of plenty)? You either go big or go home with nothing more than a sunburn in this series. That was the rallying cry at daybreak on Lake Okeechobee for the 2nd Qualifier of the 2023 Roland Martin Marine Center Series presented by HUK on June 10, 2023.
Winning once is hard enough in this series. Do it twice, and luck is removed from the equation. For the winning team of Robert Haff and Gerry Califano, their return to the winner’s circle is a justified reward.
“We caught about 15 or 20 today,” said Haff. “Typically, it feels good when you can get a limit and build from there. But when you are culling 3 ½ pounders, it feels even better.”
“We had a lot of different attacks,” Califano admitted. “We started in Clewiston and worked our way south focusing on grass and reeds and even some deep. But we had a milk-run that we stuck to. We pre-fished hard and it paid off.”
With a variety of tactics, they threw worms, pitched jigs, ran some rattle traps and filled their well with a winning weight of 28.96 pounds. That earned the team their second win in the series and the winning check for $6,000.
The second place team was another familiar name in the series. The father and son team of Brian and Brice Prowant. The younger Prowant is just home from college and did his part to help pay for books for next semester.
“We were looking for Kissimmee grass and outside reeds, flipping a jig all day” said the younger Prowant. “We caught fish all day and got a seven pounder around noon.”
A solid limit totaling 27.61 pounds earned the father and son duo a payday of $2,680.
Rounding out the top three was the team of Dell Hatfield and Joe Long. They weighed in a 26.61 pound limit and collected $1,800 for the 3rd Place finish.
“My game plan was to not go where everyone else was going,” said Hatfield. “But luckily I have a great partner. He convinced me that fishing in a crowd was the way to go. We were right in the middle of everyone and a Magnum Speed Worm did the job.”
Going large, the top 13 teams had 20 pounds plus. And as the highest paying team tournament trail in Florida, the payouts continued deep into the 158 team field to make the day on the water even more memorable.
The U.S. Sugar Big Bass and $500 went to Doug Harris with a 9.33 pound bass while the 2nd Big Bass of 9.12 earned Brad Gibson $100 Gambler Bucks. The highest finishers crossing the stage in HUK Gear added an additional $250 on top of the Champion’s check to Robert Haff along with $125 Bruiser Bucks as the top finishing team. Christian Moretz received $100 from Mary Ann Martin as the highest fishing Female Angler. Gilbert Chevrolet presented Brice Prowant $250 as the highest finishing Gilbert Chevrolet owner. And going small to win big, the team of John Tavano and William Moors turned the smallest limit of 4.75 pounds into $300 from AV Inspection.
That’s how you welcome summer on Lake Okeechobee. Big Bass and Big Checks always equals a good time. With a wrap on Qualifier #2, enjoy your summer and we’ll see you in October.