CLEWISTON — The fishermen competing in the Roland Martin Marine Center Series Championship will be out and about on Lake Okeechobee on Dec. 5 and 6.
Depending on the final number of teams competing, first place in the championship could garner somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000.
“The slogan I’ve been hearing is that the fishing is on fire,” said Ramon Iglesias, general manager of Roland and Mary Ann Martin’s Marina. “The weights have been really good, the numbers have been great. The lake was able to get some of the grass back that it had lost over the years. The fishing has been great.”
Four qualifiers have already been held in the series, which is sponsored by HUK, most recently in early October. Mike Keyso and John Perry took first place in that qualifier with a final bag of 25.35 pounds and netted a check worth $6,000.
“We caught about 25 or 30 fish today and had about 20 pounds most of the day,” Keyso said after the tournament. “Then I caught the seven-pounder at the end of the day to give us 25 pounds. I was pitching isolated mats with a black and blue Reaction Beaver and a one-ounce weight, just what I do and I’m comfortable doing it. I started off casting because I caught 50 bass a day casting in practice. But I knew it wasn’t going to be enough to win since they were only two- or three-pounders. If I was going to win it was going to be with a mat rod in my hands.”
Coming in second place at the qualifier with 21.17 pounds was the team of Curtis Lewis and Steve Fairtrace. Although they started with topwater baits, it was pitching that filled their live well and earned them the second place check of $3,000.
Rounding out the top three was the team of Kelly Autrey and Arnold Moore that cranked their way to 21.4 pounds and collected the third place check for $1,800.
Other prizes handed out at the qualifier included the U.S. Sugar Big Bass award of $500 which went to Ken Rymut for his 7.59 pound bass. The second big bass earned the team of Neimi and Ellerbee $100 Gambler Bucks. Arnold Moore collected $250 as the highest finishing angler to cross the stage in HUK gear.
The highest finishing female angler, Angie Holley, collected $100 from Mary Ann Martin.
Anglers will have to compete with a cold front moving into to South Florida this week, which presents challenges in a shallow lake like Lake Okeechobee.
In November, fishing guides reported that bass have begun staging for winter procreation, concentrating along the outside fringes of inshore spawning grounds.
Fishermen will launch out of the City Ramp in Clewiston at safe light on Dec. 5.