In the late '90s, when I was fresh out of college, I taught high school English at Glades Day School, in Belle Glade, which is a stone's throw from Lake Okeechobee's south shore. Actually, as football crazy as that town is, maybe I should say that the boat ramp is a just a "short pass" from the school.
A lot of my students were avid anglers, and I got to fish the lake with those kids and their parents. We bonded over fishing, and I've stayed in touch with many of the kids that I forced to recite Shakespeare when they weren't flipping, pitching and mastering other bass-fishing techniques before and after the bell.
Ron Veale was the student most nuts about fishing. Still is. He's a firefighter now, and spends his off-time practicing for tournaments on the big lake. Like all the tournament anglers on the Lake, which is fishing as well as ever, he's wondering just how much weight within the five-fish daily limits it will take to win the BASSMASTER Elite Series Tournament Trail stop coming this March to Okeechobee. The best bass fishermen in the world, competing on what's arguably at present the best lunker lake in the South – during peak spawning season to boot? Records could be broken.
Ron just sent me pictures of a nine-pound and a 10.1-pound fish he caught on Lake Okeechobee late last week near Clewiston, in about the worst weather conditions you can still manage to fish in. Lake levels are up and the fish are back inside the spike rush edges. Ron was throwing a Skinny Dipper.
Seriously, if you like to bass fish, I cannot overstate how well the Big O is fishing – 360 degrees around its shores. This is the year to make the pilgrimage and catch the biggest bass of your life.