By Terry Gibson
What makes Florida the Fishing Capital of the World? Lake Okeechobee is a huge reason. This iconic largemouth bass fishery spans more than 730 square miles of water, teeming with the world’s most popular freshwater bass for fishing.
How do you find the fish on such a huge water body with such diverse, high-quality habitat? With a really fast boat.
With outboard engines with as much as 350 horsepower, bass boats reach top speeds of 75 mph — or more. They jump onto a plane, and you fly out to the areas holding the most powerful and explosive warm-water game fish in North America. You may even win prizes for your lunker or just for participating in the TrophyCatch program.
Lake Okeechobee Bass Fishing Guides and Accommodations
Even if you have your own boat, it makes sense to hire a guide on a lake this big. Big bass just can’t resist live wild shiners. But if you want to fish with artificial lures or fly fish, let the captain know up front.
The Pahokee Marina & Campground offers quick access to great Lake Okeechobee bass fishing along the southern and eastern shorelines. The marina is state-of-the art. Grassy Waters Restaurant and Tiki Bar is onsite. There’s a pool, and the RV facilities are excellent. It’s hard to beat this spot for sunsets over Lake O.
The Torry Island Campground and Marina in Belle Glade offers access closest to West Palm Beach. It’s about an hour from Palm Beach International Airport. Slim’s Fish Camp, located on site, is one of the oldest and best freshwater fishing outfitters on the Lake. The campground is a great spot for anglers with RV’s.
The lake’s west side offers its most diverse habitat. Roland & Mary Ann Martin Marina, in Clewiston and about 45 minutes from Fort Myers, has operated since 1981. Their team of guides is excellent, and the facility offers RV hookups, rooms and condos. The Tiki Bar serves great food and beverages. Boat mechanics are on site, and the tackle shop’s selection includes exactly what you need to catch fish.
Founded by the pioneering Griffin family, Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp is located between Clewiston and Moore Haven. It offers an excellent guide service, as well as camping and air-conditioned cabins and rooms.
Moore Haven stands between the Big O and Caloosahatchee River. Contact Moonshine Bay Guide Service. The vintage Rice Motel offers clean, comfy rooms minutes from the Lake.
Okeechobee is the closest lakeside town for residents and visitors along the Treasure Coast. Contact Capt. Mike Shellen or Capt. Mark King. The Holiday Inn is a favorite place to stay, but there are many fish camps, RV parks such as the Buckhead Ridge Marina, and other hotels. Great restaurants nearby include Lightsey’s, the Speckled Perch Steakhouse and the Tin Fish.
Scott Martin’s Pro Tip for DIY Anglers
“I recommend around the Clewiston area for its diversity, including the rim canal and big bays, Clewiston Channel, and the islands. You’ve got great access to so many different styles of fishing, especially using topwater baits and flipping. The best tip I can offer is find good water clarity. You need to be able to see down at least a foot or two.”