QCrew tournament report: Battling the Big O. in Florida

OKEECHOBEE, Florida – Whether they’ll admit it or not, most of the anglers on the Bassmaster Elite Series have a love/hate relationship with Lake Okeechobee. While this giant central-Florida lake is revered as a producer of big fish, it’s also one of the more fickle, hot-and-cold fisheries you’ll ever see.

“There’s not a whole lot of ‘grey’ with Okeechobee,” QCrew Water Team member Jacob Powroznik admitted before Day 1 at the recent ARE Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite on Okeechobee. “Anytime you fish here, it can either go really, really good, or really, really bad. There are a lot of big fish in this lake, but, man, can they be hard to catch sometimes.”

Powroznik and fellow QCrew member Stetson Blaylock have extensive experience on Okeechobee, both having competed on the lake for several years while fishing FLW events. Both can claim some success here, too, with a handful of Top 20s between them in various tournaments.

But both Powroznik and Blaylock – along with recent QCrew addition Jay Brainard – took off from C. Scott Driver Park in Okeechobee on Day 1 with mixed expectations after a mixed practice session that brought as much rain as it did big bites.

Blaylock responded by making the first Top 50 cut of his Elite Series career, scratching his way to 13 pounds, 4 ounces on Day 1, 16-3 on Day 2, and 15-4 on Day 3 to finish 37th for the week with 44-22.

He jumped 17 places between Day 1 and Day 3.

“I just could never get my bait in front of a big fish,” Blaylock said. “I was in the right place, because I saw a handful of guys catch 20 pounds in the same areas I fished. That’s just typical Okeechobee: you can be catching 2-pounder after 2-pounder, and be looking at a guy on the other side of the weedline catching 6s and 7s. It’ll humble you. But I’ll take a Top 50 any day in Florida.”

Powroznik had little trouble catching fish, but could never find the right size, finishing out of the money with just over 20 pounds.

“Okeechobee bamboozled me this time,” Powroznik joked. “That just means she owes me one. Next time we come back here, I’ll expect 30 pounds a day.”

NOTES: Next up for the QCrew is the 2017 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Conroe near Houston, Texas (March 24-26) … Powroznik has been listed as one of the favorites on Conroe … look for Blaylock and Brainard at the George R. Brown Classic Expo in Houston … Brainard is competing March 2-4 at the Bass Pro Shops Central Open on Table Rock Lake in Missouri.