HomeFlorida LakesLake Okeechobee Bass Fishing Guide

Lake Okeechobee Bass Fishing Guide

Lake Okeechobee Fishing Guide: There are few better ways to spend a day than on a lake with your most trusted rod and reel. And there are very few lakes in Florida – or anywhere in the country – that can match the fisherman’s utopia of Lake Okeechobee.

Few inland bodies of water carry the grandeur and beauty of Lake Okeechobee. Spanning more than 730 square miles, the lake is the second-largest freshwater lake in the lower 48 states (Lake Michigan is bigger). 

Even better, it’s long been a fertile spot for the best bass fishing in the country. You’ll find more bass here that are seven pounds or more than you will in any other freshwater lake in the U.S.

Let’s explore Lake Okeechobee, what it holds for both experienced and novice anglers, and how to get the most out of your visit to the “Big O.”

About Lake Okeechobee

Fed predominantly through the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee is roughly an hour’s drive northwest of West Palm Beach, at the northern end of Florida’s famed Everglades. 

North End Map of Lake Okeechobee
North End Map of Lake Okeechobee

Often referred to as “Florida’s Inland Sea”, the earliest mentions of Lake Okeechobee (the name translated from Hitchiti Indian means “big water”) date back to the 16th century. Settlements began popping up around the lake in the early 18th century.

After a series of hurricanes devastated the area in 1926 and 1928, the Herbert Hoover Dike was constructed in the 1930s to assist in flood control, and then expanded in the 1960s for additional protection. This produced the lake we are accustomed to today.

Bass Fishing on Lake Okeechobee

Incredibly shallow considering its size – average depth is nine feet; 12 feet at its deepest point – Lake Okeechobee produces perfect environmental conditions for several fish species.  

Of course, when fishing the “Big O” it’s all about that bass, and the lake is arguably the best fishery for largemouth trophy bass in the country.  

Lake Okeechobee Bass Fishing – Parker Meets Scott Martin Challenge

The lake itself, thanks in large part to its lack of depth, produces an abundance of bushy vegetation and large swaths of grassy cover – arrowhead, cattails, eelgrass, hyacinth, hydrilla, lily pads, peppergrass – perfect for the predatory bass to hideout. 

Add to that consistently warm waters and ample food supply.

Further, the lake has a number of canals and waterways where bass congregate. During pre-spawn and spawn, bass will migrate to the shallowest depths of the lake, relentlessly feeding and nesting in the vegetation.

Although the primary allure for fishermen to the “Big O” is the famed largemouth bass, the lake’s freshwater is home to several other thriving species. Both crappie, or speckled perch, and bluegill propagate in the lake’s warm waters with more successful catches between fall and spring.

When considering the time frame for your trip, from late-autumn to through the end of spring is often the best window of opportunity on Lake Okeechobee.

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To hook your trophy bass at the “Big O,” the preferred bait comes down to artificial lures or wild shiners, with the latter the preferable choice. After all, it’s the bass’ meal of choice and certainly increases your catch opportunities. In terms of technique, there is no right or wrong to nab your catch. Flipping and pitching are always effective at Okeechobee, but so too is top-water frogging if you’re looking for more action.  

Where to Find Bass in Lake Okeechobee

Due to Lake Okeechobee’s size, navigating the area – both on and off the lake – can be a challenge for newcomers. Spread across five counties, there are a number of entry points with the area surrounding Clewiston and the town of Okeechobee being the most well-known.

Of course, finding the best areas to fish on a body of water the size of Lake Okeechobee is daunting. To get the most out of your visit, hiring a guide to help traverse the lake is a winning strategy. That said, there’s no reason you and your fishing party can’t go it alone. Big as it may be, even the top anglers have a little trial and error period based on current conditions.

Lake Okeechobee Bass Guide
Parker catching a Largemouth Bass on Lake Okeechobee on an anchored boat.

One thing that is a must, guide or no guide, is a fast boat. Obviously, you’re not going to warp speed atop the waves, but you also don’t want to waste too much time traveling from point A to point B. And depending on where bass are biting, it can take a bit longer to track than your average-sized lake back home. 

As far as the actual best spots to catch your trophy bass, you have a lot of options.

Generally speaking, the Rim Canal that circumvents the entire lake is a great starting point for Okeechobee newcomers. Conditions such as wind and volatility of the weather are a bit more predictable here than getting caught off guard on the lake.  

Additional Okeechobee Fishing Guide Information

The backwaters are typically excellent and can produce quite the haul in a small amount of time. And, if the lake levels happen to be lower than usual, the Rim Canel is an outstanding fallback.

The best rim canal spots include the Moore Haven Lock along the lake’s western edge and at the Miami Canal in Lake Harbor.

The entire area starting from Clewiston in the southwest corner of the lake, heading east to Lake Harbor and on to Belle Glade, stands as one of the premier fishing areas on the whole lake. Otherwise known as South Bay, this section of Lake Okeechobee is often the best bet for newcomers. 

It’s a big open space with lots of vegetation. Should your plans involve a winter excursion, fishing the Clewiston area tends to yield the best results. 

Fishing Okeechobee During The Summer

Fishing the lake in summer months may also prove rewarding but does require a bit more effort. Start early if possible, and as the day heats up focus on currents, spots with a lot of cover, or work deeper with your bait.

Heading northwest, you’ll encounter the famous Monkey Box. It’s a popular spawning spot for bass, so, no surprise, it’s regularly celebrated as one of the best catch points on the lake. The area works as something of a self-contained pond with a healthy amount of vegetation, including eelgrass, hydrilla, and hyacinths.

Additional hot spots just to the south of The Monkey Box include Cochran’s Pass and Moonshine Bay. Cochran’s Pass, in particular, is a high yield spot thanks to an outcropping of rocks behind the reed line.

Immediately to the north of Monkey Box is Harney Pond. Depending on the time of year, you’ll be met with hydrilla and large hyacinths mats and an active bass population. It’s location also provides a bit more protection from windy conditions.

Also here, heading back east towards the center of the lake, is a more underrated area of the lake, Observation Shoal. By no means an afterthought though, the shoal is one of two areas on the lake where you find constantly biting bass year-round (the other being King’s Bar in the northern part of the lake).

Lake Conditions and Policies

Just as vital to the areas you fish are the seasonal conditions you encounter out on the lake. Lake Okeechobee is very much a product of its environment, and always in a constant state of flux. Even in down seasons, when events such as hurricanes might upend the ecosystem, bass remain plentiful.

Lake Okeechobee Picture taken by Debbie Hanson https://www.acrartex.com/news/5-best-fishing-tips-for-lake-okeechobee

To find them, here’s what to look for throughout the year:

  • Winter (from December to February): clean water, spawning bass, hard bottom amidst the grass, hydrilla (and/or matted), reeds, cattails, and lily pads
  • Spring (March to May): clean water, full hydrilla, small depressions
  • Summer (June to August): shad, diving birds, deeper water, head beyond the grass
  • Fall (September to November): think cover, full hydrilla, lily pads

Once your bass start biting, there are bag limits in Florida. For bass caught in Okeechobee, the limit is five and includes only one fish 16 inches or longer in total length per angler per day, with no minimum length limit.

Additional Lake Okeechobee Guide Info

If you live anywhere in South Florida, a day trip to the “Big O” is easily doable. 

The town of Okeechobee at the northern tip of the lake is two and a half hours from Tampa; fewer than two hours from Orlando.

To reach Clewiston, in the southeast, it’s an hour from Fort Myers and 30 minutes more from Miami. It’s here you’ll find the most amenity-laden area at Lake Okeechobee. Moore Haven is also on this side of the lake, and similar to Clewiston has a ton of conveniences for those staying multiple days.

And finally, if you’re anywhere between West Palm Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Belle Glade, at the lakes southernmost point, is less than an hour away.

Regardless of where you set up base, you’ll find everywhere around the lake accommodating. There are over 30 boat launches, nine major marinas, and countless campgrounds, picnic areas, and facilities spread throughout the shore area. 

If you’re up for it on your day off from angling, there’s even a 110-mile nature trail circling the lake atop the Herbert Hoover Dike.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that Lake Okeechobee is massive. It can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. Hiring one of the best fishing guides available throughout the lake region will help you get the most from your trip. Still, the do-it-yourself folks can see plenty of success too.

The key to a great day (or days) on the water is to do a little planning ahead of time and scope out your spots and secure your equipment before setting off. The bass will reward you for it.

Where Can I Find Bass in Lake Okeechobee?

As far as the actual best spots to catch your trophy bass, you have a lot of options. Generally speaking, the Rim Canal that circumvents the entire lake is a great starting point for Okeechobee newcomers. Conditions such as wind and volatility of the weather are a bit more predictable here than getting caught off guard on the lake. 

The backwaters are typically excellent and can produce quite the haul in a small amount of time. And, if the lake levels happen to be lower than usual, the Rim Canel is an outstanding fallback.

How deep is Lake Okeechobee?

Max Depth is 12 ft (3.7 m) Average depth of Lake Okeechobee 8 ft 10 in (2.7 m)

What is the best bait to catch bass on Lake Okeechobee?

3/8-ounce Dirty Jigs No-Jack Swim Jigs – one white and one green pumpkin with Zoom Super Speed Craws in matching colors. Poppin frogs, black n blue creature baits either on a jig or Texas rigged. Bladed jigs and burner worms will also product giant bass. Gold spinner baits can also be productive. All fished on 65-pound-test braid

Jason George
Jason Georgehttps://guidefishing.com
Jason George, with a remarkable career spanning over 30 years, stands as a paragon in the world of fishing journalism. Jason fishes the Bassmaster Opens as a Co Angler and is an Active Member of Outdoor Writers Association of America. Jason is edicated to sharing the joys, techniques, and news of the fishing world with all of you.

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