UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Potomac River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

A Grand adventure

A Grand adventure
Opening takeoff at the FLW Tour event on Grand Lake is about to commence.

GROVE, Okla. - As the full field departed Wolf Creek Park marina shortly after 6:30 a.m. amidst a backdrop of overcast conditions, calm winds and balmy temperatures, anglers readily acknowledged the numerous obstacles standing in the way of a FLW Tour title on Grand Lake O' the Cherokees this week.

For starters, due to a slew of recent storms and flooding which has dominated this particular region of Oklahoma over the past two weeks, water levels are about 4 feet above normal pool. While that in and of itself isn't the biggest deal, due to the higher water levels, the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) has attempted to mitigate the situation by drawing down water at fairly rapid rates - by some accounts more than 80,000 cubic feet per second. This has resulted in the lake bottom being churned up and turning Grand Lake O' the Cherokees into a metaphorical giant bowl of chocolate milk.

Day-one takeoff commences on Grand Lake."It's really muddied the water up because of all of that stuff coming off the bottom," said Rayovac team pro Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla. "And it's not just some sections of the lake. I mean this lake is somewhere between muddy to stained from end to end. And the worst thing about it is that it limits the amount of fishable water on the lake."

Christie said he estimates that only about "15 percent" of the areas that anglers would normally target are still fishable as a result of the conditions. And plenty of other pros with longtime experience on Grand Lake agree.

"Some of the water is so muddy that the fish can't even see your bait," said Castrol team pro Darrel Robertson. "So everybody is going to be looking for clear water. I think a lot of boats are going to be stacked up on each other, and because of that you're going to see the overall weights in this tournament down a bit from what it might have been."

"This is a small lake to begin with and with the conditions being what they are, it's just going to fish that much smaller," said Kellogg's Frosted Flakes team pro Dave Lefebre. "Myself I've only found a couple of places where the water is clean."

"It's pretty amazing," said Straight Talk Wireless pro J.T. Kenney. "You put your bait in the water and it completely disappears. It's that muddy. It's crazy muddy."

FLW Tour boaters head to the starting line before the commencement of day-one takeoff on Grand Lake.Another issue that anglers will have to be cautious of is the debris. With plenty of floating timber churning down the lake, anglers will have to take extra precautions not to run into the multitude of obstructions both obvious and just below the surface.

"With all of the debris, you really can't run wide open on this lake," said Kenney. "There are some places where it's clear, but then you'll run a little bit further down and you suddenly have to navigate an entire field of debris. So you have to be careful because it can be dangerous."

As far as the fishing is concerned, pros argue that the muddy water will most likely take away a good portion of the deeper offshore bite and force more anglers to fish shallow.

"With these conditions, a lot of guys will be fishing shallow," said Christie. "Even though a lot of the bigger fish are out deep, there aren't a lot of places where you can catch them. The conditions are also going to put a lot of people in the lower part of the lake - and you're going to see a lot of boats on top of each other because of that."

"There are a lot of fish offshore," added Kenney. "But they don't bite when it's this muddy."
Another intriguing factor is that due to the conditions and relative lack of fishable water, the tournament's boat draw - ie. which anglers get to depart the marina first - becomes a bigger factor than usual.

"I knew that if I got an early draw, I'd have a few points I'd go to right away," said Robertson. "But if I wound up in a later flight, I was just going to go out there and just go flipping."

"Yeah, the boat draw this week is going to be really important," added Lefebre. "More so than most tournaments."

FLW  Tour anglers share some downtown at Wolf Creek Park marina before the start of day-one takeoff on Grand Lake.Although it appeared that anglers like Christie and Robertson would have a definite leg up on the competition given the fact that they know the lake extremely well while most competitors are seeing this body of water for the first time, that no longer seems to be the case - at least not this week.

"You know, coming into this tournament I was really excited. But all of this rain has really dampened my excitement because any (local knowledge) advantage I had is gone," said Robertson. "I'm just going to be out there like everyone else trying to figure things out."

"Any local advantage I had was taken away when the lake did what it did," added Christie. "So I'm just like everyone else right now."

So given the current conditions, just how will anglers attack Grand Lake this week?

"The good thing about Grand Lake is that you can catch fish pretty much any way you want to," said Christie. "You can really fish to your strengths here. I think you'll see everything from flipping to cranking to jigs - basically anything you want to throw. Honestly, with Grand Lake, nothing would surprise me."

"I think half of the field is going to try and fish points on the main lake and the other half of the field is going to be flipping buck brush and trees," said Robertson. "But for me, I'm really hoping the water settles down a little bit over the next few days."

While the field might have divergent views on how to best target bass on Grand Lake, most pros agreed that daily weights in the high teens should be good enough to keep advancing.

"I think 16 or 17 pounds a day will be good enough to make the cut; and you'll probably need 18 pounds a day to win," said Robertson.

"I'm shooting for 25 pounds a day but I think 18 will do it," said Christie.

In short, the tournament title is likely to be snared by the angler who is best able to analyze the daily riddle that is Grand Lake.

"Everything is changing on this lake," said Kenney. "The water levels are high, but they're starting to drop. The lake is really muddy but it might start to clear up as the tournament goes on. You're going to see a lot of guys who do well on day one who have no idea what they're going to do on day two. A lot of guys today have no idea what they're going to do. I really think that the person who is best able to adapt is going to win this."

Lake history/info

Anglers get ready for the start of day-one takeoff on Grand Lake.Grand Lake O' The Cherokees, considered one of the premiere bodies of water among a chain of lakes in the northeastern Oklahoma region, was created in 1940 with Grand River Dam Authority's completion of Pensacola Dam.

Grand Lake is about 66 miles long and boasts approximately 46,500 surface acres of water, while normal surface elevation is 742 feet above sea level. With 1,300 miles of shoreline meandering through the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Grand Lake is consistently ranked among the top lakes for bass fishing in the region.

The Pensacola Dam (or Grand River Dam as it's more commonly known), stretches across the Grand River and is responsible for the formation of Grand Lake.

The Grand River is formed by the junction of the Neosho and Spring Rivers approximately 10 miles southeast of Miami, Okla. It flows in a southerly and southwesterly direction about 125 miles to empty into the Arkansas River, approximately 5 miles northeast of Muskogee, Okla. The river is entirely within the boundaries of the state of Oklahoma and receives the drainage of the tributaries on the western slopes of the Ozark Mountains. With a fall of 2 feet per mile, the river has been adapted to development of a variety of water storage reservoirs and hydroelectric plants.

Tournament logistics/rules

The start of day-one takeoff on Grand Lake is only moments away.During FLW Tour competition, pros supply the boats, fish from the front deck against other pros and control boat movement. Co-anglers fish from the back deck and compete against other co-anglers. Anglers are permitted to weigh in their best five bass each day. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points that determine angler standings. The full field competes on days one and two, with the top-20 pros and top-20 co-anglers advancing to Saturday's third round of competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. After Saturday's weigh-in, the pro field will be cut down to the top 10 while a co-angler winner will be crowned. On Sunday, the final top-10 pros will hit the water in a bid for the Grand Lake title - which will be awarded to the pro who brings back the most combined weight over four days of competition.

Pros will be fishing for a top award up to $125,000 while co-anglers will be competing for a $25,000 first-place prize. In addition to lucrative prize money, anglers are also vying for valuable points in hopes of qualifying for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup, the premier season-ending championship. The 2013 Forrest Wood Cup will be in Shreveport, La., Aug. 15-18 on the Red River.

During the Grand Lake event, which will run June 6-9, anglers will take off from Wolf Creek Park, located at 963 North 16th St. in Grove, Okla., 6:30 a.m. each morning. Thursday and Friday's weigh-ins will be held at Wolf Creek Park beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday's final weigh-ins will be held at the Walmart located at 2115 South Main St. in Grove, Okla., beginning at 4 p.m.

Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Fans also will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public. Also on Sunday, country music artist Dylan Scott will perform a free live concert on the Walmart weigh-in stage at 3 p.m.

Bass-fishing fans take note

Want to watch the weigh in live but can't make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com 3 p.m. Central time (4 p.m. Eastern time) to watch live streaming video and audio of today's opening-round weigh in.

To view daily on-the-water coverage exclusive to this week's FLW Tour event, click here.

Coverage of the Grand Lake tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when "FLW" airs July 28 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET. The Emmy-nominated "FLW" television show is hosted by Jason Harper and is broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.

FLW Tour pros begin to depart the marina on day one of Grand Lake competition.Thursday's conditions

Sunrise: 6:01 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 64 degrees
Expected high temperature: 78 degrees
Water temperature: 72-78 degrees
Wind: From the north at 1-8 mph
Humidity: 67 percent
Day's outlook: Partly cloudy

Tags: gary-mortenson  morning-story  2013-06-06-grand-lake 

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