UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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The Search is on at Fort Gibson

The Search is on at Fort Gibson

The last event of the 2018 Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division kicked off under rain clouds this morning out of Taylor’s Ferry Landing on Fort Gibson Lake. The event, which is presented by Mercury and hosted by the Wagoner County Chamber of Commerce, includes a field of 116 pros and co-anglers who will be scouring Fort Gibson’s highly pressured waters during the doldrums of late summer, trying to find an overlooked pattern or technique.

Tournament details 

About the fishery

At just 20,000 acres, Fort Gibson is a rather small, compact fishery with 255 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 15 feet. The lake is primarily fed by the Grand (Nesho) River but includes a handful of small feeder creeks.

Like many Oklahoma lakes, Fort Gibson is flat and shallow with rock, wood and brush piles serving as the primary bass habitat. Due to the lake’s size and proximity to Tulsa, Fort Gibson gets an extreme amount of fishing pressure, and bass are pretty conditioned to the usual offerings. For that reason, finding anything new or out of the norm from the ubiquitous routine can be advantageous at Fort Gibson, whether it’s a different lure, color or even a new piece of cover.

The last time the Costa FLW Series visited Fort Gibson in 2016, Derek Fulps of Broken Arrow, Okla., won the event with a three-day total of 45-5. The key to his victory was finding a “new” submerged tree up in the currents of the Grand River. Fulps caught nearly every one of his winning fish from the tree and says he believes it was a “new” tree because it still had leaves on it.

The river bottom at Fort Gibson is littered with aged laydowns that have been worn smooth by thousands of lures. The new addition that Fulps found was a fresh target few others knew about it.  

Current conditions

Fulps believes things will be a lot different at Fort Gibson this time around, mostly due to the lack of current.

“Last time we had a lot of current running through the lake for several weeks leading up to the event,” Fulps says. “This time we just don’t have that current to help position the fish. We had some locally heavy rains here recently, and I thought this lake was going to come up a couple of feet. I originally thought that would bring it up a few feet above pool, flood some of the shallow cover and really level the playing field. But that just hasn’t happened yet, and now I don’t think it’s going to.”

Aside from that, this morning dawned with overcast skies and scattered showers. Long term, the weather patterns have stalled in Oklahoma, putting Fort Gibson into a state of late summer, early fall doldrums.

“The water level is about normal, maybe a foot over normal pool,” Fulps says. “The water temperature is in the mid-70s over most of the lake. The weather has been in the 60s at night and near 80 degrees during the day, and it got warmer as practice was winding down. So there is nothing really to position the fish in a predictable manner. We had some breezy conditions the last couple of days, but it didn’t seem to help much.”

Tactics in play

Given the rather stale conditions at Fort Gibson right now, it looks like the tournament might become a “one fish here, one fish there” game that will favor the locals. Junking it up with a variety of techniques at multiple locations spread across a vast array of cover types will likely fill some of the top 10 slots come Saturday.

FLW Tour pro Zack Birge says of all the lakes he fishes in the Sooner State, Fort Gibson is the most “unduplicate-able” of them all.

“I can catch a good bag doing something one day, maybe two, and then it just evaporates on me,” he says. “At Grand Lake, I can usually duplicate what I’m doing in other parts of the lake and keep my bite alive. But here, it just dies. And I don’t understand why that happens. Fort Gibson has done that to me a bunch over the years, and it’s pretty frustrating. I think it has something to do with the inconsistencies of the water level and flow in this lake.”

Fulps completely agrees.

“Other lakes like Grand and Tenkiller pattern so much better than Fort Gibson,” he says. “This one is fickle and inconsistent to the point of almost being random. It seems like the best bags will come from a flurry in a certain area or with a certain lure, and then it’s over – I mean over. Done. If you try to make it work in similar areas, it’s like getting pulled down a rabbit trail. You’re better off going somewhere totally new, picking up a totally different lure and just starting over.”

With that, something like throwing a topwater on shallow flats in the morning, then hitting a few docks with a jig, then scrubbing a couple of points with a Gene Larew Biffle Hardhead, then throwing a big worm in a brush pile or two, then square-billing a few stumps might be just the recipe for a top 10.

“Locals will do well here this week,” Fulps says. “Especially guys who know some key brush piles.”

“Even just knowing a dozen or so of those oddball spots that usually hold a single fish is a big advantage,” Birge adds.

Critical factors

FLW Tour pro Kyle Cortiana of Coweta, Okla., finished second in the 2016 Costa FLW Series event at Fort Gibson. He believes a key to winning this time around will be catching a big bag on the first day and then hanging on to win.

“Getting a jumpstart on day one with 17 or 18 pounds will be huge,” he says. “If a guy can do that and follow it up with 12 pounds a day after that, he is going to be in contention.”

Like Fulps, Cortiana believes finding something off the beaten path will be crucial to doing well this week.

“All the normal stuff – laydowns, docks, points – have all been pounded in practice,” he says. “You can watch a good laydown in practice, and there is a nonstop train of boats sampling it all the time. One boat hits it, moves on and another one comes right behind it. Getting off that beaten path somehow or some way is critical.”  

Dock talk

When it comes to weight estimates, these anglers believe 24 to 25 pounds will score a top-10 finish, and the winning weight will be in the 38- to 40-pound range.

“It’s really tough,” Cortiana says. “There will possibly be quite a few zeros, and I could just as easily be one of them. I’ve had nine keepers in four or five days of practice. So the lake is being pretty stingy. I have only one out-of-the-way spot where I caught two nice ones in a row. Other than that, I don’t have confidence in much else.”

Tournament details

Format: All 116 boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 7 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: Taylor’s Ferry North, Dock Road, Wagoner, OK 74467

Weigh-In Time: Days one and two at 3 p.m. CT; 4:00 p.m. CT on day three

Weigh-In Location: Days one and two at Taylor’s Ferry North; day three at Walmart, 410 S. Dewey Ave., Wagoner, OK 74467

 Complete details 

 

Tags: rob-newell  headline-story  2018-10-04-ft-gibson-lake 

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