More on Grand – Who Gets the Call

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story and photos by Dan O’Sullivan

Let’s talk more about the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.

We covered the environment of the event last week, discussing the layout of the lake, the expected weather patterns and what types of techniques might be the big players during the three-day event February 22 through 24 on Grand Lake out of Tulsa, Okla.

MoreonGrandRandy HowellTo clarify something quickly about the name of the lake, allow me to give a nod to my friend Alana McGuckin from Dynamic Sponsorships for a moment. McGuckin is a seasoned industry professional and a public relations workhorse who recently published a profile of the lake in the March 2013 edition of Bassmaster Magazine.

As McGuckin pointed out in the piece, the lake is named Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, and while we wish to respectfully recognize the name of this majestic lady, we will call her by her local names; “Grand Lake” or, simply “Grand,” for the sake of saving some words.

So, let’s revisit the weather in Grove, Okla., on the shores of Grand Lake for a refresher, before we get into the competitors.

Grand Lake Weather
We speculated after visiting in our piece last week that the weather at the lake was going to be up and down. However, knowing that weather forecasts can be pretty difficult to be accurate when they’re out a couple weeks; especially this time of the year.

We’ll take a look again.

For the next week, the area around the lake is supposed to receive temperatures that are below their norms. MoreonGrandTerryScrogginsWith average February temperatures having highs in the 50’s and lows in the 30’s, the low end will be at or below normal for much of the next week, but the highs are expected to be below normal.

There is not expected to be much in the way of precipitation hitting the area, a few days with spotty rain storms and one day with mixture of rain and snow. The clouds are supposed to increase on the Wednesday “Official Practice Day,” and the Thursday before the event is supposed to be colder with rain showers.

Once that blows through, the conditions are predicted to be above average for the competition days. Highs in the low 60’s and overnight lows in the low 40’s.

What Does the Weather Mean?
The predicted weather patterns mean that the anglers are going to have to think on their feet. With so much variance expected, and especially the fact that the Official Pre Practice days on Friday and Saturday are supposed to be colder than average, followed by a warmer than average Sunday, means that the pre practice efforts could mean less come tournament time.

That doesn’t mean that the time won’t be valuable, but with so much change in the conditions ahead, things may not exactly be stable. The area has not seen much of heavy rains that would have muddied the waters too much, and is not expected too, so that will limit the types of techniques that will be effective.

For those anglers hoping to get swollen, muddy waters for the event so that they could pick up a Flippin’ Stick with a jig and a dirty water spinnerbait, the chances of that are diminishing with the conditions we’ve had, and the conditions being called for.

MoreonGrandIkeOf course, we have only been checking on the Internet, and we have not done any phone research, so our statements here are merely speculatory, as is the next section.

Murray’s Input
We reached out to Bassmaster Elite Series pro and Advanced Angler columnist John Murray to get his take on the lake. We didn’t put Murray in the unenviable position of choosing his picks to win the Classic, but we wanted his expertise as someone who has fished the lake, and everywhere else in the country.

“I loved Grand Lake from the first time I fished it, because it made me feel so at home,” he said. “Grand is a combination of some of the lakes I have fished at home in the West for so many years. It always reminded me of putting the docks of Clear Lake on a lake like some in Northern California and a few of the lakes in Arizona.

“Grand has a lot of steep banks with deep water, but it also has the shallower, flatter creeks that will help a lot of the field feel comfortable,” he said. “It really should be a good tournament. Regardless of the conditions, I think they will catch them pretty good.”

Anglers to Watch
Of course the easy and fashionable picks to win are Jason Christie of Park hill, Okla., and Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark. Christie is a local angler with a tremendous skill set; as evidenced by his career records in B.A.S.S. and FLW, and McClelland is regionally local with a lot of experience and a past Elite Series win on his résumé at the lake.MoreonGrandEdwinEvers

We can certainly see either of those two winning, and because they are overwhelming favorites, we’ll acknowledge that point and move on to others in the field.

The Classic winner is typically someone who thinks ahead of the conditions better than anyone else. We have seen that in the past with Kevin VanDam, who won back-to-back Classics in 2010 and 2011, as well as Skeet Reese, who won in 2009. Both of them anticipated where the fish “would be” given the conditions and pressure and avoided the trap of where they were at the time; their strategies paid off handsomely.

Another program that works well at a Classic is to be able to put yourself in position to be in the hunt with a solid first day, then make great decisions and capitalize on the conditions as the event goes on; that was how Chris Lane won last year’s event. That could prove to be a strategy this year.

Each of those anglers have proven that they can win the event in the past, but of the three we just mentioned, we feel that VanDam and Reese have shots to do well. Of course, VanDam is an easy pick, but it is his ability to read ahead that makes him dangerous. Reese has much experience on lakes like Grand in his past, and it would not surprise us to see him challenging using some of those tactics this year to do well.

MoreonGrandKVDAs far as a repeat performance, we don’t see it in the cards for Lane. Not that he doesn’t have the skills to pull it off, but, with the exception of VanDam, the pressure to repeat that anglers seem to put on themselves to win again and prove that it wasn’t a fluke can almost be as overwhelming as the media attention of being a Classic champion. That being said, Lane had one of his best years as an Elite Series pro after winning the Classic, so his mental toughness is there, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he made us eat our words. But, with having to make an educated guess as to whether he will repeat or not; we’ll say it’s a long shot.

Jerkbaits, swimbaits, jigs and finesse tactics could all come into play here, so anglers who seem to be versatile enough – aside from those already mentioned above – will be among the most effective next week. That leads us to think that anglers like Edwin Evers, Aaron Martens, Jared Lintner, Mike Iaconelli, John Crews, Russ Lane, Randy Howell, 2012 Toyota Tundra bassmaster Angler of the Year Brent Chapman and Gerald Swindle will be able to ride the do anything train to a high finish.

Anglers who we think need to be watched that are not likely to be listed on many other people’s watch lists are Bobby Lane, Terry Scroggins, Greg Hackney and Tommy Biffle.

Yes, Lane is a Floridian, but in his first Classic in 2008 on Lake Hartwell, he made himself a factor on a MoreonGrandGregHackneylake he would not have been considered a favorite on, and he is becoming one of the best anglers on tour. Scroggins has also proven himself to be versatile, and Hackney is a check cashing machine.

While it seems that Hackney may be a risky proposition in events that don’t feature heavy cover and a big stick, he gets paid nearly 80-percent of the time has 38 top 10 finishes and nearly half of his starts have resulted, in top 20 finishes. Hackney can catch them anywhere, as evidenced by his Forrest Wood Cup win in 2009 in Pittsburgh.

Biffle is also an angler who gets pigeon holed badly. While he is one of the best Flippers on tour, he has found new weapons that have given him new life in events on places like Grand, and with his proximity, it wouldn’t surprise us either.

Who Gets the Win?
We know that we’ve basically listed half of the field, but we have never been a site that tried to pick actual winners. But, if pushed to choose an actual winner, we would have to politely say, the guy who Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer points at and yells “… 2013 Bassmaster Classic Champion!” Whoever that is, it will be a good tournament that they eyes of the fishing world will be watching and cheering for.