Anglers competing in this week’s 2016 Bassmaster Classic in Oklahoma are expecting a slugfest.
After struggling with winter weather for several recent Classics, tournament organizers pushed the event’s date back a few weeks for 2016. That, combined with a mild weather and a front pushing through over the weekend has the world’s best bass fishermen thinking big weights will be needed to win the $300,000 first-place check.
In 2013, the last time the Classic was held on Grand, Cliff Pace won with a three-day total of 54 pounds, 12 ounces. But that was during a cold snap with lows in the teens and a snowstorm. The bass were lethargic then, but with the warmer weather and low-pressure system moving in they’re expected to be a lot more active than three years ago.
Water clarity will also play a big role. Grand Lake has been invaded by zebra mussels the past few years, which filter water for food and create clear water. But spring rain has muddied up Grand and the lake is just beginning to clear up. Local guides expect most of the 55-man field to fish the northern end of the 46,500-acre lake where the water is cleaner. On Wednesday, Grand River Dam Authority crews listed water clarity at just more than two feet in the northern sections of the lake and less than one foot in parts of the southern end of the lake.
BassGold.com, which has a 92-percent accuracy rate at predicting the best-producing patterns and weights at Bassmaster events, has forecast the fishermen will need daily bags in the 21-25 pound range to win. Additionally, BassGold.com predicts spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and crankbaits will be the three most-effective lures for the Classic.
That could play into the hands of local favorite Jason Christie.
A native Oklahoman, Christie has lived within an hour of Grand Lake for his entire life. He considers it one of his home lakes and made the switch from the FLW Tour to the Bassmaster Elites in 2012 so he could fish the 2013 Classic on Grand. He finished seventh that year and is being tabbed by fellow pros as the favorite. Christie loves to throw Smithwick Rogues and Booyah spinnerbaits, so if BassGold.com is accurate then he should be in the mix.
He enters the tournament thinking about winning – not just doing well.
“Nobody remembers second place or fifth,” Christie told the Tulsa World. “That’s what I want people to remember the next time they come back to Grand Lake, ‘Jason Christie won the Classic here,’ and hopefully they say he won by 25 pounds or something like that.”
Joining Christie among the favorites is Talala native Edwin Evers. He comes into 2016 off a hot streak at the end of the 2015 season – where he won back-to-back tournaments on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
The biggest cheers at weigh-ins will likely go to James Elam. The 29-year-old is a Tulsa native who began fishing on Grand (located about 90 minutes northeast of the city) as a teenager.
When: March 4-6
Where: Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees
Launch: 7 a.m. daily, Wolf Creek Park in Grove, Okla.
Weigh-in: BOK Center, downtown Tulsa, approximately 4:30 p.m. daily
Field: 55 anglers
First Place: $300,000 (Total purse is $1 million)
Last time: Cliff Pace won the 2013 Classic on Grand
Expo: Cox Business Center, downtown Tulsa,
Friday: Noon – 8 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.