TULSA, Okla. – With mercurial weather looming during REDCREST Presented by Costa, the 41 pros competing for the $300,000 top prize and big red trophy will be faced with rapidly changing conditions. We asked Mercury Pro Team anglers Brent Ehrler and Jeff Sprague what their “keys to victory” would be this week on Grand. No surprise, their answers were all about making adjustments.
We also followed up with several Mercury pros as they finished up practice and offered a quick assessment of conditions on Grand Lake.
The two days of practice are now over for the 41 anglers fishing REDCREST 2022 Presented by Costa. Grand Lake has already thrown them the first curveball as the first day of practice was sunny, relatively calm, and very nice. On the second day, however, overcast skies, rain, wind, and sporadic thunder and lightning entered the equation.
It will change again when the tournament kicks off on Wednesday, with even colder temperatures forecasted to top out at 45 degrees. Making the proper adjustments will be vital this week, and the weather was a big theme from the practice report from several anglers.
“It was a ‘so-so’ practice and not necessarily bad or good,” Rose said. “I think it’ll be a low number of fish caught, but the size will be good. My goal is to get three scoreable bass each period and that should be enough to advance to the Knockout Round.”
Rose said change could be a good thing when asked about the weather.
“This is an Ozarks-style lake and the worse the weather, usually the better,” Rose said. “A sudden change to the water level or clarity could hurt the fishing, but the water has been the same level for a while and the fish will probably benefit from a good flush with some moving water.”
“It’s been a tough practice for me, and I hardly caught anything and several of them were small and not scorable,” Browning said of the 2-pound minimum for the event. “In my opinion, this isn’t the same Grand Lake from the past, and I’m not sure if it’s the lower water or what. The weather will change drastically, but I don’t think it’s going to affect the bite because they like the cold here and bite. I don’t see it getting better or worse.”
When Roy launched his boat to start practice, he was shocked by the water temperature.
“It was a lot colder than I expected and thought it would be well into the 50s, but it was a lot of 48-degree readings,” he said. “Because of that, I don’t think the colder weather that’s coming will make a difference because the water’s not very warm, to begin with.”
Roy reported having a good day and a tough day during his two-day practice period and expected that to be the trend this week.
“It’s springtime fishing and you have to be fluid with your plans because it changes every day,” he said. “I have a game plan for the tournament, but I’m not getting too bought into anything. I believe this will be an event where you don’t get a ton of bites and the guy who can catch ten solid fish on the last day will have a chance to win it.”
“The bite is changing so rapidly right now, but I feel like I figured a little something out,” Dudley said. “I feel ‘OK’ with what I’ve found and think the weights will be pretty good, but Grand Lake is never a place where you wreck them. It’s not a lake where you catch 30 scoreable bass and eight bites or so each day will be really good and the quality will be there.”
Vinson reported a wet second day of practice and cold conditions both in the air and in the water.
“It was so much cooler (the water temperature) than I expected and it was a pretty tough bite out there for me,” he said. “They’ll still bite here when it’s cold, and I remember that from that Classic I fished when the water was 44-degrees. I haven’t had a great practice, but I’ve found a few potential patterns.”
He believes a willingness to adapt to the conditions is the biggest key this week.
“I’m going to keep an open mind and go with the plan, but still be willing to call an audible and try something else if it’s not working,” Vinson said.
“Practice wasn’t easy, but I found some fish,” Coulter said. “The only way I could get bit was something that probably won’t play in the tournament because of the different weather conditions were going to get. We already had a lot of rain come in and that’s going to muddy up the water and the lake has already come up a few inches.”
He added that the changing weather conditions might not matter as much as he’s predicting because this is Oklahoma; he’s not sure yet.
“I have to keep reminding myself that these fish are used to the cold and muddy water so that the changes may get in our heads more than anything,” Coulter said. “I’m looking forward to this event because it’s not a points event and you’re either going to catch them and do well or not. It will be fun to fish on the fly and make adjustments during the day, almost like a Cup event.”