Hosted by the City of Grove
Presented by Mercury
Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees (more commonly referred to as Grand Lake) is situated in Northeast Oklahoma among the foothills of the Ozarks. The impoundment was created in 1940 when the Pensacola Dam was finished along the Grand River. The 46,500-surface-acre reservoir now hosts plenty of recreational opportunities, but more importantly, is also home to some of the best bass fishing in the country.
Being that Grand Lake is found in the Ozarks, the predominant structure on the lake is rock. Aside from various types of rock, docks and wood found in the form of flooded bushes, laydowns and brush piles are found fairly commonly throughout the lake.
The FLW Tour hasn’t been to Grand since June of 2013. Back then, flipping shallow cover was the predominant pattern and local hammer Jason Christie got the W with 78 pounds, 1 ounce overall.
In recent years, the Costa FLW Series has made Grand a regular stop. Last year, Oklahoma’s Chris Jones scored the win with 47-3 over three days by rolling a spinnerbait behind docks for suspended fish moving up to spawn. In 2017, Nick Prvonozac won sight-fishing or pitching to where he marked beds earlier in the week. Go back to 2016 and Zack Birge won cranking shallow points in Wolf Creek.
Unseasonably cold temperatures have impacted every stretch of the country this winter and early spring, with Oklahoma being no exception. Because of that, the bass in Grand should be 100 percent prespawn.
FLW Tour pro Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla., has put his time in on Grand over the years – including winning the 2015 Costa FLW Series event there – and he knows as well as any how feast or famine this time of year can be on Grand.
“Standard Grand Lake in the springtime is to go through a lull in March,” Hallman says. “When the water starts to warm back up about now is when a lot of the shad die. People think it happens when the water gets cold, but it’s actually when it warms up. It makes it hard to generate bites because there are so many dead shad for those bass to eat, but it also makes for some huge fish heading into the spawn. That leads to the quality being there.
“The lull usually happens for about three weeks before we come out of it and we’ve been in it for about that time now. When the lake comes out of it, it starts firing.”
Recent rains have drenched the region leaving the lake about 3 feet above full pool at the moment, though it is on its way down. The lake more stained than normal, but despite cool, dirty water Hallman believes that the fishing will be good and they’ll be chewing across the lake.
“The thing with Grand is that [bass] live from one end of the lake to the other,” says Hallman. “Certain sections of the lake will be hot. Which section that will be, I don’t know, but we’ve seen that in the national and regional tournaments here somebody from the top 10 will catch them on the upper end and someone will catch them by the dam.”
Prespawn in the Ozarks means lots of casting and winding. Crankbaits of all shapes and sizes will certainly play a big role, along with a spinnerbait and perhaps a vibrating jig. Expect to see these baits tossed at whatever structure is in front of a pro running down the bank, from docks to rock to laydowns.
Despite stained water, a jerkbait could also have a hand in some big bags. There are areas pros will be able to find cleaner water and if the wind blows some, it will only help that bite.
Also, you can’t discount a shaky head or a jig. They’re a classic prespawn option when fish are in a funky mood and you can bet plenty of fish will be caught dragging.
1. Water temperature – The water temperature now is somewhere in the upper 40s, but warming weather will likely help bring it up throughout practice and the event. The more the water warms, the better the bite should get.
2. Water level – There is rain in the 10-day forecast and how much it will translate to is yet to be determined. If some rain pushes through, it could keep the lake at a level where flipping bushes comes into play. On the flip side, falling water could help concentrate fish staging to spawn and possibly lead to better bags caught.
3. Pressure – As with any fishery, both pressure from the Tour event and locals can take its toll. Just because a pro catches them from one area one day doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be able to replicate it. Pros that can adapt and change with the conditions and avoid pressure will likely survive to see the weekend.
There are quite a few Okies in the field and you’ll certainly want to take note of them. Scott Ashmore, Sheldon Collings, Kyle Cortiana, Jeff Dobson, Derek Fulps, Hallman, Jimmy Houston, Brandon Mosley, Darrel Robertson, Andrew Upshaw and Chad Warren all call the Sooner State home and are quite familiar with Grand.
Aside from locals, guys like Greg Bohannan, Jeremy Lawyer, David Dudley, Casey Scanlon, Brad Knight and current Angler of the Year leader Terry Bolton are all guys to keep watch on because of their prowess in the Ozarks or with a crankbait and spinnerbait.