There’s a good crew of Oklahoma anglers on the FLW Tour, but of them, Chad Warren is definitely one of the favorites at Grand Lake. Stop No. 4 of the 2019 Tour, which is presented by Mercury, heads to Grand in the early spring for a prespawn tournament that might feature really good fishing. Warren has a lot of experience on Grand and has never missed a check in Costa FLW Series competition there.
I meet Warren and his dad, Dennis, at Wolf Creek Park around 7 a.m. CT, just when a team tournament is in the throes of takeoff. As such, it takes a little bit to get in the water and going. As Chad's dad navigates the truck, the young pro pulls out a handful of rods with jigs, spinnerbaits, and a few crankbaits and jerkbaits and makes a few last-minute tweaks.
After picking up his dad and sneaking away from the other tournament boats, Chad cranks up and runs up the lake to an arm with water that is quite a bit cleaner than it was at the ramp.
After a rough first year on Tour in 2017, Chad is back with a vengeance. Starting off with a top 10 at Rayburn, he followed it up by making the cut at Toho. Though Seminole didn’t go quite as well, he’s still sitting pretty at 14th in the standings with four tournaments to go.
After stopping on a bank just outside of a pocket, Chad starts fishing, alternating mostly between a jig and a spinnerbait. Right off the bat, I’m curious about his outlook going into a Tour event on a lake he’s grown up fishing.
“It’s pretty awesome,” says Chad. “Really awesome. I actually know where to look, and even if I don’t catch them in practice I know where they live. It’s a good feeling, rigging up at home and driving up here not wondering what it’s going to look like.”
Though Chad doesn’t actually live on Grand, his home in Sand Springs, Okla., isn’t much more than an hour from the lake. This week for the tournament, he’s staying at his parents’ place on the lake, which is midway through a remodel, but features cots and running water.
Chad fishes slowly and methodically, which could be why he’s so good on Grand.
“One advantage of being a local is that you’re probably going to have to fish slow to get bites,” says Chad, who’s currently reading water temps in the low 50s. “It’s a little like Florida that way. It’s easier to fish slow if you know where you should be.”
After hanging up behind a dock and failing to retrieve his jig with a pole-style lure-retriever, Dennis gets on the board with a chunk from the back of the boat. With a good bass in the boat pretty early, the optimism meter is on the way up for the father-and-son duo.
Around 9 a.m., after fishing one bank for more than an hour, Chad cranks his Mercury and idles across to the other side of the cove he's fishing. Though the bank looks a lot steeper on this side, it really isn’t, but it’s something new to fish.
As Chad works down it with a crankbait and a spinnerbait, his dad picks up another fish dragging. It’s now 2-0 in favor of Dennis in case you’re counting.
Chad finishes out the bank and then fishes the point of the arm before deciding to move. He gets up on plane and basically goes right back to where he started the day. Right off the bat, he catches a spotted bass to get on the board.
After going around about two more docks, Chad strikes again, muscling a pretty legit fish out from behind a dock. It’s a tie ballgame, and he’s suddenly a little more excited than he thought he'd be this early on.
Hopping on the phone with Brandon Mosley, the only person he shares in-depth info with on Tour, Chad gives and receives a little breakdown as he packs up for a bit of a move. Then, he's off, running out toward the lake. After a quick chat with Austin Wilson at the bridge, Chad settles down at the mouth of a fairly shallow pocket and pulls out a spinnerbait.
Last weekend on Grand the last check in a big team tournament went to a team that weighed less than 5 pounds. The pro thinks things are looking up.
“Just judging by their weights and our morning, I would say the fishing is significantly better than last weekend.”
Chad has pulled out one extra rod this morning, but mostly what he put on deck to start has filled his needs. All his rods are well-worn Falcon models, with various reels strapped to 'em. Prepared for muddy water, Chad has some pretty bright baits on, but he’s also got the usual stuff tied up as well.
Working from front to back with a spinnerbait, Chad quickly seins through the shallow cove he started in with no results. As he has done so often today, he keeps the trolling motor down and continues along another stretch of middling bank and docks across the way from where he came off plane.
Back in January on the FLW Podcast, he said that he fished too fast in his rookie season, and he’s trying to fish more slowly and more his style this year. So far, he seems to be succeeding.
With the sun finally popping out, Chad begins to get a little surprised.
“We’ve fished this bank slow, like I feel like we should,” he says. “But, my confidence is dwindling a bit now.”
About five minutes later, just a past a shallow point, Chad hooks into one. He’s back on track.
Chad really has a knack for patience, and he sure seems like he’s comfortable as all get-out on Grand. He also has a particular trait of keeping a finger on the line as he drags his jig – holding the rod with all four fingers above the trigger. Presumably, it helps him feel light bites and avoid a snag or two along the way.
Around 11:30, with no more bites on the stretch he's on, Chad decides to head out to the main lake. This area is a bit limited, and he wants to spend the bulk of his time in the main part of Grand.
“I hope I’m not screwing up,” Chad muses. “It’s been pretty productive here. Still, we haven’t seen one we really wanted.”
En route to the lower end of the lake, the Oklahoma pro drops me off in Wolf. Then, the father-son duo is back at it, looking for the fish that could earn Chad his first FLW win with a little luck.