Curt Warren knew what he wanted to do, and it had nothing to do with weeding through a bunch of small fish up shallow. Rather, he focused his attention on deeper Grand Lake spots with chunk rock and brush and amassed a three-day total of 46 pounds, 7 ounces to win the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division finale, presented by T-H Marine.
Warren employed a combination of dragging a jig and sending a spinnerbait into action for specific scenarios.
Here’s how the rest of the top 10 caught their fish and earned their checks on Grand.
2. Favorable conditions don’t hold up for Christie
After leading day one with 22-10 – the biggest bag of the tournament – local stick Jason Christie struggled to find any consistency the next two days. Adding 9-13 and 12-10, he ended the tournament in second place with 45-1.
“The first day was perfect – we had the kind of conditions on Grand that you want to catch a giant bag,” Christie says. “I pull in and in 30 minutes, I catch 15 pounds and then I just go fishing for big ones, and everywhere I pull in, I catch a big one. I probably caught four limits the first day.”
With post-frontal conditions setting in, day two proved exceptionally difficult for Christie to get big bites, so he shifted gears and fished for a limit. The final day, he says, proved particularly frustrating, as he missed three big fish opportunities and ended a pound and a half behind Warren.
“I really wasn’t that mad until I caught a big one with about 5 minutes left to go right outside (the check-in spot), because I knew the opportunity I’d had,” Christie says. “I was really hoping for some clouds the last morning, because I felt like I could catch another big bag.
“When I saw the rain coming, I told my co-angler ‘We have one hour.’ Literally, in the last 20 minutes of the day, I catch a 3-pounder and then I catch my biggest one.”
Christie caught his fish by casting a 1/2-ounce black BOOYAH buzzbait and flipping a YUM Christie Critter in the tinfoil color.
3. Hartsell flips a jig for third place
A perennial threat on Grand, Afton, Okla., pro Toby Hartsell stayed on the move and stayed near the top all three days. He was in fourth after day onewith a limit of 17-14 and held that position a day later when he added 11-13. On day three, Hartsell caught a limit that went 12-4 and finished third with 41-15.
“It seems that Grand use to be a lake where I could really go and catch them,” Hartsell says of his challenging week. “Now, you’ve got to go work hard all day. I had six keepers on the last day. It’s been like that all week, and I was just lucky to get some of the better ones in.”
Hartsell stuck with jigs all week. His lineup was comprised ofa 1/2-ounce Omega football jig with a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw trailer, a 11/16-ounce Gene Larew Biffle Hardhead with a Biffle Bug trailer and a 1/2-ounce homemade flipping jig with a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw.
The flipping jig was Hartsell’s choice for working a variety of docks, while the football jig and Bifflehead handled the open-water work. He alternated between the latter two baits to cover water and maintain bottom contact.
4. Big bite eludes fourth-place Hallman
Describing his week as a perpetual struggle devoid of game-changing opportunities, Oklahoma pro Bradley Hallman caught a day-one limit of 13-11, which put him in ninth place. He improved to fifth on day two by adding 14-10 – his best catch of the event – and on day three, Hallman’s 12-pound limit moved him up a notch to fourth with 40-5 total.
“I haven’t been fortunate enough to get a big bite all week; I haven’t caught a 4-pounder since I’ve been here,” Hallman admits. “I spent some time on day three trying to get one. I was fortunate enough to get a limit pretty quick that morning and then I swung some, but it just wasn’t going to work.
“I did the best I could this week. I just hopped around, flipped and threw a square-bill some. I just bopped around different places and fished little hidey holes – or I thought it was a hidey hole until I’d go there and find a boat sitting there and I’d go to the next hidey hole.”
5. Bird runs out of fish as the current dies off
Drawing on his experience with tidal bass along the Texas coast, Cody Bird found a scenario where falling lake water was pulling through dense shoreline cover. Leveraging this clean, filtered outfall, he sacked up a day-one limit of 19-3 and finished the day in second place.
Day two saw less current, as the falling water had slowed significantly. The area remained viable, and, despite the lack of current, Bird added 13-11 and moved into first place. Day three proved far more challenging, as Bird managed only three keepers for 6-8 and slipped to a fifth-place finish with 39-6 total.
“I think I just wore that area out,” Bird admits. “I had another little spot I was saving, but another angler got on it. I might have made a bad call by not going there first. But it was a good tournament and I think I maximized what I had.
“When you lead the tournament, it looks like you’re really catching a lot, but on day two I really struggled. I caught like four keepers in the last 30 minutes. It looked good on paper, but I barely made it in. And we didn’t fish as long on the last day; we fished until 2:30, and I caught my best one right before we came in, so they just started firing and I ran out of time.”
Bird caught his fish flipping a black and blue Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver, Zoom Brush Hog and a tubeand throwing a 1/2-ounce chartreuse and white Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a Lake Fork Live Magic Shad trailer.
6. Lawyer runs docks with jigs and worms
Missouri pro Jeremy Lawyer turned in daily weights of 13-14, 11-6 ad 11-1 and kept himself in the top-10 the entire tournament. He held the eighth-place spot for days one and two before settling at sixth with 36-5 for the tournament.
Focusing on docks was the plan from the jump, but Lawyer was unable to establish much consistency.
“I fished from the backs of the creeks to the mouths, in the wind, in the backs; I just tried to move around a bunch,” he says. “As far as the boat docks, I couldn’t key on which one I’d get a bite on, so I just kept bouncing around.
“I think I just caught local fish that just happened to be living on that boat dock. I think that’s what kept my weight down.”
Lawyer says he caught a couple of topwater fish, but most of his weight came on a 1/2-ounce JaKKed Baits DoKK RoKK 2.0 jig with a Zoom Z-Craw Jr. trailer and a JaKKed J-Law’s 413 ShaKKer HD head with a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm.
7. Sykora flips and cranks up shallow
After catching 10-9 on day one to start in 31st place, Marcus Sykora surged back day two with his best bag of the event – a 15-pound, 2-ounce limit that moved him into seventh. In the final round, he added 10-2 and finished in the number seven spot with 35-13 total for the tournament.
“I stayed shallow and flipped a Zoom plastic at everything I could see and cranked everything in between,” Sykora explains. “I threw a topwater a little, but I couldn’t figure them out.”
Sykora split his flipping time between a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm and a Zoom Z-Craw. He Texas-rigged both and also fished the Z-Craw on a homemade jig head for dock skipping. His crankbait was a 6th Sense square-bill in shad color and chartreuse black back.
8. Crawford drags out deep all three days
Lance Crawford, of Broken Arrow, Okla., looked to be on a run at the top-5, but a final-round stumble left him in eighth with 31-5. His first two days were consistent with 12-10 and 12-0, but day three yielded only two keepers for 6-11. Crawford says all three days began slowly.
“I never had a fish before 10:30, so I had to do a lot of changing,” says Crawford, who began day two in tenth place. “I swung for the fence today and fished out deep. That’s all I could do; I wasn’t going backwards.
9. Head mixes shallow docks and deep dragging
The biggest improvement of the top-10 belonged to Allen Head of Pryor, Ok. A lean day one produced 8 pounds, 2 ounces and left him in 40th place, but Head stepped on the gas a day later, catching his best bag – 18-13 – and rose 34 spots to sixth. In the final round, he found only two keepers for 4-5 and ended in ninth place with 31-4 total.
Head started each day shallow and fished docks for the first hour or so before moving deep, where he fished ledges and brush piles in 18 to 22 feet of water. A wacky-rigged Zoom Mag Finesse Worm served his dock game, while dragging a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Worm on a Texas rig or Carolina rig covered the offshore scenarios.
“Green pumpkin and watermelon were the basic colors for the wacky rig and the Vibra-tail worm,” Head says.
10. Heavener scraps game plan on day three
Ryan Heavener fished his way into fifth place on day one with his best bag of the week – a limit that weighed 14-11. The next two days would be less generous, and after a day-two bag of 10-4 and a final round catch with two fish for 3-8, the Tulsa, Okla., pro finished tenth with 28-7.
“I stuck to a shallow game plan all week, but today I had to scrap it and break out a secret weapon – a 5/16-ounce green pumpkin finesse ball head jig tied by Ron Cease – he’s forgotten more about this lake than I know,” Heavener says. “I used a green pumpkin Zoom [Ultra Vibe] Speed Craw for a trailer.”
Heavener says he flipped his finesse jig around isolated wood. Earlier in the event, he threw a square-bill and a custom wobble head.