Plains Division kicks off the season at Grand Lake - Major League Fishing

Plains Division kicks off the season at Grand Lake

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The prespawn isn't a bad time to fish on Grand Lake, but the weather could make things tough this week. Photo by Matt Brown.
March 16, 2023 • Jody White • Toyota Series

GROVE, Okla. – The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Plains Division is set to be one of the most popular divisions this year, with 219 pros and Strike King co-anglers signed up for the first event of the year on Grand Lake. A fishery loaded with history, Grand has hosted some epic showdowns over the years, and the spring or late winter is always an interesting time to fish it, with the potential for real fireworks. Still, cold weather has the fish a little chilly, and the wind forecast looks downright brutal for this event, which will make things tough for many of the competitors.

Grand Lake is one of the better lakes in the country with minimal aquatic vegetation.

About the fishery

Though technically in the Ozarks, Grand Lake is a bit of a combo between a prairie lake and a true Ozark impoundment. It’s flatter and shallower than Beaver Lake and Table Rock, but you can still mistake large sections of it for the Ozarks very easily. The impoundment was created in 1940 when the Pensacola Dam was finished. The 46,500-acre reservoir is the largest impoundment on the Neosho River (which is also called the Grand River, particularly below Grand Lake), and the lake is a bit more than an hour or so from Tulsa.

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 brushpiles are fairly common throughout the lake.

The split nature of the lake is shared by its tributaries to an extent. Flowing from Kansas in the north, the Neosho River is the primary tributary. Meeting up with it near the top of the lake, the Spring River also flows from Kansas and the western edge of Missouri. The part of the lake fed primarily by the Neosho is notably dirtier, and the upper reaches of it feature a lot of permanently shallow water strewn with laydowns. Entering the lake to the north of Sailboat Bridge, the Elk River is the clearest-running large tributary of Grand and flows from the east out of the Missouri Ozarks.

Jerkbaits and spinnerbaits are time-honored spring staples on Grand Lake.

Setting up the event

Chad Warren and Dalton Harbin weighed 25.72 pounds to win the recent Anglers in Action event on Grand, and Warren has high hopes for this coming week, even if things aren’t easy.  According to Warren, the lake is still pretty cold, which will likely keep a flat-out prespawn slugfest at bay.

“The water is cold, it’s probably upper 40s, it might get into the 50s, but it’s probably going to get back into the 40s by the weekend,” Warren said. “There are a lot of shad dying, that’s probably why a lot of people are struggling – there are shad dying everywhere.

“Everybody is talking like it’s pretty tough, they keep calling it stingy. Obviously, I don’t think that, because I’m catching them. But, it’s pretty tough for a lot of people to get a bite, or get five bites.”

Of course, a handful of bites can result in pretty good weight on Grand Lake, especially in the spring. So, there are likely to be some good bags caught on traditional prespawn methods at Grand.

“They’re trying to move up, they know the days are getting longer, they’re starting to get makin’ babies on their mind,” Warren said. “They’re not up where it’s easy for everybody to catch them, but if you know the right places to look, they are starting to get close to the bank. Guys are going to start catching them on jigs, crankbaits, jerkbaits shallow – that bite should get better and better.”

In the meantime, folks should be able to do well deeper. Last year, Michael Neal and Edwin Evers knocked it out of the park deep in REDCREST on Grand, and forward-facing sonar has opened up an aspect of the fishery that didn’t used to be there.

One of the storylines of the event is likely to be the weather, as there’s a lot of wind in the forecast almost every day. Good clothes are going to be a must, and the fishing won’t be easy.

“I love it when it blows here,” Warren said. “It makes it hard on a lot of people – you can’t look at what you want with your LiveScope, and it’s hard to find new stuff when it’s blowing like that. Personally, I really like it – there have probably been three tournaments here in March and April that it blew 25 to 30, that my dad and I fished, and it seems like I always have a chance when it does that. Weights are always a little worse, and guys have a hard time slowing down like they need to.”

Critical factors

  • Dealing with the wind – The forecast for this event is downright abysmal. Warmer weather with rain and a big south wind are in the cards for Day 1, with frigid weather and a big north wind on the final two days. Having a bite that is wind-resistant will be huge.
  • Staying consistent – it’s not uncommon to see quite a few anglers in the Top 10 in a spring event on Grand with bags over 20 pounds. But, the winning recipe is usually a big day, with two good days – avoiding a bad day in the low teens will be key for the winner.
The weather is expected to be a key factor this week.

Dock talk

Though the weather is top of mind for most competitors, weights are still predicted to be alright.

Cole Breeden thinks that it’ll take 52 to 58 pounds to win. A little lower, Mike McClelland reckons that 48 pounds is the winning number.  

For his part, Warren is expecting good things.

“Based off my practice, I think the guy who wins it is going to have 20 pounds a day,” Warren said. “A lot of guys on the same bite I’m on, they know where to throw and what to throw, and they’ve been catching them the last few weeks. I think you’re going to have to have around 60 pounds to win this thing.”