We left Brad Whatley to spend some time with Josh Bertrand who started the day in 5th. So far between James Overstreet and myself, we've caught up with four of the Top 5 with the exception being Tim Cline. Of those four, two are still sitting on zero keepers. Biffle had two the last time Overstreet and I spoke and Stetson had three earlier this morning. Both Bertrand and Whatley admitted most of their bites came later in the day so neither are particularly surprised by the lackluster start. But today's a different day. The cloud cover has replaced the sunny skies of yesterday and the wind is blowing a consistent 5-10 miles per hour at this point. Great conditions for somebody to catch them, but will that somebody be a guy sitting back in 75th who struggle yesterday? Will any of the Top 5 be able to adjust and distance themselves from the pack? All of that remains to be seen. It's 10 a.m. now, about an hour from when the bite picked up yesterday. Things should start getting better if they're going to.
Tommy Biffle encountered Stetson Blaylock on his first stop of the day. Blaylock caught two keepers and Biffle boated one bass and then he moved on. It appeared not so much a move to avoid the presence of Blaylock as part of a plan. Biffle is making frequent, short stops on the lower lake at what are obviously hidden gems below the surface. His intimate knowledge of each offshore spot, how it sets up in these conditions, and the very piece of cover where he’ll cast next are all calculated moves. No one else can dial into fish at such a rapid pace without the extent of knowledge that Biffle has on this lake.
Beyond his strong sense of fish behavior are the changing conditions setting up in Biffle’s favor. As reported by Shaye Baker, the water is on the rise. For shallow anglers that means calculating bass movement accordingly as the fish move. For Biffle it might mean his fish are more likely to remain stationary on the cover than move.
Day 1 leader Brad Whatley starts shallow on a very different Day 2. This time yesterday you needed to have your sunscreen on already. Today, probably 15 degrees cooler and post frontal. A little rain pushed through the area last night with a slight chance of a little more this morning. The warm breeze we saw yesterday will be replaced with a strong wind today building at times to 20 miles per hour. That wind will bring colder weather pushing the low tonight deep into the 50s.
Conditions are definitely changing here on Fort Gibson which is a welcomed occurrence for most of the field who complained of a hot and tough Day 1. Surely Brad Whatley would have loved a mirrored image of Day 1 conditions considering they put him in contact with 18-pounds, 9-ounces of Fort Gibson bass.
But the man with the most to gain from all the changing conditions in the weather and water level is the guy sitting in second place, Tommy Biffle. Wagner, Oklahoma native, Elite Series veteran and unofficial but undisputed king of Fort Gibson Lake, Biffle knows what to do, how to do it and when to do it out here no matter the conditions. Starting today only 15-ounces off the lead, the pre-tournament favorite is still the mid-tournament favorite to win this thing.
With the Bassmaster Classic coming to Grand Lake just up the road and Biffle's opportunities to qualify quickly diminishing now that his Elite season is over, he's more motivated than ever to seal the deal here this week and punch his Classic ticket.
Stetson Blaylock and Tommy Biffle already have exchanged some heated words, according to James Overstreet. He's in the middle of the action now. Here's the proof. Blaylock just caught 2 in front of Biffle. Stay tuned. This could get interesting.
Brad Whatley is leading the Open, and is the first boat off the dock this morning.
As this is written the anticipated cold front is crossing Fort Gibson. The temperature is falling and expected to reach a high in the mid-70s. Isolated heavy rain fell overnight. And one pound and a few ounces separate the top 5. What that all means for the bass fishing remains to be seen.
The answers will come this afternoon at weigh-in. Based on all of the above the biggest question is about Tommy Biffle.
One question already has an answer. Biffle likely will make the top 12 cut. Doing so will certainly be advantageous for him tomorrow when the field is cut and fewer boats are on the lake.
The water level on Fort Gibson is in full fluctuation mode. Heavy rainfall two nights ago has a lot of water headed this way. Grand Lake is emptying quickly into Hudson Lake. In order for those two not to flood, all that water has to continue down the Grand River into Fort Gibson. According to my camera boat driver John Soukup, Gibson rose two feet in the last two days. And the future is unknown. Gibson could rise another couple feet before the Grand River Dam Association decides to send the water further down the river. But then again the GRDA could start dropping the lake as much as a foot per day at any minute. Anglers are having to adjust to a constantly moving target and with more rain in the forecast tomorrow night, the uncertainty grows. One thing Soukup pointed out, the fish will move with the water. Although these conditions may be a like unfamiliar for the fishermen, the fish deal with them all the time here. Soukup believes this tournament will be won in less than 5 feet. That's just where the fish like to live on Gibson this time of year. So if what's usually 5 feet deep becomes 9 feet deep, you just have to follow the fish shallower. The only real problem with this is several of the better holes on the lake right now are actually shallow offshore humps with deeper water all around them. When the water rises on these areas the fish can't simply push shallower so they disperse and a spot that produced 18 pounds one day might not hold a fish the next. This is going to be a very tough tournament for anglers to be consistent throughout. But that is the name of the game after all, consistency. And somebody will crack the code. They always do.