TULSA, Okla. — Wild expectations changed into high probabilities overnight at Grand Lake on Day One of the Bassmaster Classic. When three anglers topped 20 pounds, the dream of averaging that weight over three days became near-reality.
"I think it's going to take 20 pounds a day to win it," said Kevin VanDam, the four-time Classic champion, who is in fourth place with 19 pounds, 12 ounces. "There are so many big fish in this lake; 25 pounds (a day) happens all the time here."
Chris Lane, last year's Classic champion, zeroed on Day One, but he saw enough from others to have an opinion on the outcome.
"I think it will take 63 or 64 pounds to win," Lane said. "I think it will only get better, for sure."
Hank Cherry, a Classic rookie, is in third place with 20-15. He deferred to VanDam in predicting what would happen over the next three days, saying, "As far as the (total), I'm not going to guess. I'll go with what he said."
The co-leaders – Mike Iaconelli and Cliff Pace with 21-8 – were a little more guarded in their expectations, but not much.
"I think the potential is there for 20 or 21 (pounds a day), but I still think 18 ½ to 19 ½ will win it," Iaconelli said. "The potential is there, though, for sure."
But this is the ultimate irony: Warmer weather, like that predicted for Sunday, may actually hamper the bass fishing at Grand Lake.
"This is one of the Ozarks lakes," noted Jason Christie, who is sixth with 18-12. "The colder it is, the bigger (the bass), it seems like."
Christie should know. It was acknowledged entering this Classic, that Christie has the most experience at Grand Lake, although little in late February in 20-degree weather. Christie, 39, estimated he has fished 50 tournaments, minimum, at Grand Lake over the last 15 years.
And Christie "touched" 20 pounds Friday. A 4 ½ pounder brushed his hand before coming unhooked as he was preparing to land it.
"It had one hook in the lip," he said. "The bad thing is, it would have culled a two-pounder."
After learning the hard way Friday, Christie had some advice for the other anglers this week, who are fishing in these frigid conditions: "When you lose one, and it's 22 degrees, don't slap the water."