In Constant Change

GROVE, Okla. — Severe storms have peppered the lower half of the United States the past few days, but few can compare to the rain event of the Midwest last week. As much as fourteen inches of rain pounded areas of southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri and to many Elite Series pro's, it must have seemed like all of it flowed into Grand Lake in northeastern Oklahoma, site of The Sooner Run presented by Longhorn Tobacco.

 Water levels rose high into the innumerable willow trees lining the reservoir, swelling significantly the lake's 59,200 acres and shaping a solid shallow water bite early this week. But that was in practice. The water has slipped to just two to two and half feet above normal. And competition days are almost certain to merit change.

 "It'll be real interesting to see how it plays out. The lake is dirty from one end of it to the other and I'm not just talking about the water clarity. It's just mind-boggling the amount of trash out there," said Mark Tucker. "It's really prevented guys from getting to a lot of the good places."More normal water levels should mean typical summertime patterns, such as those that Elite anglers feasted upon last year with early morning shallow bites and solid deep structure fishing.

 But Tucker says the dirty water works against the field in more ways than one, unless things change significantly.

 "If we have weather like this, it's really going to eliminate the topwater bite," said Tucker as he busied himself tweaking tackle and pausing to sign autographs at Wednesday's overcast Angler's Alley. "And if you want to fish the trash piles and logjams, you really need the sun to come out. You don't want it to be cloudy for the willow trees, either."

 Of course, clearer water toward the weekend could mean the ubiquitous summertime bugaboo — recreational boat traffic — will likely be in play. Sun worshippers like their surroundings to be aesthetically pleasing and reports of clearing water toward the backside of the tournament could see the pleasure craft crowd become a factor.

 Tucker says that he's heard that the powers that be, having pulled enough water in getting the lake down to its present level, will likely not be generating electricity during the day, meaning the lakes offshore structure will be essentially dead water unless the wind blows more than its forecasted.

 "You're really going to have to hone in on the perfect depth. It's dropped too much for the willow trees to hold enough fish to get in the top five," Tucker said. "It'll be hard to fish a crankbait with all of the trash in the water. The fish can't see a Carolina rig or a jig. This has really put everyone on an even playing field."

 Californian Ish Monroe says he'll start out fishing shallow, but if he's not connecting on the size fish he feels he needs, he says he's prepared to grind it out on the deep structure.

 "I'm going to fish shallow for the (five fish)limits, but it's going to be a lot easier to get a good one in deep water," said Monroe. "You'll have an opportunity to catch a few big fish shallow, but those 6 to eight pounders don't move. If you've ever looked at studies of fish movement, you'll see that those big fish are going to stay there."

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