Don’t rule Biffle out

WAGONER, Okla. — You have to look far down the scoreboard to find a familiar name that should appear in first place. The name is Tommy Biffle, and he’s in 32nd place in a tournament underway on the lake he calls home.

“I’m a lot more relaxed than usual,” Biffle said of his performance on Fort Gibson Lake at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open. “Actually, I’m relieved.”

He’s at ease after the turn of events of just two weeks ago at New York’s Oneida Lake. There, Biffle avoided near disaster in a do-or-die run to qualify for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. Making this Classic is by far the most important of his 17 previous appearances. That’s because the fishery is Grand Lake. It’s just 65 miles from his hometown, making him a front-runner to win a title that has eluded him for decades.

Don’t count out Biffle for potentially staging a rally at Fort Gibson. There is a familiar pattern that’s worth watching. And that is the veteran pro’s consistency for making strong finishes in season-ending tournaments.

At Oneida Lake, he advanced 10 places in the point standings to qualify for the Classic. Since 2006, Biffle has posted top 20 finishes in all but one season-ending Bassmaster event.

“I really like springtime fishing and everybody knows pitching and flipping is my dominant style,” he admitted. “After all these years I’ve been able to pull it out at the end when it counts, though. It’s just my competitive drive to finish the job when it’s on the line.”

Winning at Fort Gibson was Biffle’s fallback plan if he failed to close the deal at Oneida. Finishing the Classic quest in New York now makes the ugly reality of what’s happening in his backyard even sweeter.

“I spent a lot of time on this lake before going to New York,” he said. “And I was really on them good. I felt good about it for a Plan B.”

The plan hinged on a southerly breeze and bright skies. Now, the tournament conditions are exactly the opposite. The day two forecast calls for a frontal passage to pack thunderstorms with northerly winds. The triple digit heat will give way to highs in the low 80s by the championship round.

Plan B was a blowout. Yet Biffle has a Plan C ready for tomorrow.

“I fished a lot of places today, just ran a lot of spots,” he said. “I’m going to stop running around and fish where I can put myself in position to get the quality bites.”

Biffle shrugs off any thought of leaving after tomorrow. Even though home is just over the hill from the weigh-in site. He’s too close to home not to make one final run before the season ends.