With the Sabine River getting moved back to early June, Grand Lake in Oklahoma is now the second stop of 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series season.
Grand Lake should be primed to be a great event that features plenty of good bags and should include limits over the 20-pound mark. With temperatures approaching the spawn so far in the first week of April there should be fish caught in all stages once the anglers get to Oklahoma. The water was dirty and flowing swiftly just a few weeks ago, but now that the rains have stopped, and the lake has settled some the clarity, and water conditions should be improving daily.
With a tournament this time of the year, you definitely want to have anglers with numerous cards in their back pocket as opposed to those dialed in on one thing. We saw that in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods when Jordan Lee kept so many patterns and baits honest and was able to adapt as he changed regions of the lake. The same should be expected at Grand.
BUCKET A: HITE
My pick: Brett Hite
Brett Hite started his season strong at Lake Martin fishing vertically offshore. We could see a bladed jig catch a lot of bass at Grand Lake, but so many other factors might also be in play. Flipping, cranking, maybe even some topwater fish will get caught at Grand and that could set up well for those “junk fishing” across the entire lake.
Considered: James Elam
Of the three Oklahoma anglers considered locals at Grand, Elam easily slides under the radar. Edwin Evers and Jason Christie will receive a lot of attention, and rightfully so, but Elam has had his fair share of success at Grand. With an Opens win last fall during tough conditions, he showed poise. He definitely knows the seasonal hot spots for the lake, and without the weight of a Classic in this event it could be another Top 12 for him.
BUCKET B: R. LANE
My pick: Russ Lane
This goes with my theme of keeping numerous options open. I could see Russ Lane mixing up some flipping, cranking, swim jig and many other techniques because based on how the weather is setting up for the event it should be wide open with good conditions.
Considered: Jason Christie, Greg Hackney
It’s incredibly hard to ignore how good Jason Christie and Greg Hackney are, and if percentages weren’t involved I would bet on them for this powerfishing shootout. With Christie garnering 30-percent ownership and Hackney at 25 percent there are plenty of other options that aren’t so popular. After a tough Classic for my Fantasy team there is room to improve and Bucket B is where I’d like to earn some points back.
BUCKET C: CREWS
My pick: John Crews
Something tells me the John Crews may do well here. If history is an indication, he certainly won’t do poorly, as he hasn’t missed a cut in his four trips to Grand Lake. He’s made two Top 50 checks in the 2006 and 2007 Elite events and then in 2013 and 2016 he made the Top 25’s to fish the final day of both Classics.
Considered: Mike McClelland
I don’t normally like picking an angler in back-to-back events, and after having McClelland on my Fantasy team at Martin I hesitated here. But he also has rich history at Grand. He is an Arkansan, but is very accomplished on many of the lakes along the White River, including Table Rock and Bull Shoals. Just over the border in Oklahoma he’s done well on Grand with four finishes in the Top 25. He won in June of 2006, finished 11th in 2007 and then fifth at the 2013 Classic when it was brutally cold.
BUCKET D: LOWEN
My pick: Bill Lowen
It’s been uncharacteristic of Bill Lowen to struggle. He hasn’t blown the doors off the Elite Series competition, but there is a reason he’s nicknamed “Dollar Bill” Lowen and that’s because he cashes checks consistently. After a tough start at Martin and tough end to 2017, he needs a good showing at Grand to get back in his groove of making cuts.
Considered: Dave Lefebre
Although I immediately thought Gerald Swindle for this event, I feel that Lefebre is a great choice given his considerably lower ownership percentage. With the likes of Kevin VanDam, Jordan Lee, Gerald Swindle and Brandon Palaniuk in this bucket; over 70 percent of ownership is gobbled up so picking some of the 2- to 3-percent anglers could net a good return on investment. My main pick of Bill Lowen is at 7- to 8-percent, which is prime location and low risk.
BUCKET E: THARP
My pick: Randall Tharp
No, I didn’t fall asleep and keep Randall Tharp in my Bucket E selection, but rather with this event falling on a time where a slugfest could be in the works, it helps to have an angler that can often bust a big bag or numerous big bags during an event. If Tharp can flip his jig and bounce around areas of the lake, then it could be a much-needed lights-out event for him. Yes, you can count on him probably being on my team at the Sabine, but I wouldn’t expect him to be in Bucket E come June.
Considered: Drew Benton
Benton has some of the best eyes on the Elite Series and by that — I mean sight fishing. If there are fish left on beds anywhere around Grand Lake, Benton will probably see them and catch them. That’s always a dangerous thing this time of the year because a couple fish could move up at one time in a single pocket and it could make an anglers week if they catch them. I wouldn’t expect sight fishing to play a huge factor since the water temp is already approaching that prime time, but stragglers could always be a good sign, especially because fry guarders can be some of the easiest fish to catch.