The changing face of Fort Gibson

WAGONER, Okla. — Consistency is everything in the sport of tournament bass fishing. If you slam a heavy limit one day and bomb the next, you have no chance of winning a multi-day Bassmaster Opens tournament.
 
The mark of a superior angler is the ability to switch gears and catch bass when fishing conditions change. The conditions changed dramatically from Thursday to Friday at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open presented by Allstate at Fort Gibson Lake.
 
Thursday was hot and calm with rising water. Overnight storms ushered in much cooler temperatures, an overcast sky and a blustery wind Friday. Of the Top 3 anglers Thursday, only one survived today to make the Top 12 cut for Saturday’s finale. That person is hometown favorite Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla. He dropped from second to seventh place.
 
The angler who held serve is Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., who started today in fourth place with 17 pounds, 4 ounces. Blaylock claimed the lead with a 14-2 limit and a two-day total of 31-6.
 
“I’ve been sharing water with other anglers,” Blaylock said. “There are only a few really good places here right now.”
 
Blaylock claims that he doesn’t mind sharing water as long as everyone is cordial. Even though the field will be cut to 12 anglers on Saturday, he believes he will still have to share water.
 
When asked Thursday why he was catching heavier limits than the other anglers fishing the same water he is, Blaylock was mum. Today he revealed that fishing slower than his competitors has given him the edge.
 
With a 13-pound limit Thursday, Bassmaster Elite Series pro James Elam of Tulsa, Okla., was in 25th place and didn’t seem like a threat to win. Today, he overcame conditions that made for tougher fishing and boated a 15-11 limit. That jumped his total to 28-11 and landed him in second place.
 
Elam has been fishing mainly offshore with four different lures. Friday, he had to downsize his offerings to get bites.
 
“I would have died today if I had kept fishing like I did yesterday,” Elam said. “As tough as it is now, I’ll have to keep an open mind tomorrow.”
 
Saturday will show the anglers another face of Fort Gibson with clear skies and a high barometer, post-frontal conditions that usually turn off the bass.
 
Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., is another consistent Elite Series pro. His Thursday limit of 14-2 had him 14th place. Today Browning sacked 12-11 and leapfrogged to third place with 26-13. He relied on the same pattern each day, but has had to keep on the move and fish new water.
 
“These bass are not stacked,” Browning said. “When you catch one you have to run 3 miles to catch another one.”
 
Joe Lee of Grand Prairie, Texas, sacked an impressive 12-2 three-bass limit today to take the lead in the co-angler division with 20 pounds even. Lee claims that his partner today made an adjustment around noon that put them on the bass.
 
Although Elite Series pro Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Okla., landed a 5-14 Friday, the 5-15 bass Chad Wiley caught on Day 1 is still the biggest bass in the pro division. Should it hold up one more day, Wiley will win the $750 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award.
 
Co-angler Dane Coale of Norman, Okla., will pocket a $250 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award if his 5-4 lunker isn’t bested by another co-angler on Saturday.
 
Pro angler Brandon Lee of Ratcliff, Ark., won the $250 Allstate Good Hands, Great Day award for climbing the most points from Thursday to Friday. His whopping 18-9 on today rocketed him from 111th to 24th place.
 
Michael Scalise of Port Allen, La., won the Good Hands, Great Day co-angler award of $150 for leapfrogging from 114th to 43rd place.
 
Saturday’s takeoff will take place at 6:45 a.m. CT at Taylors Ferry North. The final weigh-in will be held at 3:45 p.m. at the Bass Pro Shops at 101 Bass Pro Drive in Broken Arrow, Okla. Tune into Bassmaster.com for live blog updates, photos and more on Saturday.