GROVE, Okla. — Toby Hartsell relied on his home-waters advantage at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees to take the lead in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open finale.
The 46-year-old Afton, Okla., angler caught a five-bass limit weighing 16 pounds, 5 ounces despite struggling recently to catch bass on his home lake. “The fishing has been really bad," said Hartsell, the co-owner of an automated boat cover business. “It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even catch five keepers. I could go out tomorrow and not catch a limit.”
Hartsell said he fished the last couple of weeks “quite a bit” but never could figure out a pattern. “I just went fishing today (relying) on past knowledge,” he said. “I was just hoping I could figure it out as the day went by.”
The local angler caught his keepers today on a topwater lure, plastic worm and jig. “It has been a problem catching a 4- or 5-pounder,” he said. “But I caught a 4-pounder today and then I filled it in with 3-pounders, and that made all the difference in the world.” Hartsell estimated he boated about 50 to 60 miles today to catch his limit.
Hartsell is also taking a run at qualifying for the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series. He was in 13th place in the Central Open points standings, and his opening-round performance jumped him into first place in the points standings with 531 points.
Eighteen-year-old Andy Ortega of Odessa, Texas, has been working 70 hours a week in the oil-and-gas industry in west Texas, which has limited his fishing time, but he practiced enough this week to put together a pattern and grab second place today with a 15-15 limit. “The fish have been moving a lot,” Ortega said. “I am finding them on main lake stuff and now the shad are in the backs of the creeks and the bass are following them, but the bigger bass are really scattered.”
Ortega caught bass on two different lures in practice but narrowed his selection down to one today. “I am sticking with what I think the bigger fish will be caught on,” he said.
Other pro division anglers in the Top 5 include Elite angler James Elam, Tulsa, Okla., third, 14-13; Thomas Canady, Collinsville, Okla., fourth, 14-3; and Gary Clouse, La Vergne, Tenn., also fourth, 14-3.
Forty-five-year-old Oklahoma City firefighter Steve Tennison took over the lead in the co-angler division with a three-bass limit weighing 8-15. “My pro (Ralph Myhlhousen) was great, and we fished my kind of fishing. We were able to have a lot of fun together,” Tennison said.
John Garrett of Union City, Tenn., the Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic qualifier for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, leads the pro division for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award after Day 1 with a 5-14 largemouth. Leading the nonboater division for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award after the first day is Joe Gammell of Broken Arrow, Okla., with a 5-pound largemouth.
Friday’s takeoff, weigh-in and the final-day launch will be held at Wolf Creek Park, 963 N. 16th St., in Grove. The final-day weigh-in will move to the Bass Pro Shops at 101 Bass Pro Drive in Broken Arrow.
The event is hosted by the City of Grove, Okla.