Where do we go from here?


Shaye Baker

Elam keeps an eye on the far shore. A few docks are looking good to Elam.

Grand Lake water temperatures rose from the mid-40s a week ago to around 50 degrees by the start of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, leading many anglers to predict that fish would turn on as Friday’s tournament day progressed.

With a few exceptions, that didn’t happen. The expected slugfest is off to a more pedestrian start. But that doesn’t mean the bite can’t or won’t blow up Saturday or Sunday.

“I think you’ll see every day get progressively better,” said James Elam, an Elite Series pro from Tulsa who frequently fishes Grand Lake.

Although water temperatures on Grand Lake have been slowly rising over the past week, air temperatures dropped to near 32 degrees overnight Thursday. Still, water temperature at takeoff Friday morning was 50 degrees. By Friday afternoon, readings climbed into the mid-50s.

Tonight’s forecast low is 42 degrees, with temperatures expected to reach the mid-70s Saturday afternoon. Saturday night’s low is predicted to be a few degrees warmer. Those air temperatures would seem to suggest even warmer water temperatures for Saturday and Sunday.

And conventional wisdom would suggest that could lead Grand Lake’s bass to feed more actively the next two days.

“Somebody’s going to bust 20 or 25 pounds tomorrow,” said Chad Pipkens. “I don’t know why it can’t be me.”

“You’re going to have to keep adapting and changing as this thing goes on,” said Matt Herren.

Improved fishing conditions weren’t, however, a consensus.

“I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,” said James Watson, “but this (Friday) is probably going to be our best day.”

We’ll have to wait until Sunday to determine the merits of both arguments.

Mixed Bag for Past Champs

Although a couple of past Bassmaster Classic champs are notably near the top of the leaderboard, Day One wasn’t as kind to some other past Classic champions.

There are nine former champions in the field. Alton Jones, the 2008 champion, and Randy Howell, the 2014 winner, hold down third and fourth place, respectively. It was also a good day for last year’s winner Casey Ashley, who sits in eighth place.

Skeet Reese, the 2010 champion, is 21st after weighing just three fish for 12 pounds, 12 ounces.

Friday’s fishing wasn’t as kind to some other past champions, with four of them finishing in the bottom half of the Day One standings: 2009 champion Boyd Duckett, 32nd; four-time champ Kevin VanDam, 36th; 1995 champion Mark Davis, 38th; and 2003 champion Mike Iaconelli, 48th.

Plug Knocking

There’s an old saying that if you’re not occasionally getting your bait hung up, you’re probably fishing in the wrong spot. If that’s the case, several Bassmaster Classic contenders were fishing in exactly the right place Friday.

Snagging your bait on underwater obstructions is a part of fishing and it even happens to the pros. Although it’s not uncommon to see the pros hang up on unseen obstructions, Friday’s action revealed more snagging than usual. Several anglers were observed plucking baits from rocks or wood beneath the surface.

Another anomaly was several anglers’ repeated use of plug knockers to free ensnared crankbaits. In many tournaments, including the Classic, anglers typically will break off snagged baits, either to save time or to avoid disturbing the water and spooking fish.

But plug knockers were used by several anglers during Friday’s fishing, including Brandon Lester, who repeatedly fished out lures with a plug knocker, a device that uses a sliding weight to slip down the fishing line and collide with a snagged bait to knock it loose.

Ott DeFoe was seen sliding his rod down his line to free a snagged lure by striking it with the rod tip.

Aaron Martens also got in on the action, using a telescopic pole with a corkscrew lure-retrieval device to free a bait at one point Friday.

Some of the hang-ups can be attributed to where the aforementioned anglers were fishing. Several fished the upper end of Grand Lake, where woody debris was abundant following December flooding that washed logs and trees into the lake.

It also could be a matter of Friday’s generally poor bite causing anglers to take more time from actually fishing to retrieve snagged lures. Or maybe it’s the price of fishing lures.