B.A.S.S. returns to Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Grand Lake. The event, out of Grove, Okla., will be held April 26-29 on the 18th-ranked lake in the Central Division of Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes in 2017.
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While the most recent event on Grand was a Bass Pro Shops Open, the lake has hosted eight pro-level B.A.S.S. events, including two GEICO Bassmaster Classics presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The most recent Classic was won by home-state angler Edwin Evers in 2016, and Cliff Pace won the first championship held there in 2013.
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Grand Lake was first envisioned as hydroelectric power for the Cherokee Nation as far back as 1907, but the dam wasn’t finished in 1940. The 41,000-acre impoundment of the Grand River boasts 460 miles of shoreline, and it is 164 feet at its deepest while the average depth is 36 feet.
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Wolf Creek Park, which hosted the Classics and last year’s Open, is site of this year’s daily takeoffs and weigh-ins. The public is invited to watch the anglers put in and launch each morning.
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The national anthem at 6:15 a.m. CT starts things off, and the weigh-ins are scheduled for 3 p.m. CT. The park’s address is 963 N. 16th St. Grove, OK 74344. The afternoon expo is the place to be with demo boat rides, chances to win prizes from the likes of Toyota and Carhartt, the Berkley Experience aquarium and the Get Hooked on Fishing area with kids activities.
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The Pensacola Dam, which is also called the Grand River Dam, is the longest multiple-arch dam in the world. The total length of the dam is 6,565 feet -- the multiple-arch section is 4,284 feet. The dam rises 150 feet above the river bed.
Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia/USGS
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B.A.S.S. held three Oklahoma Invitationals at Grand Lake in the 1990s, which were won by Ron Shuffield, Jim Morton and Tommy Martin. Martin had the best three-day weight of 52 pounds, 6 ounces, for an average of about 17-8 a day.
Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia
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James Elam of nearby Tulsa was the most recent Bassmaster winner on Grand, topping the field in the 2017 Central Open last October with 36-14. Elam had around 14 pounds on each of the first two days then brought in 8-15 on a stingy Day 3 to hold off Casey Scanlon by 10 ounces.
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It was Elam’s second Open win in Oklahoma in two years; the first was on Fort Gipson. It gave him a double qualification for the 2018 Classic, where he flirted with the lead on Lake Hartwell before finishing 11th. His Open victory allowed Mike Iaconelli to stretch his longest active Classic qualifying run to 17.
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In the sixth Elite tournament ever, Mike McClelland won in a wire-to-wire effort in 2006 on Grand in early June. By fishing offshore structure with jigs and soft plastics, McClelland totaled 79-7 to win by nearly 16 pounds.
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A year and several weeks later, Kevin VanDam nearly matched McClelland’s weight in his Elite win there. KVD used a Strike King crankbait to total 78-2 and top home-state favorite Jeff Kriet by 4 pounds. With the win, VanDam became the first with two Elite titles in one season.
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In 2013, the Classic came to Grand Lake and Tulsa in frigid conditions. Defending champ Chris Lane came in early on the final practice day, as many others did, and the Floridian wrote on the deck of his boat for a photographer, “Never fish in snow.”
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Cliff Pace didn’t mind the cold as he tied Mike Iaconelli for the lead on Day 1 and came in to the bump station on Day 2 showing off another big catch, which gave him a 7-pound lead heading into the final day.
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Pace struggled on Championship Sunday, coming in one shy of a limit, but his 54-12 total held off Brandon Palaniuk by 1-4.
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In 2016, the weather was better for the Classic, partly because it was held about two weeks later than in 2013. Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers left Wolf Creek as one of the home-state favorites.
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Another Oklahoman, Jason Christie, was also expected to contend for the title. He finished seventh in 2013 in his first Classic appearance since coming over from the FLW Tour.
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Christie took the lead on Day 1 with the big bag of 20-14, and Evers only brought in four fish to start in 13th. Evers rallied on Day 2 with the big bag of 17-8 to climb to third, but he still trailed Christie by 6 pounds.
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On Championship Sunday, Evers went up the Elk River to a historical spot plied successfully on many occasions by his father in law. From experience, he knew the area would only produce under windy conditions, and boy did it.
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Evers landed fish after fish, but details to their exact weight were sketchy as he was out of cell range for the Bassmaster LIVE camera in his boat to transmit. The title came down to the friends and Elite Series roommates.
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Evers thrilled the BOK Arena crowd with his 29-3 bag, one of the largest ever in a Classic. It gave him the win by 10-5, a top 10 margin of victory in the Classic.
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The cold snaps might have pushed back the usual timetable of expected fishing conditions in Grand Lake for this time of year, but fishing is setting up for an Elite slugfest. There have been some bags near 30 pounds weighed in recent weeks, and the Elite winner could eclipse the four-day weight totals of previous Bassmaster events here.