The bass guides who know Oklahoma’s Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees are predicting a “slugfest” for the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division stop there this week. Visible spawners will great a field that includes anglers looking to preview the lake before the Bassmaster Classic is held there next spring.
The bass are on beds and the water is clear, which is sure to lure anglers into sight fishing. That tactic contributed to a bonanza of a bass tournament last weekend, the first event in the Nichols Team Series on Grand Lake. Out of 263 boats, 17 brought in at least a 20-pound bag, with another 16 weighing 19 pounds. The cutoff for getting a check was 16.88 pounds.
That’s among the best set of tournament results Grand Lake bass guide Hal Cisco has ever seen.
“That would probably be in the top five of all time,” said Sisco, who runs South Grand Bass Guide Service. “It was a perfect storm.”
The storm started with the full moon earlier in the month bringing bass up onto beds. Then the water temperatures warmed up to around 60 degrees and more or less stuck there for the first time this spring, and “it just went crazy,” Sisco said.
A change in the wind has cooled things off a little bit, Sisco said. But the fishing is still great, with the bass doing a little bit of everything. The first wave of spawners are on beds, prespawn bass are still staging and even being joined by some post-spawn fish.
Tony Coatney, who operates Shangri-La Guide Service on Grand Lake, said the water in much of the lake isn’t just clear, but may be clearer than it’s ever been after zebra mussels took hold last summer.
“That’s been something new we’re dealing with,” Coatney said. “We’ve never seen it this clear. We’re seeing stuff we’ve never seen before.”
That clear water has led to targeting the bigger fish spawning in 8 to 10 feet of water. Sisco said. You can see the bed and see fish moving around down there, but the details can get too fuzzy to really call it sight fishing. Anglers are targeting the deep spawners by throwing a drop shot, power poleing down, and continuously shaking the lure.
More standard sight fishing tactics will definitely come into play for the Rayovac event, with anglers throwing small spinnerbaits, crankbaits, Carolina rigs and local-favorite Biffle bugs to beds for success recently, Coatney said.
But when everybody’s targeting bed fish, there are only so many to go around. And they could start to get finicky under pressure. That’s why Sisco the key to winning this weekend will be to focus more on pre-spawn fish at the mouths of pockets schooling up on secondary points, rock piles or ledges. Those fish will be bigger and hungrier than those on the beds, he thinks.
“You’re going to have pre-spawn fish loaded up on a point, and then you’re going to have some post-spawn fishing coming down down there with them,” Sisco said. “You’re fishing fish that will eat, not fish that are interested in romance.”
The guy who can find pre-spawn fish in two or three places will be hard to beat, he said. And with so many anglers likely to focus on bed fish, someone could easily get the pre-spawn points to themselves. Those running up and down the banks can catch all the 2.5- to 3.5-pound males they want, Sisco said, which will make for a lot of 15-pound bags. To break out of the Rayovac pack over the first two days and qualify for the third day of fishing, anglers will likely have to put together two 20-pound limits, he said, though a 36-pound two-day total would also have them in good shape.
The field of competitors will include anglers pre-fishing the lake ahead of the Bassmaster Classic there in 2016, looking to get familiar with the water, Coatney said.
“They’re going to catch a lot of fish,” he said. “It’s going to be a slugfest.”