Kelly Bostian: Grand Lake and its bass are tournament-ready
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
2/19/13 at 6:35 AM
Find everything you need to know about the Bassmaster Classic, which
comes to Grand Lake and Tulsa on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This site
will be home to news, videos, maps, schedules and guides.
Fans can now enter the Tulsa World Outdoors Weigh-in Challenge.
In this challenge, you must guess the biggest bag weight for Friday, Saturday
and Sunday at the Bassmaster Classic.
There will be one winner for each day of the Bassmaster Classic. You have
until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. to submit your guesses for each day of the
tournament. Winners will be announced on Monday.
Related Story: The trophy of his dreams
Grand Lake O' the Cherokees is known for its tournament fishing and consistently producing tournament-winning limits of five fish adding up to the 20- to 25-pound range.
"It is a fertile lake," said Ashley Nealis, Northeast Region fisheries biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It has good habitat, not with a lot of aquatic vegetation but you got brush and it has a good substrate, rocky, not muddy bottomed. ... It also has a million little fingers and coves."
Another factor for the bass is the many miles of developed, rocky shoreline covered by floating docks and marinas. The structures provide excellent nurseries for little bass who can escape predators by swimming between the cracks of the structures. Nest sites under the docks also are hard - or impossible - for anglers to reach.
Grand Lake, the host of this week's Bassmaster Classic, is a little too far north to support Florida strain largemouth bass, but the northern strain in the lake is beyond healthy. The unofficial lake record, caught prior to creation of the state's official Lake Records Program, is mounted in the lobby of the motel at Martin Landing Resort. The fish weighed 11 pounds, 12 ounces and was caught on a jerkbait March 22, 1991, by Hank Souders, who still lives on the lake and fishes regularly.
Local angler Brent Malone caught the official lake record last March. It weighed 10.86 pounds. He used a Scrounger jig-head with a 4-inch Baby Bass fluke trailer to pull the hog out from under a dock.
Occasionally a heavy smallmouth bass will come out of Grand. They are not stocked in the lake (officially), but many suspect that well-meaning anglers have slipped some in there over the years. The lake record is 5.1 pounds. That fish was caught last April by Gary Carrier of Vinita.
The lake also supports healthy populations of Kentucky (spotted) bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill, the renowned prehistoric-looking paddlefish and, of course, millions of gizzard and threadfin shad that, with the help of rich plankton, hold up the bottom of the food chain.
The lake remains healthy heading into the Classic. Nealis and crew did electro-fishing surveys last spring to track lake population.
"Basically you get catch rates and compare to previous years," she said. "Our mean catch rate was 80, which is good."
In past years the catch rate has ranged, roughly, from 70 to 83.
Samples are taken at 24 sites around the lake and the numbers are crunched, but the catch rate of 80 essentially means biologists averaged rolling 80 largemouth bass for every 10 minutes of electro-fishing at the different sites.
While Grand Lake sometimes hosts two or three tournaments a week in the warmer months and often has tournaments with 150 boats or more entered, it has consistently supported the fishing pressure for many years.
Part of that is because tournament anglers have become increasingly skilled at caring for bass as the catch-and-release ethic has spread to anglers everywhere.
"Almost no one is harvesting bass, and there really is not a lot of post-hook mortality," Nealis said. "Another thing is it's just a huge lake, it really is, and I think a lot of times for people it's just hard to wrap your head around just how many fish are under that water."
Original Print Headline: Grand Lake likely to be a fine host
Kelly Bostian 918-581-8357
Matt Herren, a 2013 Bassmaster Classic qualifier, practices on Grand Lake near Bernice last week. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World