John Klein: Grand Lake locals feel an unfamiliar stir
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Saturday, February 23, 2013
2/23/13 at 7:12 AM
Watch videos and view slideshows: Watch a timelapse video of the launch. See a slideshow from the first day, and much more.
Follow along during the event: See unofficial estimates throughout Saturday
Tour the lake: Using Google Earth, World outdoors writer Kelly Bostian gives you a tour of Grand Lake.
Anatomy of a bass boat: We have an interactive map detailing the equipment on a bass boat.
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Grand Lake locals feel an unfamiliar stir
CLEORA - Seldom does retired Bixby High School athletic director Bobby Stites see anyone as he drinks his morning coffee on his dock.
He retired to Grand Lake a few years ago and lives "at the end of Duck Creek."
For your information, that's more than three miles from the main channel of Grand Lake and one of the farthest points on the lake from Grove.
But, Friday morning it was different.
"I saw guys racing around the lake and there were even a few of those fishermen that got all the way up Duck Creek to my house," Stites said. "It was pretty darn cold. The sun was barely up.
"We don't get much action up at the end of our cove. The only time we get many folks up here is on Fourth of July weekend and they are getting ready to shoot off fireworks. So, this was something new for us."
Grand Lake is anything but a quiet place this weekend.
Grand Lake, one of the jewels of northeastern Oklahoma, is the center of the bass fishing universe this weekend.
The Bassmaster Classic, the World Series/Super Bowl of bass fishing, got underway on Friday. The three-day tournament, with 53 of the world's best anglers, continues through Sunday.
For those that live around the lake, or visit often, the Bassmaster Classic does not rank with the busiest days of the year.
It is often said that Grand Lake is the state's fourth-largest city on three holidays - Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.
On any given day during the summer, one can get caught in something of a traffic jam just about anywhere from Langley to Ketchum to Bernice to Grove.
I've spent a lot of summer weekends and many summer holidays at Grand Lake since the 1970s. Friday's traffic for the first day of the Bassmaster Classic was nothing compared to July 3, when the highway between Adair and Langley can resemble rush hour on Houston's Southwest Freeway.
There's little question Grove is feeling the most impact from the Bassmaster Classic.
Each morning the 53 competitors in the event put-in at the new ramp at Wolf Creek Park in Grove.
However, as most of the anglers will tell you, many of the expected honey holes loaded with fish are expected to be at the south end of the lake.
That means bass boats blast across the main channel of the lake at more than 70 miles-per-hour at sunrise.
"I got up this morning and the first thing I saw was a couple of boats racing into my cove and helicopters overhead," said Rusty Fleming, executive director of the Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. "That's when I realized that maybe this was a pretty darn big deal after all.
"There is an awful lot of activity around the lake. We're always having some sort of fishing tournament somewhere on the lake. But this certainly seems different. There are folks everywhere I look."
Fleming, a former newspaper publisher, should know some history of Grand Lake. He's lived full time on Grand Lake, just up Dripping Springs Cove, for 32 years.
That also is at the south end of the lake.
That does seem to be a recurring theme.
The main action of blasting off in search of fish takes place at the north end of the lake near Grove. However, it appears a large number of the anglers are racing to the south end of the lake, where there are more coves and creeks and possible hot fishing areas.
On Friday, south Grand Lakers said they were seeing fishermen, in many cases trailed by fans in boats, at Duck Creek, Dripping Springs, Ketchum Cove, Drowning Creek, Rapier Hollow and Gray's Hollow.
The parking lot and boat docks at Cherokee State Park, near Pensacola Dam and along the lake's spillways, were almost full.
Normally at this time of year, those lots and parks near the dam are empty.
"I've got to admit I'm surprised," said Fleming. "Like I said, we've had lots of big fishing tournaments on this lake over the years, but I've never seen anything like it.
"I think the great thing for our lake will be the media attention. Our lake will be featured on a lot of national cable networks. I saw trucks from all of the Tulsa television stations and I've run into my fair share of newspaper reporters, too."
The south end of Grand Lake is less than hour from the Tulsa metro area. Thus, a number of Tulsans keep lake homes at the south end of the lake near the dam.
Duck Creek, near Ketchum, has three of the largest marinas in the state - Arrowhead, Cherokee and Harbor View.
To get to Stites' house by water would take you by all three of the large marinas.
"This has been a pretty big topic at the places I hang out," said Stites. "We've been seeing these guys for the past year up here fishing all over the lake, getting in some practice.
"So, to finally have the tournament here, is pretty cool. I just hope they remember my dock is in a no-wake zone."
Kevin VanDam makes his way through spectators on his way to a new spot on the first day of the Bassmaster Classic. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World