CELEBRATION, Fla. After a brief break during which the first of three Bassmaster Majors was held and won by Florida angler Peter Thliveros the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series resumes in impressive style next week when it visits Grand Lake in Grove, Okla., for the Sooner Run on June 1-4.
Officially named Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, the 59,200-acre reservoir promises to continue the Elite Series tradition of putting the country's best anglers on prime waters at the peak times of the year. A case in point: It took a five-bass creel totaling 25 pounds to win a local tournament there last week. That's a 5-pound average, which is a standard that anglers would brag about anywhere in the country.
"I think it's going to be a real good tournament," said Elite Series pro Brad Hallman of Norman, Okla. "They're really biting."
Now, all signs indicate the pros and their co-anglers will enjoy the upcoming Sooner Run, the first visit BASS pros have made to Grand Lake since 1995.
At 64 miles long and with 1,300 miles of shoreline, Grand Lake is a bass enthusiast's playground. Located in the lush green, rolling hills of northeastern Oklahoma, the lake was created in 1940 by a mile-long dam across the Neosho River. Grand Lake, which has an average depth of 35 feet, has every type of cover and structure. The lower lake features open water with ledges, rock and deeper depths; the upper portion includes more flats and river-type conditions.
Each year, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation ranks Grand Lake among the state's best in terms of productivity based on results from bass tournaments. Located within a simple drive's time from Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri, it's easy to understand why Grand Lake is a popular fishing destination for mid-America anglers.
"We're hitting the lake at the right time," Hallman said. "The bass will all be post-spawn. At the level the lake is now, the fish will be scattered everywhere. There will be fish in the willow trees and on the main-lake ledges. There's going to be fish up in the river and the docks."
Predicting the winner will need 65 pounds or more, Hallman said anglers could catch fish from both ends of the lake and will find success on the main lake and adjoining river. "It's probably going to take a mixture of fish from the main lake and the river, but you could even do it staying in the river," he said.
Although most of the Elite Series competitors have either never fished Grand Lake or not visited it in years, Hallman believes they will quickly adapt to it.
"It's an army-issue lake," he said. "It's not going to be one of those local, hometown-secret deals. If you like to throw a jig, it's a jig lake. If you like to throw a Carolina-rig or a big worm, it's going to fish like that. If you like to flip, you can catch them like that. If you like to fish docks, you can. If you like to throw a spinnerbait, you can do it on the dead wood in the river."
Daily launches and weigh-ins are open to the public at North Beach Development, 61201 East 270 Road in Grove. Anglers launch at 6:50 a.m. ET and weigh-in at 4 p.m. ET.
Also, the Oklahoma BASS Federation Nation will hold a CastingKids competition in conjunction with the weigh-in at 1 p.m. ET on June 3. Fishing fans can catch the action from the Sooner Run on the CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, June 17 at 11:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2.
Local sponsors include the Grand Lake Association.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Advance Auto Parts and Theraseed.