Simms Pro and Grand Lake Veteran, Gary Klein Shares his POV on the 2016 Bassmaster Classic.
It’s hard to believe but the 2016 Bassmaster Classic is upon us. In short order, the world’s best anglers and hordes of bass crazed fans will gather on Tulsa’s Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees to watch the most prestigious fishing event of the year unfold. Over the years, Simms Pro, Gary Klein has tallied upwards of 50 days on the Classic’s host lake. While he won’t be amongst the competing fleet this year, based on his time and experience on Grand, Klein was willing to share his point of view of how the lake might set up and how the Classic could potentially shape out.
Simms: Give us your thoughts of Grand Lake?
Klein: Well first off, I have to say, Grand Lake is a lake I really like. It doesn’t have a ton of huge fish in it, but it’s got a dump truck load of 3- to 5-pound fish in it. The difference between this year’s Classic and two years ago and past tournaments held there is now, there’s a lot of history about Grand Lake.
Simms: What do you mean when you say there’s a lot of history about Grand Lake?
Klein: I’d say the majority, not all, but the vast majority of the competitors in this year’s Classic know the lake really well. They’ve all spent a good amount of time fishing/competing on the lake and because of that, they’ve run every pocket, they know where all the boat docks are, channel swings and so forth. Anglers have a lot more knowledge about the lake as a fishery than they used to.
Simms: Let’s talk a little about potential weather conditions. What are your thoughts on cold trends vs. warm trends?
Klein: In short, if the water is going to be cold, the lake is going to set up more for jigs and jerk baits. However, if it’s warmer, these fish are really going to start setting up. If that’s the case, boat docks and channel swings back in the creeks are going to be key. I’d say if the water temp is going to be lower than 50 degrees and it’s not on a warm trend, the bite is going to be tough and it won’t be one of those tournaments where whoever can make the most casts in a day is going to win. There will be a lot of thought put in by the winner and it’s going to be very technique specific. They are going to have to get dialed in on the right cast, right drag, and the right cadence on the lures they’re working. Now, I’d say if the water temp is in the low 50s and the week leading into the Classic is on a warm trend that carries into the tournament days, those fish are going to come in shallow and it’s going to be a real slugfest.
Simms: What do you think it’s going to take to be a contender this year?
Klein: I wouldn’t be surprised to see somebody come out of the Classic with an 18- to 20-pound average.
Simms: In our conversations with other anglers, it seems as though everyone feels Grand Lake has changed over the years. Do you agree?
Klein: I certainly think Grand Lake has changed over the years. It kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier. Again, there’s a lot of anglers fishing Grand with a tremendous amount of knowledge these days. They understand the lake better, they know where the fish are, they know what the fish should be doing and because of that, in my opinion, it doesn’t fish quite as big as it used to.
Simms: Are you referring to just professional anglers?
Klein: Not at all. I’m talking about the locals, club fishermen and all the other guys who regularly fish the lake. Early on, when we use to fish on Grand, there were a lot of unknowns. There were a lot of concentrations of fish that a lot of guys just never really figured out. Now, there aren’t many concentrations of fish that get left alone.
Simms: Do you think the increase in pressure has had an effect on the fishery?
Klein: Well, bass are bass and they’ll continue to feed but what it boils down to is a lower bite. Don’t get me wrong, Grand Lake is still a great fishery, it’s just lower catch numbers during the course of a day.
Simms: Tell us about spring and pre-spawn fishing?
Klein: Spring is when bass are doing their ritual, which of course is the spawn. Their ritual is going to take place not based on our weather, it’s based on the egg development those fish carry within them. As things progress and those eggs start to develop, fish are going to start moving into the shallows to spawn.
Simms: Talk to us a little bit about typical pre-spawn behavior?
Klein: When conditions are right and they are ready to do their thing, fish become very territorial. They know when the process starts and they also know when they move in shallow, predators won’t be far behind. So what happens is, weeks or maybe even months before they actually spawn, the fish become really aggressive.
Simms: What’s your tactic of choice when these fish are in super aggressive moods?
Klein: When conditions set up right and the fish get territorial like that, it’s almost like they’re on a killing spree and because of that, I really like to start throwing bigger baits. They are just eating machines — they’re fat, they’re healthy, their eggs are developing, it’s a really cool time of year to fish.
Simms: What are your baits of choice during the pre-spawn?
Klein: Well, like I say, I like throwing bigger stuff in the spring. I’ll throw spinner baits with larger blades or a larger single blade that displaces more water that I can retrieve really slow. This time of year, I seem to get more activity by going bigger than I do by going with more finessy type baits.
Simms: Another commonality amongst all the anglers we’ve spoken to about Grand is that it is a textbook pattern lake. How do you feel about that?
Klein: Absolutely, Grand Lake is a phenomenal pattern lake. For example: Let’s say I enter a cove and start flipping jigs on boat docks. Now, say I get bit on the first two or three docks in the cove but nothing on the rest of the docks. Then, I pick up my trolling motor and go to the next cove. Just like before, I I start flipping on those docks and I get bit on the first two or three docks and but not on the rest. That’s the beginning of getting dialed in on a pattern.
Simms: So, our final question is, do you have a favorite going into the Classic?
Klein: You know, until I have an idea of what the weather and general conditions are going to be, I can’t really say who my favorite is. The three practice days are obviously going to be critical. A lot of anglers went up there for a few days or so in December and really the only thing they were able to learn back then was, yes, Grand Lake has quality fish in it. Most of the guys I know spent all of their time on their electronics scoping out boat docks, brush piles, metering channel swings and things like that. So, they know where all this stuff is. It’ll be a really interesting tournament for sure but again, it’s really all going to depend on what the weather and conditions are going in and during the event.
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