Grand Lake, Vinita, Oklahoma
Quality over quantity ended up being my theme this year on Grand Lake in Northeastern Oklahoma. Last year it was the exact opposite, lots of fish but no size to them. The weather this week was going to be anything but stable, with daily highs ranging anywhere from mid 50’s to low 70’s and the overnight lows were projected to be in the mid 30’s. I had done my fair share of research for my trip and knew all the obvious things before I even left from Minnesota. Since April of last year Northeastern Oklahoma has been pounded with rain, making the water levels extremely high (about 8 feet higher than this time last year) and the water clarity was not more than a foot. In some areas it resembled chocolate milk. With the air temp cooling off at night and the water temps staying in the mid 50’s I knew I really had no serious chance of getting into a good spawning pattern. Instead I prepared myself for a prespawn pattern by tying on a lot of jigs for both deep and shallow water, crankbaits ranging from 2 to 20 feet, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, lipless crankbaits and jerkbaits. Right after launching I headed out to the main lake where I did so well last year. I started by running an Amp Lures Heavy Hitter (Rayburn Red) in about 15 feet over some main lake points and secondary points. After no success I tried slow dragging a hand tied 5/16 oz. Jewel jig all over the point from 2 to 30 feet, again without a bite. I thought by starting out on the main lake points that would help me figure out where the bass would be staging. This time of year the bass are wanting to spawn and they will be staged somewhere from their wintering areas to their spawning flats where they will eventually bed. By ruling out the main lake points I knew they would be somewhere between the inside edge of the points to the shallows deep in the backs of the coves.
I left the points and started working my way into the coves by throwing a Amp Lures Mid Shooter (Bluegill)
. Usually I would go for more of a shad color but with the water so dingy I wanted a little chartreuse in the bait to help it be more visible under the water. I picked up a couple small male bass relatively quickly. This told me that the fish were present. This time of year where ever the bucks are the females are close by just waiting for their beds to be ready. I decided to make a change and slow down my presentation. Seeing that murky water up in the trees looked like an ideal spot to start flippin a jig and hope for a big bite. I opted to first start out with a 3/8 oz. Ten K Jig (green pumpkin)
. After about a half hour with no bites I came to the conclusion that I needed to switch to a heavier jig, with loud rattles and in a different color. I tied on a 1/2 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig (Black and Blue) and continued flippin the trees and buck brush. It wasn’t three flips and I caught a nice 2 pound bass, a few more flips after that I caught a better one, 3 pounds. I was catching these fish right on the bank but it was a certain type of bank that was producing. The best banks were in the smaller coves off the main lake and they had to have a steep shoreline. I would position my boat about ten feet from shore and my Lowrance unit would read a depth of about 10 to 15 feet. I would catch them anywhere from 1 ft. in the brush to 15 ft. on the bottom of the dropoff.
**From left to right: Me with two nice Grand Lake toads, Matt with a nice one on the Basstrix Swimbait, and Matt and I showing off our day one catches.
I stuck with that pattern all day and in total I caught eight largemouth’s, most in the three pound range with the biggest weighing in at exactly four pounds. It was imperative to weigh the bigger ones because my buddies and I had an ongoing bet of $20 each for big fish for the whole week. That four pounder barely gave me the tentative top spot. After loading up my boat for the day I come to find out that the rest of the people in my camp struggled to get bit. That helped me solidify my pattern because they were mostly throwing jerkbaits and spinnerbaits and having no success, which meant I was on the right track. My buddy and boat partner Matt caught the second biggest bass of the day weighing 3.13 lbs. on a 6″ Basstrix Paddle Tail Tube Swimbait (yellow perch)
Day two I decided to make a long run. I made this decision for two reasons, one being I am new to my Ranger Z20
and really want to give it a nice test run and two, I was headed to a a well known spawning area way up in the northern part of the lake. The water was said to be clearer up there and the area is one big giant flat of flooded timber. I had to know whether the fish were there. The boat ran awesome but the fishing was horrible! This area in a week or two will be absolutely lights out but the fish just didn’t seem to be there yet. Being that the water was more shallow I opted to go with a 3/8 oz. TEN K Jig (black and blue)
and I added a rattle. Matt and I spent all day back there searching and between the both of us I only caught three small fish between the 1.5 and the 2 lb. mark. I literally threw every kind of bait I could think of and just couldn’t get any bites. The three fish I did manage to catch all came on a good ole’ TEN K Jig
. Usually I would be extremely upset with these kind of results but the Ranger runs great and best yet I ruled out another area of the lake. When getting to know a new body of water this can be as effective as finding the fish. It’s a delicate balance of knowing where to go and where not to go come tournament time.
Thursday started off soggy but the temp was a comfortable 60 degrees. The weather man reports strong storms hitting the area later in the evening and cool high skies for tomorrow. With the warm air, overcast skies and a nice wind I knew this would be my best opportunity for some big fish. I made a commitment to keep the jig in my hand and just flip the cover all day. Bites were few and far between but when they did bite they were all good size. I started with two nice ones about 2.5 lbs., than two more at about 3.5 lbs. I came across a nice point in the cove that was surrounded by deeper water and the bottom was full of rocks. I quickly tied up a 1/2 oz. Picasso Football Jig (peanut butter and jelly)
and added a Gary Yamamoto Double Tail Grub (green pumpkin)
, I also dipped the tails in Spike It Dye (chartreuse)
to help the fish see it in the dingy water. This proved to be very effective because after a few cast I set the hook on a beautiful bass weighing 6.2 lbs. I caught her in about 15 feet of water and what a great fight she put up! After weighing it and snapping a few pictures I released her quickly. Of course I always practice catch and release but I didn’t want to keep her in my livewell long, figuring she was getting ready to spawn. Later that day I also caught a 4.6 lb. and a 5.7 lb. bass. The five pounder came out from under a boat dock in about ten feet of water on a 1/2 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig (black and blue). After catching a big one like that I tried very hard to make a dock pattern work but I never got another bite off them. Thursday proved to be a great day. If it was a tournament I would have brought about 22 pounds to the scales. That’s a great bag anywhere. Matt caught one fish about 2 pounds on a Basstrix Paddle Tail Tube (yellow perch)
. I am serious when I say this, bass absolutely annihilate the Basstrix swimbaits. I got myself a sweet selection of these and I know they will pay dividends at certain events this year. My long time buddy Chris Campbell also had a good day flippin a black and blue jig and our buddy Shorty caught two nice bass on a Ten K Jig
that I had given him. He was very excited because he is a walleye fisherman turned bass fisherman and that was the first bass he had ever caught on a jig.
**From left to right: Myself holding a nice 6.2 lb. largemouth and it’s a good one when you can fit your whole fist in it’s mouth!
**From left to right: 1/2 oz. Tru Tungsten jig, 1/2 oz. Picasso Football Jig, and a 6″ Basstrix Paddle Tail Swimbait
The rest of the trip was tough fishing. A cold front moved in with blue bird skies and the bite slowed down. The little fish could be caught but the big ones vanished. It’s to be expected this time of year. Chris was able to catch them on lipless crankbait, Matt with a chatterbait, Robert on a spinnerbait and myself on a jig and a Lake Fork 8″ Worm (black and blue). None of which produced any big ones though. All in all it was a great trip and an excellent preseason. Great times with good friends and good fishing is exactly what I needed. Not to mention the satisfaction of collecting $20 bucks each from all my boys for big fish!!! Even better.