Weather and water trends have Grand Lake teed up for Bassmaster Classic fireworks
TULSA, Okla. —

Jason Christie does not yet have a clear picture of how the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors will be won, but the Bassmaster Elite Series veteran from Dry Creek, Okla., is certain that Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees’ water clarity will be a major factor.

Competition days will be March 22-24 with daily takeoffs from Wolf Creek Park and Boating Facility at 7:15 a.m. CT and weigh-ins each day at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa at approximately 3:30 p.m.

Christie spent a few days pre-practicing in December, and since then, the Grand Lake area has seen minimal rainfall. This, he said, means unusually clear water.

“The water clarity is probably better than in years past because we usually have a couple of flush-outs in fall and early spring, but we just haven’t had those,” said Christie, who won the 2022 Classic on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell. “We have had (little) rain and the weather has been really mild.”

Making his 10th appearance in the sport’s most prestigious event, Christie placed seventh at the 2013 Classic at Grand and second when the event returned three years later. With the 2022 Classic trophy on his mantel, Christie is no doubt motivated to notch his second Classic win on his home waters.

Doing so, he said, could occur just about anywhere on the 46,500-acre Grand River (lower Neosho River) impoundment. Like most reservoirs, Grand’s lower end traditionally holds the most consistent clarity, but Christie said anglers can expect that to extend farther up the lake.

“The area where river water meets the lake water can move based on (minimal river current),” he said. “I would guess that seam is going to be a lot farther up the river than where it normally is.

“That’s going to open up the lake to guys that like that kind of water. It’s not going to be limited to the bottom half of the lake. I think the lake almost doubles in water clarity. I think the tournament could be won end to end.”

Addressing Oklahoma’s pre-Classic weather makeup, Christie said it’s almost like winter forgot to visit the area.

“It’s not what I was expecting,” he said. “It’s not what I would want. On an average year, the first of March or the middle or even late March can be really cold. It’s almost like we’ve just had a long spring.

“We’ve already mowed the grass at my house (60 miles from Grand) and we normally don’t until mid-April.”

Having fished Grand Lake for more than 30 years, Christie has seen practically every complexion imaginable — including an unusually mild spring that found bass bedding in mid-March. That being said, he believes technology has nullified any advantage a local once held.

“With what we now have in electronics — mapping, the TV shows and (all media platforms), there are no secrets anymore,” he said. “A guy has to win by fishing and probably changing a lot throughout the tournament.”

Christie’s a formidable force when flipping jigs and throwing spinnerbaits is on the table. But while such techniques remain viable options, a couple weeks prior to the Classic, he was leaning more toward an offshore/nearshore program with jerkbaits, finesse worms and the jighead minnow technique with a Yum FF Sonar Minnow that played a big role in his 2022 Classic win at Hartwell.

“That’s what I love about Grand — you can win from one end of that lake to the other,” he said. “It’s a big lake, and guys are not going to be able to cover it in three days of practice. You have to pick your poison and figure out what you want to do.

“It seems like we’re always thrown a curveball during the Classic, but with the water getting warm, I won’t be surprised to see the water temperature creeping up there in the high 50s by the time we get there. Everything’s setting up for it to be a wide-open event.”

With prognosticators pondering the possibility of modern live sonar techniques dominating Classic strategies, third-year Bassmaster Elite Cody Huff said he’s not fully onboard with that premise. Well regarded for his forward-facing sonar prowess, the Missouri pro said this transformative technology could play a big role in the Classic’s unfolding, but the specifics may be unexpected.

“It’s definitely possible for forward-facing sonar to play a big role, but if it does, I think it’s going to be in different circumstances than what people are used to seeing,” Huff said. “It’s going to be up shallower.

“On that lake, the fish love to live shallow and it’s going to be that time of year when they’re going to be moving to the bank. I don’t think you’re going to see the whole Top 10 using forward-facing sonar offshore — maybe one guy, but not the whole Top 10.”

Moreover, Huff said he believes Classic fans will enjoy seeing a diverse array of techniques. If the weather remains relatively stable and Grand dodges any significant rainfall through Classic week, the stage could be set for a wide-open springtime slugfest.

“I’m sure a lot of guys are gonna catch them on spinnerbaits, ChatterBaits and probably flipping,” Huff said. “If the water stays really clean, I could see a lot of guys wacky worming. A lot of stuff could change between now and the tournament, so it could go a lot of different ways, but it has a good shot at lining up to be a power-fishing beatdown.

“It should line up to be a really good tournament — probably the best one we’ve had on Grand. They’ve always been a touch early, but I think this one’s gonna hit it right on the head.”

Past Classics have seen chilly to downright frigid conditions unable to deter fishing fans from launching early and following competitors. With the strong potential for moderate to possibly downright pleasant conditions, Christie knows crowd control will become one of his biggest challenges.

“If the weather is nice, imagine how many spectator boats we’ll have on the water,” Christie surmised. “The lake might be clear when we get there, but it’s going to be dirty when we leave from all the boat traffic.”

Christie points out that the mild weather trend has him expecting a mostly prespawn event. He considers some early spawning action a possibility, but however the event shakes out, he’s looking for solid limits — a two-day total of 28 to 30 pounds to make the final-round cut and approximately 60 pounds to win.

“Someone’s going to catch a 24- to 25-pound bag one day,” Christie said. “We’re gonna hit it about as good as you can hit it.

“I’d say the weights would be higher if the water stayed colder, but we’ll be in that time when the fish are scattered. The fish will be doing a lot of things, but not many of them will be doing one thing.”

As always, the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors will be a weeklong celebration of the sport, with the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing as the main attraction.

Don't miss a second of the action throughout the week. Click here for a full list of how to watch the event.

Click here for a full list of Classic events.