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Predicting Winning Patterns for the Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake

Hometown favorite and 2022 Bassmaster Classic champion Jason Christie weighs in on how Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees might fish next month and the styles of fishing and lures that could win this year’s world championship.

Jason Christie, 2022 Bassmaster Classic ChampionJason Christie, 2022 Bassmaster Classic Champion

With the 2024 Bassmaster Classic only one month away, the Bassmaster Elite Series underway, and spring at least trying to spring, it seemed like a good time to consider how things might unfold at Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees March 22-24. For those insights we turned to Jason Christie, who Bryan Brasher of Bassmaster has given 3/2 odds of winning this year’s world championship.

Along with being the 2022 Bassmaster Classic Champion, Christie is the most local angler in the Classic field and notched several important early career wins on Grand. He competed in both previous Classics that were held on Grand, finishing seventh in 2013 and second in 2016, and will be fishing his 10th Bassmaster Classic. While Christie has fished Grand very little in recent years, he is deeply familiar with the lake and how its fish behave through the seasons and in a broad range of situations.

Could Be Anything

Jason Christie Fishing Bassmaster ClassicJason Christie Fishing Bassmaster Classic

Christie’s thoughts about this year’s Classic at Grand Lake reminded me of what he told me the day before the competition started at Hartwell in 2022. “It could be won in 30 feet of water or just a few feet of water,” Christie said during Media Day. Then he proved that wasn’t just angler talk by winning the Classic by working shallow AND deep, weighing fish caught in only a few feet of water on a Jiu-Jigsu Jig and 30 feet deep on an FF Sonar Minnow.

Looking toward the Grand Lake Classic he prefaced all with the statement, “It’s really, REALLY hard to say,” and explained why forecasting winning patterns for a late-March tournament in Oklahoma is so difficult (especially a month out).

Spring weather is exceptionally volatile, and the fish will be heavily impacted both by temperatures in the weeks leading up to the Classic and temperatures and other conditions during the event. Christie noted that he could see daytime temps being in the 40s or the 70s during the event. “And we could start cold and turn warm before it’s over – or start warm and turn cold,” he said.

Water color is another huge variable that could totally change the way the fish are positioned, how they behave and consequently the fishing techniques and lures that produce best. “It could be beautiful, with good water color, till three days before the event. And we could get one of those big spring rains and suddenly everything is dirty.”

The current weather trajectory points toward stereotypical spring-like conditions, with the water warming nicely by Bassmaster Classic time and a lot of shallow fish. If that continues, Christie expects traditional spring baits like squarebill crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs to play a major role.

The same would hold true, given spring warming, even if dirty water is prevalent. The fish will just be extra shallow and tight to cover, and dark colors, rattles and vibration extra important.

With Grand’s plentiful rock and ultra-abundant docks, Christie pointed toward a drop shot rig as a very good bet for producing well if the water is clear.

Christie hopes for some dramatic whether shift, whether that’s heavy rain or a quick temperature drop, to deliver some kind of curveball, believing tougher conditions and a need to adapt favor his experience more than perfect spring weather when fish are behaving predictably.

Christie said the other great unknown is the role forward facing sonar will play. Beyond dramatically shortening the learning and fish-finding curve, this technology allows anglers to focus on fish that were difficult to target in the past. Even if many fish have moved up and are being caught shallow, Christie could see the Classic being won offshore using something like a YUM FF Sonar and the same approach he used at Hartwell or a jerkbait.

Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees

Grand LakeGrand Lake

Located in Northeastern Oklahoma, with the Great Plains to its north and Ozarks directly east, Grand has characteristics of both regions, which only adds to questions about how it will fish. The upper Neosho River is flatter and has more shallow water than other areas and is more apt to be stained. The Elk River, which comes out of the Ozarks, tends to have the clearest water.

Shallow wood cover is prevalent up tributary arms and can play a vital role when fish are shallow. Rock is far more prevalent farther down the lake. Boat docks abound throughout the lake but vary dramatically in character and how bass relate to them based on area and conditions.

Because Grand has hosted two previous Bassmaster Classics and many other events and is simply a popular fishing lake, its most productive areas are well known, and good public information is highly accessible to anglers who are less familiar with the lake.

“There are no secret creeks; no secret brushpiles,” Christie said. In fact, prior to the pre-practice period, when he was allowed to spend time on the lake, he deleted all his waypoints – wanting to build a gameplan based on what he sees instead of fishing history that everyone else knows anyway.

8 Great Baits that Coud be Players

Smithwick RogueSmithwick Rogue
  • War Eagle Jiu-Jigsu Jig – If bass are on shallow cover, especially if they are under shallow docks, it’s tough to argue with the same jig that produced all of Christie’s shallow fish during the Lake Hartwell Classic.
  • YUM FF Sonar Minnow – By the same logic, if an angler finds the right fish offshore with forward facing sonar this bait and FF Sonar Jigheads were created specifically for this approach and were the very lures Christie used to catch all his deep fish at Hartwell.
  • YUM Dinger – A falling YUM Dinger, whether rigged wacky or as a weightless Texas rig, is simply irresistible to shallow bass, and the Dinger’s huge color selection creates great option for every water color.
  • BOOYAH One Knocker – If there’s a good lipless crankbait bite and many are being thrown, which becomes extra likely if temps stay just a little bit cool, the distinctive sound of a One Knocker could be a major difference maker
  • BOOYAH Covert Series Spinnerbait – The Covert Series plays into the volatile nature of spring because there is a configuration and color for every condition and spinnerbait situation.
  • Great Lakes Finesse Drop Minnow – Although develop for Northern smallmouth bass, the bait has quicky proven itself as a top producer for drop-shotting all over the country. If parts of Grand are clear during the Classic, the Drop Minnow could be a major player.
  • Norman Fat Boy – With a fat, buoyant body and a square bill, the Fat Boy rolls of brush, stumps, dock support and other cover exceptionally well and is ideal for prompting attacks fish that are buried in cover and ready to ambush a would-be meal.
  • Smithwick Suspending Rogue – Watch out for the original suspending jerkbait in the new FX colors if the water is clear and anglers are targeting fish with forward facing sonar.