Three Oklahoma anglers will be fishing in the Bassmaster Classic next month on Grand Lake: Edwin Evers of Talala, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner and Jason Christie of Park Hill. But contrary to popular belief, that doesn't necessarily give them a home field advantage.
Only one angler has ever won a Bassmaster Classic in his backyard. Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., won the 2007 Bassmaster Classic on Alabama's Lay Lake.
Duckett said a home-state advantage in the Bassmaster Classic can come into play, but not in the way that some people might imagine. For the most part, there is no advantage because pro anglers are better than ever at picking apart an unfamiliar fishery, he said.
Also, the Bassmaster Classic is such an important tournament that qualifiers devote weeks to practice and study.
“Classic waters have become like everyone's home lake,” Duckett said.
Duckett had an advantage in 2007 on his home lake because the weather changed during the tournament. He knew the lake well enough to know where the bass moved when the water warmed up quickly.
Such an overnight change is about the only factor that will give a local angler an advantage in the Bassmaster Classic, Duckett said.
“A home-lake angler can make good, on-the-fly decisions when conditions change rapidly,” he said.
Of the three Oklahomans who qualified for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, Christie is the most familiar with Grand Lake. He grew up fishing Grand Lake and by his estimation has won 15 or 20 bass tournaments there over the past 15 years.
Knowing a lake that well can help an angler, but it can also work against you, he said.
“Say things aren't working out,” said Christie, who is making his debut in the Bassmaster Classic. “You have a hundred places you know you can go. By the end of the day, you've spent most of the day driving place to place and not fishing,” he said.
Evers also said that knowing a lake well could become a disadvantage if an angler just relies on old honey holes.
“I have to make sure I'm fishing the fish, not memories of where the fish were,” he said.
Grand Lake won't be completely unfamiliar to the field of 53 Bassmaster Classic contenders. The northeastern Oklahoma fishery has twice been the site of two Bassmaster Elite Series professional tournaments.
In 2006, Mike McClelland, who lives in nearby Bella Vista, Ark., dominated the field in winning the Sooner Run tournament and admitted at the time having a home lake advantage.
Living only an hour and 10 minutes a way, McClelland had spent a lot of time over the years learning the lake and had numerous spots to fish.
In 2007, however, the Sooner Run on Grand Lake was won by now four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., who overtook Ardmore's Jeff Kriet on the final day of the tournament.
When: Feb. 22-24.
Where: Grand Lake.
Launch: 7 a.m. daily from Wolf Creek.
Weigh In: At BOK Center in Tulsa. Doors open at 3 p.m. daily.
Prize: $500,000 to the winner.