Using a Carolina-rigged green pumpkin plastic lizard, Tulsan and BassMaster Elite Series pro James Elam netted the top prize at the Bass Pro Shops BassMaster Central Open three-day tournament in October on Grand Lake.
His three-day total of 36 pounds and 14 ounces brought home a Skeeter ZX200, Yamaha SHO200, Skeeter tandem-axle Tuff-coated trailer with brakes, Minn Kota Fortrex 80F-US2 45-inch shaft trolling motor, Lowrance Elite Ti 7 dash and bow electronics and prop valued at $45,000, along with $8,491 in cash.
Not bad for the a weekend of fishing on Grand Lake, where bass fishermen have become accustomed to winning big money.
Grove is in love with bass fishing and city leaders said they are on target to hold 80 bass fishing tournaments this year on Grand Lake, which has become a national bass fishing destination.
Professional anglers aren't the only ones enjoying Grand Lake. Recently, Bass Pro Shops hosted the FLW High School Fishing Oklahoma Open bass-fishing tournament on Grand Lake.
Almost every weekend during the spring, summer and fall, Grand Lake is the site of a major bass tournament.
As a result, Grove city leaders invested more than $6 million to overhaul a boat ramp on 16th Street to lure millions of fishing dollars to this Grand Lake community.
The once sleepy fishing village community of 6,000 residents was sprawling and growing around Grand Lake, but the addition of Wolf Creek Park helped Grand Lake land the Bassmaster Classic in 2013 and 2016, along with numerous other professional events by the country's two largest bass tournament organizations, FLW and B.A.S.S.
The fishing tournaments throughout the year range from small, one-day local contests with 10 to 20 boats to large, professional trail series tournaments with more than 200 boats, said Bill Keefer, Grove city manager.
“Around half of those tournaments are launched from Wolf Creek Park,” Keefer said.
Wolf Creek Park is busy almost every weekend from March to November.
“Our busiest months are March, April and May and then again in September and October,” Keefer said.
The first Bassmaster Classic in 2013 put Grand Lake on every bass angler's radar.
“Everyone wants to fish where the Bassmaster Classic is held,” said Debbie Bottoroff, Grove assistant city manager.
Two major professional bass tournaments this year on Grand Lake and another coming next spring is projected to pump a combined $6 million into the community, Bottoroff said.
“That's just those three big tournaments," she said. "That doesn't count the smaller tournaments.”
About Wolf Creek Park
Located west of Grove on the Wolf Creek arm of Grand Lake, the 42-acre Wolf Creek Park has six boat ramps, two fishing docks, and one handicap accessible dock along with a picnic area, walking trails, and restrooms.
Other first-class amenities include extra-long parking spaces, a covered pavilion with a weigh-in stage and fish-holding tank.
In addition to launching boats for fishing tournaments, Wolf Creek Park also doubles as a festival venue for the community.
“It has been said many times in city meetings, ‘if we build it – they will come,'” Bottoroff said, referring to the famous line in the classic baseball movie, Field of Dreams. “Boy – did they ever come.”
Impacting the community
Before a big bass tournament, anglers and their families often arrive in Grove a few days early, spending money on motel rooms, food, gasoline and checking out the latest lures at the Grand Lake Sports Center, a fishing and boating store, which has been on the downtown corner of Third and Main streets for 65 years.
Businesses in Grove reap the benefits of the bass fishing tournaments on Grand Lake and are very accommodating, rolling out the red carpet for the anglers.
“We love the fishermen,” said Brad Wisdom, Best Western TimberRidge Inn general manager.
Best Western TimberRidge Inn, a 46-room motel, serves an early-morning breakfast at 5 a.m. just for the anglers and provides outlets around the building for anglers to charge their boat batteries.
“We have been consistently full since March and it is largely due to the bass tournaments,” Wisdom said.
Turtle Stop, a convenience store, located a stone's throw from Wolf Creek Park has one long continuous line of customers on tournament mornings, said Nita Hagebush, Turtle Stop assistant manager.
“The store is very busy - selling fuel, food and ice,” Hagebush said.