On Thursday, as the sun rose on Grand Lake, Sheldon Collings peered over the rail of one of the Wolf Creek Park docks.

The 20-year-old professional angler, who calls Grove home, was preparing to leave for a day of fishing on Grand Lake.

For Collings, this weekend's FLW Costa Southwestern Division stop, is a chance to return to the series which launched him to his first Forrest Wood Cup and the FLW Tour. 

"It feels like I'm at home," Collings said. "I'm going to be fishing against the people who got me started. 

"It's not as stressful as the tour. I'm just going to go out and have fun."

Collings admitted, though, he does have a goal he would like to achieve this weekend - win, or if nothing else, finish with a check.

Representing Grove

This year, as Collings embarked on his rookie FLW Tour, he received financial support from several businesses within the Grove/Grand Lake area. 

He also received a $10,000 sponsorship from the Grove Convention and Tourism Bureau, to help offset his expenses.

Included in his sponsorship agreement, Collings added the Grove CTB logo prominently to his boat's wrap.

“When people think of [Oklahoma] I want them to think of Grove – not Tulsa,” Collings said. "I travel all over the country promoting the town. When people ask me about Grove I give them the full detail.

"I talk about where the best places to fish, where the tackle shops are, where the hotels are, and what the fish are bitting on. [Well] maybe not everything they are bitting on."

Economic impact

Brent Malone, executive director for the Grove CTB, said Costa officials estimate the Costa series has brought more than $1.3 million to the Grove economy each year, for the last three years.

The series, which has been known by other sponsorship names, has come to Grand Lake consistently for the last five to six years, according to Ron Lappin, tournament director.

Malone estimates this tournament, as well as the BFL Okie and Ozark division stops - which took place the previous two weekends - as well as this weekend's Costa, will bring in a combined $2.4 to $2.5 million into the city.

"I know several Grove business [officials] said they set daily records for March sales during the last three weeks," Malone said.

For Lappin, Wolf Creek Park is part of the reason he continues to bring the Costa back to Grand Lake - the other, is the reception the tournament receives from the city - from city officials to the Grove Rotary Club.

"From facilities to hosts, the people here understand what it's all about," Lappin said. "For a city of this size to have Wolf Creek Park - it's one of the finest facilities in the United States."

Lappin said Grand's ability to produce fish in multiple ways - from timber to river flats to deep fishing to docks - is an added benefit for his anglers.

"I see it [Wolf Creek and Grove] only getting better," Lappin said. "It's getting better every time I come. Just when I think they couldn't make it better, they find a way to do it.

Visiting Grove

As the sun rose on Grand Lake, Larry and Louise Paxton, from Blair, Oklahoma anxiously watched for their nephew Professional angler Brandon Mosley to appear at the docks.

The couple arrived in Grove on Wednesday, in order to see one Mosley's tour stops in person.

"We're from almost as far southwest Oklahoma as this is northwest," Larry Paxton said with a grin. "We've been wanting to see him, but all of his tour stops are so far away. 

"This wasn't close, but it was closer than say Lake Okeechobee [in Florida]. We just wanted to see what this was all about."

Louise Paxton said she was excited, because they would have a chance to watch a weigh-in in person, rather than on the computer.

Hunter Meadow's mom, Meleah, stood wrapped in a blanket, as she waited for the launch of her son's first Costa series tournament.

Meadow, 16, is the youngest co-angler taking part in this weekend's tournament.

Like Collings, he started fishing at a young age - making his first tournament appearance at the age of 11 with the North OKC Bassmaster Jr. Club, and at the age of 14, Meadow won the Bass Jr. Nationals.

The Norman North sophomore now balances school with fishing, having secured a spot on the BASS adult state team, as well as fishing on the Oklahoma High School circuit with his brother, Cameron.

Next weekend, Meadow will participate in the Oklahoma High School championship tournament, which takes place on Saturday, March 31 on Grand Lake.

"He wanted to come try his hand at a higher level," Meleah Meadow said. "There's all types of experience here, and always something you can learn from someone."

She said her son is considering a career as a professional angler, but will probably start by taking part in the college fishing circuit. 

"This is the biggest tournament he's been in, and definitely the tournament with the most boats, and definitely the most all around talent," Meleah Meadow said. "I think this will be good for him."

Cara Ledoux stood on the bank with her dog, Fisher, as the launch got underway. 

Ledoux's husband, Kevin, is returning to the Costa series after an almost two-year absence due to back surgery. 

"I love this," Ledoux said. "This is his dream and it's my dream to see him achieve it."

She was amazed to see how much Wolf Creek Park had changed, from a former boat ramp to a full-fledged facility with multiple ramps and a permanent weigh-in station.

"I didn't realize it had gotten so big," she said. "The fact that the [Rotary Club] offers rides to in golf carts to the launch is great."

Ledoux said she anticipates spending time in Grove, shopping, eating out and checking out the local coffee spot.