Five Oklahoma anglers are among the field of 109 pros taking part in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite tournament on Grand Lake.
The anglers include Tommy Biffle, from Wagoner, James Elam from Tulsa, Edwin Evers from Talala, Jason Christie from Park Hill and Jeff Kriet from Ardmore.
The tournament, which kicked off on Thursday continues through Sunday at Wolf Creek Park in Grove.
For Trip Weldon, tour director, coming back to Grand Lake for an event only natural.
"The anglers love it, and we love coming here," Weldon said. We have a lot of BASS members and fishing fans from Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas."
Weldon said the improvements to Wolf Creek Park, both before and since the 2016 Bassmaster Classic make Grove a "great venue" for a tour stop.
He said the size of the venue, along with the multiple boat ramps, as well as the ample parking and restroom facilities, make the location perfect for tournaments.
Weldon hopes with the weekend's warmer temperatures, anglers will find success in the tournament.
"The lake is full of fish," Weldon said. "It's a quality fishery and the State of Oklahoma does a good job managing the lake."
As a tour stop, Weldon said the lake's expanse, as well as the quality and quantity of fish, set up this weekend to be a solid tournament.
He anticipates it will take upwards of 80 pounds, over the four day period, to win the competition.
"I'll be surprised if it's less, but not shocked if it's more," Weldon said, adding he expects the Oklahoma anglers, including Elam and Evers to find their way to the top of the pack.
"All of these guys [the Oklahoma anglers] are good," Weldon said. "But trust me, someone here, we haven't even though of, is going to knock it out of the park this week."
Weldon said it's good to have the tour return to Grove. He credits the sponsors, which include the City of Grove, Grove Area Chamber of Commerce, the Grove Convention and Tourism Bureau, and the Grand River Dam Authority, for helping create a climate for a good tournament.
"It's just a good place to be, especially in April," Weldon said.
For Christie, the chance to be on Grand Lake comes natural.
He said fishing on Grand Lake simply feels like being at home.
He called this week's practice "interesting."
"It's the best word I know how to use," Christie said. "Everything I thought would happen, it was far from that."
He hoped a good first day would help him gain what he needed to "run with" for the rest of the weekend.
Like Weldon, he anticipates the final weight of the winner to be at least 70 pounds.
Local angler, Evers - who in the past has considered Grand Lake to be one of his home lakes - said anytime he gets to be within an hour of his house is exciting.
claimed the victory in 2016, when the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK's Sporting Goods took place on Grand.
At that event, Evers weighed a total of 60 pounds, 7 ounces to top the field and claim the world championship title.
Evers is looking forward to fishing Grand Lake again.
“I have a lot of fond memories from that lake, especially winning the Classic in 2016,” he said. “I’m comfortable with how it fishes throughout the year, and I expect this tournament to be very exciting with lots of big fish brought to the scales.”
Considering the time of year, and the quality of anglers competing in this event, Evers expects numbers of 20-plus-pound bags to be brought to the scales daily.
"The lake's got them," Evers said. "The lake has the fish in it."
While not native to Oklahoma, Alabama angler Randy Howell has spent a lot of time fishing on Grand Lake.
He said this week's practice days have been a bit tough, because of the roller coaster nature of the weather.
But, he said, the fish are trying to spawn - which means conditions will only improve as the weather gets warmer this weekend.
He said he's watched as the fishery has improved, both in weight and health, in the past few years.
He does worry that the boat traffic - from the larger, non-fishing yachts - might create issues for anglers. He said the "no wake zones" are often frustrating to anglers trying to get to multiple locations.
Kevin VanDam said this week's practice left him feeling a bit "scattered" due to the lake and local weather conditions.
He said the colder weather may have delayed the spawn.
"It makes it harder for us to find them when they are in spawning mode," VanDam said. "They just don't chase the bait. The lake is really good overall, but for me, the numbers were down."
"Grand Lake is a fantastic lake," VanDam said. "I like coming here at different times. If I were to put it on the calendar, this would be the week to be here. But Mother Nature had other plans this winter."