The FLW Tour event on Grand Lake did not disappoint. From the start of practice until the finale of the weekend, mother nature kept any of these pros from getting too comfortable, even the locals.
Mother Nature had its own plans as the anglers took the water from Thursday, March 28 to Sunday, March 31, but Grand Lake O’ the Cherokee’s would still produce some big numbers.
The final day featured the top 10 fishermen of the weekend, luckily for the FLW fans from here in town, that included two faces that could have been on their watch list for the weekend.
The first of those was Grove native himself, Sheldon Collings.
Collings entered the day in 10th place, trailing the leader Bryan Thrift of Shelby, North Carolina by 12 and a half pounds. Collings was looking to produce a huge bag on the final day on his home lake.
That day was nowhere to be found.
Collings would blank on the final day and stay in 10th place. 10th place drew a $14,000 check for this tournament, so despite coming up empty-handed on the last day, he didn’t come up empty-handed for the tournament.
This is the second time in as many tour stops Collings has finished in the top 10 standings. Last month, he placed third during the stop at Lake Seminole.
The other local pro to make the final cut saw a much different result on Day 4. Jeremy Lawyer, reigning about an hour from the lake, from Sarcoxie, Missouri started the day in second place.
Lawyer was looking at a much more reasonable deficit than that of Collings. Lawyer was looking at a 2-pound three-ounce differential between he and Thrift.
Like Collings, Lawyer had weighed in his limit every day so far in the tournament. Unlike Collings, Lawyer would keep that streak alive. Little did he know, it would be the difference maker.
Lawyer landed his first keeper around 10 a.m. on Sunday, and if asked then, that fish would have been back in the lake by day’s end, or hopefully would have four others to make-up for that little one.
That little one would become the biggest little fish of his life.
That fifth keeper would be all he needed to draw a tie with South Africa’s Michael Matthee.
Matthee and Lawyer would finish at the top of pack with a four-day total of 62-12 (pounds-ounces). The tiebreaker was decided by their total weight after Day 3, in which gave the Missourian his first tour win ever.
Without question, Thursday highlighted the fishing conditions and the best results of the four-day tournament on Grand. Thursday turned in two 20-pound bags – of just three for the entire tournament – and multiple sacks with 15 pounds or more.
Thursday was a good day to get out to a good start early on the fishing this weekend. As surprising as it may be that did not directly correlate with the making it to Sunday.
Neither of those 20-pound bags made the final cut to fish on Sunday, and only five of the 15 pounds or greater bags lived to fish Sunday.
Day 1 was led by Kyle Weisenburger’s 24-pound explosion. Weisenburger – native of Ohio – landed a 6-13, and nearly caught 25 pounds with 24-12.
His Day 1 catch would go as the best bag over the entire tournament.
Texan Todd Castledine brought the other 20-pound sack across stage, but just two ounces over 20 pounds, he would find himself 4 pounds, 10 ounces behind Mr. Weisenburger.
Big Bass of Day 1 and of the entire tournament was wrangled in by Miles Burghoff.
Burghoff comes to Grand Lake from Hixson, Tennessee. He caught his biggest fish of the day nearing the time for weigh-in. He was already at the 14-pound margin prior to hooking into the 8-pounder that sent him over 19 pounds and into third place after Thursday.
Burghoff was one of the good starts on Day 1 to make the final cut on Sunday.
Collings caught 14-5 on Thursday.
An unfortunate accident took place on Thursday as well.
Local pro Jeff Dobson, out of Bartlesville, was thrown from his boat as he headed back to Wolf Creek boat ramp for weigh-in.
Dobson told the crowd as he stood on stage that he was attempting to swerve and miss a log he had seen in the water, and then he ended up in the lake.
Dobson was not seriously injured, he would return and fish on Day 2.
Day 2 saw the third and final 20-pound bag of the tournament.
Mother Nature made her first major impact on the tournament. The day was riddled with lots of rain and dropping temperatures. Making for a far more difficult day on the water on Friday.
Rookie Bailey Boutries of Daphne, Alabama didn’t let it slow him down. Boutries brought in 20-6, enough to send the 20-year-old into first place.
Combined with his Day 1 total of 14-14, he would tally 35-4 to be four ounces ahead of Florida native John Cox.
Cox’s five fish limit on Day 2 totaled 19 pounds, 1 ounce.
The top five after the rainy day’s conclusion was rounded out by Bradford Beavers (34-15), Jamie Horton (32-14), and Thrift (32-14).
Grove native, Collings, totaled 10-7 on five fish for Day 2.
The third day would bring even more difficulties for the pros.
Mother Nature was none too kind. High temperatures reaching the 40s, precipitation, and strong winds to go with it caused the 30 fishermen remaining to really battle for a spot in the top 10.
As a result, the field saw four new faces emerging into the top 5.
Two-time Angler of the Year, Bryan Thrift, was able to take advantage of the tough conditions and perch himself atop the leaderboard with a comfortable 3-pound, 2-ounce margin.
His 19 pounds, 3 ounces on Saturday gave him a 52-1 total heading into Day 4.
Lawyer would surge on Day 3 as well catching a 17-pound, 9-ounce bag to send him into second place and give him a total of 48-14.
Jumping into third was Billy McCaghren. McCaghren made a gutsy move nearing the end of the day on Saturday. He stopped to fish a community hole on his way back to weigh-in after leaving the damn after 2:15 p.m.
It paid off.
McCaghren pulled out a 6-10 monster to finish his limit and put him into third.
Into fourth place was Michael Matthee with 14-10 and 44-15 for a three-day total on just 13 fish.
Bradford Beavers fell from 3rd to 5th on Saturday.
On his third and best day, Collings finished with 14-13 on yet another five fish limit.
Despite temperatures rising some and weather conditions being a little more tolerable, the fishing didn’t seem to get much better for the top 10.
Thrift – who had sole possession of first place by a good margin – would catch just one fish, a four-pounder, and fall to seventh.
Brian Latimer, Belton, South Carolina native, also only landed one fish. Latimer’s lone keeper weighed 3 and a half pounds. He would finish in 8th place.
Horton only managed one keeper of 1-11 to finish 9th.
Collings was unable to boat a keeper on the finale and blanked to finish 10th.
The only other fisherman to not catch his limit on Day 4 was McCaghren. McCaghren caught three keepers that tallied 11-5 and put him into sixth place.
Lawyer bagged 13-14 to put himself into first place.
Matthee finished with 17-13 to tie Lawyer, which he ended up taking second after losing the tiebreaker (total weight after Day 3).
Third place went to Burghoff after a Day 4 total of 18-12.
Cox took fourth after a solid bag of 17-5.
Beavers finished fifth after his Sunday bag of 13-14.
Derek Fulps of Broken Arrow, caught a 3-pound, 1-ounce bass on Day 1 but that would be all he managed through his two days of fishing.
Chip Harrington of Olathe, Kansas tallied 5-6 through two days of fishing.
Scott Ashmore, also from Broken Arrow, finished with 6-11 on just two fish. Ashmore caught a 3-pounder each day.
Chad Warren of Sand Springs, Oklahoma caught nearly seven pounds with 6-15 on three fish in Day 1. He was unable to land a keeper on Day 2.
Tulsa native, Andrew Upshaw, caught 7-4 through two days.
Kyle Cortiana from Coweta, caught 11-13 in two days of fishing.
Casey Scanlon from Lake Ozark, Missouri finished with 12-8.
Randy Blaukat out of Joplin, had a nice Day one total of 13-14, but blanked on Day 2 forcing him to miss the cut for Saturday.
Dobson finished with a two-day total of 13-15.
Darrel Robertson, reigning from Jay, missed getting a paycheck by just a pound and a half. Robertson finished with 15-9.
Brandon Mosely, from Choctaw, finished 36th with 20-13. Mosely only managed 6 fish, but it was good for $10,000.
Bradley Hallman, out of Norman, a tournament favorite, finished 14th. Hallman fished three days and collected 37-8 on just 12 fish, and earned a paycheck for $12,000.