By Todd Ceisner
When the 2013 FLW Tour schedule was released and it included a June event at Grand Lake O' The Cherokees, Jason Christie thought for sure it'd be won out away from the bank. He wasn't alone in his reasoning. Many others came prepared for an offshore derby last week, but heavy rains brought the lake way up, flooding thousands of acres of buck brush and willows.
In the end, it turned into an old school, power-fishing flip fest, the kind Christie seems to excel at. Heck, these days, there's not much the Park Hill, Okla., native doesn't do well. He's made a recent habit of winning tour-level events and the Grand Lake triumph marked his third victory of the season and catapulted him back to the No. 1 spot in the BassFan World Rankings presented by Livingston Lures.
"They all have their place," he said when asked to rank his victories this year. "Beaver (Lake) was special because well, it's Beaver and that's the kind of fishery people wouldn't expect me to win at. Then to win an Elite Series (Bull Shoals Lake) against those guys was a special thing. This one might be the most special, though. It's hard to win on your home lake. I don't care if you're Kevin VanDam in Michigan or Terry Scroggins in Florida, it's hard to win. All of the pressure's on you."
He said one thing that tripped him up when he finished 7th at the Bassmaster Classic at Grand back in February was that he got caught up running around to spots where he'd caught them before at the same time of year or in similar cold conditions. Last week, he fished memories again. This time, though, he set up camp in the Elk River and barely budged. He burned very little fuel and picked apart a flooded island that drew wads of fish to it when the water came up.
Once the water stabilized and began dropping slightly, it put the fish on the edges and consequently right in his crosshairs. He opened with a tournament-best 21-12 on day 1, but his weight dipped 3 pounds on day 2 and another pound on day 3. He rocked 19-13 on Sunday to win by more than 5 pounds over Bryan Thrift. Despite sharing water with Andy Morgan, who wound up 7th, he proved there were plenty of quality fish to go around.
"I really wanted to fish deep because I thought it was my best chance to win," he said. "Looking back on it, it would've put a lot of people in a few areas. With the water coming up, it came up real fast and it took the fish a while move in. I think they really moved in on the off day (Wednesday) and when it started to slowly come down, all that did was replenish the fish."
Here's how he did it.
With so much rain falling during practice, it was hard to tell where the water would rise to as it had the post-spawn fish scattered pretty well. Those who tried to get something going out deep quickly realized the swarm of boats beating the bank probably had the right idea.
Christie was no different, but he knew enough not to waste an inordinate amount of time out deep.
"To illustrate how bad my practice was, on day 1, I started in a place I thought I could catch 10 pounds," he said. "Then I figured I'd go practicing again. I went in there to catch 10 pounds and caught two keepers and a 5-pounder, then I went to the Elk River. There's no place on the lake I had more confidence in than there. I caught a fish or two on a few places on the way back in, but 95 percent of the fish I weighed were caught in the Elk."
> Day 1: 5, 21-12
> Day 2: 5, 18-14
> Day 3: 5, 17-10
> Day 4: 5, 19-13
> Total = 20, 78-01
With the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) siphoning a lot of water out of the lake on day 1, there was a good amount of current moving through the system and Christie said much of his game plan was dependent on the generation schedule.
With the water up in the bushes and muddy, he headed up the Elk River, which typically holds cleaner water by comparison. Clarity wasn't the draw for him, though. About 10 years ago, he fished a team tournament at Grand under similar conditions around the same time of year. He and his partner fished the Elk that day and nearly won the derby.
"What separates that place from lot of the rest of the lake is it has a big bay with an island in it," he said. "It can be overwhelming for a lot of guys because there's really no place to start or end.
"I told (Andy) Morgan I've been fishing up there for 20 years and it took me a long time to figure out that this place is the juice. It's the only area in the river that has a bunch of cover like that. It's real wooly."
He crushed a tournament-best 21-12 to open the event, catching a couple weigh fish on a frog before picking up his flipping rod.
"We went through there on day 1 and cleaned them out, then the water came down and that drew them out to the outside edge," he added.
The water level began to stabilize on day 2 and he stuck 18-14 as his lead grew to more than 2 1/2 pounds over Robbie Dodson. With the water leveling off, it allowed the fish to get settled in and made them easier to target, but execution was a challenge around the gnarly limbs, logs and other submerged obstacles.
"I lost a couple of fish, but never saw them," he said. "I didn't think they were giants, but I caught some fish last week that I shouldn't have caught so it all evens out."
He boated 17-10 on day 3 for his smallest limit of the event, but it helped him carry a 3 1/2-pound advantage into the final day over Barry Wilson.
He lost a big one right away on the final day and was worried it would be a harbinger of things to come. Instead, he capitalized on a mid-day flurry and put it out of reach with a 4-pounder with less than 2 hours left.
"I figured it out day to day," he said. "Some days, it was based on water flow and some days they were on the points and other days they were way back in the stuff. I fished really slow all week. I had to cover everything and I think that's what helped me. I didn't go through it real fast. When I got to my area on day 4, I never fished the same stuff twice even though it wasn't that big of an area.
"I only ran around a little crazy on day 3, but I was trying to let my co-angler catch a couple. Overall, I didn't burn very much gas. This was pretty cool, though. I did it in a way that is the reason I like to flip. It was close contact, old-school flipping. I caught them flipping at Smith Lake earlier this year, but I'd only get five or 10 bites a day. Here, guys were talking on day 4 about getting 50 bites on the 4th day! It was a lot of fun. My hands and knees are all scarred up from being on the front deck and landing so many fish. It was an awesome week."
> Entering the tournament, Christie figured someone would pop a limit in the 23- or 24-pound neighborhood, but with the water so dirty and slow to clear up, he thinks it took a lot of post-spawn females out of play.
"With the late spawn, I think a lot of the females had already moved out and they just weren't catchable," he said. "The water clarity wasn't conducive. What people don't realize is a lot of those 3- to 4-pound fish we caught were males. I've seen hundreds of pairs of fish up shallow here with a 4-pound male and a 5-pound female. Grand just has a ton of fish like that."
> He estimated the area he fished all week to be about 100 acres and it was chock full of targets. The deepest fish he caught during the event was in about 5 feet of water.
"There's a lot of stuff to fish and if you wanted to fish it all, it would take you from daylight to dark," he said. "You could sit out in the middle and see it all."
He said the key was employing the same technique he used 10 years ago in the local team tournament.
"I figured out a pattern that day which is what I used this week to win," he said. "You could flip your bait in there and let it go to the bottom and get bit now and then. I likened it more to flipping in Florida. You'd flip in there and let it go to the bottom, but I'd bring it up quickly to the limb or log and just shake it. That just drove them crazy. As soon as it went in the water or when I'd bring it up to the limb is when they'd take it. It was something I figured out in the same place at the same time of year.
"I also saw that day how many big fish that lived there. The island makes it a special place. It's about 500 yards long and maybe 75 to 100 yards at its widest point. When the lake comes up, it's not an island anymore. It's just a big grove of trees and the fish move in there. As the water starts coming down, they start pulling out to the outside. Every day with the water coming down, it just pushed more fish out to me."
Winning Gear Notes
> Frog gear: 6'11" heavy-action Falcon Cara T7 Jason Christie Signature Series frog rod, Lew's Super Duty casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), unnamed 50-pound braided line, BOOYAH Poppin' Pad Crasher Frog (dart frog).
> Flipping gear: 7'3" heavy-action Falcon Cara T7 swimbait rod, Lew's Speed Spool BB1 casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 25-pound Silver Thread fluorocarbon line, unnamed 1/2-oz. flipping weight, 6/0 Lazer TroKar flipping hook, YUM Wooly Bug (green-pumpkin purple).
> He also flipped a creature bait later in the event.
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success : "Having confidence in the Elk River. In practice last week, I had two 4-pound bites up the Elk."
> Performance edge: "My Power-Poles. That was the deal. I had a spectator on the second day tell me that he's lived on Grand for years and never thought he'd need Power-Poles, but after watching me he said, 'Now I see why I need them.' They were up and down 100 times today. I caught a lot of fish with those poles down. The other thing, too, is when you were up in the willows, they'd act as natural limb deterrents to keep the willow branches off your engine."
> Christie said he'd been trying to convince FLW to stage a tournament at Grand for several years. "I'd been on (tournament director Bill) Taylor to get FLW to come here just because I wanted to show the lake off," he said. "I know the Elites did it with the Classic and I wanted FLW to do it. The flip side of having a tournament so close to home is all the pressure you put on yourself. I hope they come back and I think they will. Grove is starting to make a big push to have some big tournaments and I think you'll start seeing a (Bassmaster) Open or an EverStart (Series) or a tour event here every year."
GROVE, Okla. – Rayovac pro Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., had never fished in a four-day tournament on his home waters of Grand Lake of the Cherokees. After leading the first three days of competition at the Walmart FLW Tour at Grand Lake presented by Castrol, all that he needed was one more solid day’s weight to claim his second FLW Tour title of the season.
Christie caught a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 13 ounces Sunday to win $126,000 with a four-day catch of 20 bass weighing 78-1. The catch gave Christie the win by a 5-pound, 5-ounce margin over Chevy pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., who surged to his second consecutive second-place finish on the FLW Tour with a four-day total of 20 bass weighing 72-12, earning him $34,266.
“This was such a special week for me,” said Christie, who earned his sixth career victory on Grand Lake in FLW competition. “The way that I was catching them, it brought back a lot of memories. I bet my co-anglers were tired of hearing all of my stories. This lake is responsible for teaching me how to fish.”
“The main reason that I went there was because that it was an area that I had the most confidence in,” Christie said. “It was only 20 acres, but there is a lot of fishing in that 20 acres – a lot of shoreline, a lot of bushes and a lot of places for the bass to hide.
“The area is on an island,” Christie continued. “When that current gets rolling and rolls around the tips of that island, it really gets the big ones going up there. It was pretty simple. I just got in the bushes and put my head down and got busy.”
Christie estimated that 95 percent of the fish that he caught this week came by flipping, but said that he switched up his baits every day. He boated some key fish the first day on a black BOOYAH Poppin’ Pad Crasher. Other baits that produced for him throughout the week were a YUM F2 Wooly Bug, a BOOYAH jig and an unnamed creature bait.
“I was using a 7-foot, 3-inch Falcon Rod paired with a Lew’s BB1 7.1:1 reel. It was spooled with 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line using Lazer Trokar Flippin hooks. I never missed one fish all week,” Christie said.
“The pressure is off for me for the rest of the year,” Christie went on to say. “I don’t have a chance to beat these guys for Angler of the Year, and I think I’m already in the Forrest Wood Cup. So, I’m just going to go up to Chickamauga and try to win. Everyone likes to peg me as a shallow-water fisherman, but I love to fish deep. I’m looking forward to that.”
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GROVE, Okla. – Rayovac pro Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., brought a five-bass limit to the scales Saturday weighing 17 pounds, 10 ounces giving him a three-day cumulative total of 15 bass for 58 pounds, 4 ounces and the lead for the third consecutive day at the Walmart FLW Tour at Grand Lake presented by Castrol. He now holds a solid 3½-pound lead over second place pro Barry Wilson of Birmingham, Ala., in the event that features the best bass-fishing anglers in the world casting for the top cash award of up to $125,000.
“All that you can ask for in a bass tournament is to go into the last day and have a legitimate chance to win,” said Christie, who is seeking his second FLW Tour victory of the season after winning at Beaver Lake just two months ago. “If I can catch what I did today tomorrow, I have a good chance.”
Christie said that Saturday was his slowest day of the tournament so far, and that he only boated 10 to 12 keeper bass.
“We won’t know until tomorrow whether my fish will hold up or not,” Christie said. “I think I’m going to try a couple of different spots early, because my main area didn’t fire up until later today. I don’t have any other areas that I have the confidence that I do in my main area, though. Hopefully, they replenish.”
Christie said that his main area was about 10 to 15 miles up the lake from the takeoff site at Wolf Creek Park. Like yesterday, he said that his main pattern all week has been flipping a YUM F2 Wooly Bug and a creature bait.
“I ran way down the lake today and tried to catch some crankbait fish,” Christie said. “I really did that to eliminate it. I didn’t want to be thinking about anything else tomorrow other than flipping bushes. It’s definitely getting a little tougher in my area, but I do believe that it can be won up there. We’re all great fisherman, but it’s all about how good your locations are… and if they can hold up for four days.”
The top 10 pros advancing to the final day of competition on Grand Lake are:
1st: Rayovac pro Jason Christie, Park Hill, Okla., 15 bass, 58-4
2nd: Barry Wilson, Birmingham, Ala., 15 bass, 54-12
3rd: Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 15 bass, 54-7
4th: Chevy pro Jimmy Houston, Cookson, Okla., 15 bass, 53-8
5th: Robbie Dodson, Harrison, Ark., 15 bass, 53-2
6th: Chevy pro Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 15 bass, 53-1
7th: Chevy pro Jay Yelas, Corvallis, Ore., 15 bass, 51-11
8th: Zell Rowland, Montgomery, Texas, 15 bass, 51-6
9th: Stetson Blaylock, Benton, Ark., 15 bass, 51-1
10th: Straight Talk pro J.T. Kenney, Palm Bay, Fla., 15 bass, 50-12
Finishing in 11th through 20th are:
11th: Travis Fox, Rogers, Ark., 15 bass, 50-10, $12,216
12th: Todd Auten, Lake Wylie, S.C., 15 bass, 50-1, $12,216
13th: Ish Monroe, Hughson, Calif., 15 bass, 50-1, $12,216
14th: James Biggs, Richland Hills, Texas, 15 bass, 49-5, $12,216
15th: Chevy pro Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., 15 bass, 48-13, $12,216
16th: Ramie Colson Jr., Cadiz, Ky., 15 bass, 47-15, $11,726
17th: M&M’s pro Jim Moynagh, Carver, Minn., 15 bass, 45-8, $11,726
18th: Lendell Martin Jr., Nacogdoches, Texas, 14 bass, 45-0, $11,726
19th: Tommy Martin, Hemphill, Texas, 15 bass, 44-7, $11,726
20th: Matthew Stefan, Park Ridge, Ill., 15 bass, 43-11, $11,726
Final results for the remaining field can be found at FLWOutdoors.com.
Overall there were 99 bass weighing 300 pounds, 12 ounces caught by pros Saturday. The catch included 19 five-bass limits.
Pros are competing for a top award of up to $125,000 this week plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart, the world championship of bass fishing. The top 35 anglers in the point standings from the six events on the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour will qualify. The 2013 Forrest Wood Cup will be in Shreveport, La., Aug. 15-18 on the Red River. Coverage of the Forrest Wood Cup will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC when “FLW” airs Sept. 29 from 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. ET.
Keith Honeycutt of Temple, Texas, won the co-angler division and $25,000 Saturday with a three-day total of 11 bass weighing 27 pounds, 7 ounces, followed by Jason Johnson of Gainesville, Ga., in second place with 10 bass weighing 24 pounds, 13 ounces worth $7,500.
“When I drew Jason Christie today, I just thought to myself that there is no way in the world that he can flip every single bush,” said Honeycutt, who has earned more than $180,000 via fishing as a co-angler in FLW competition. “I just knew that there had to be a few bushes here and there for me.”
Honeycutt said that he caught his fish this week by flipping bushes and throwing shallow crankbaits.
“I really do appreciate what Jason (Christie) did for me today,” Honeycutt went on to say. “I had three bass at 1 p.m. and Jason heard me sighing in the back of the boat. He asked me if I wanted to go crankbait fishing, so of course I smiled and told him that I would love to go. We made a 25-mile run and went crankbait fishing, and I caught three or four more fish and got my limit. There is no doubt that Jason left the area where this tournament is going to be won to help me, and I really do appreciate it.”
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Oklahoma pro expands overall lead during second day of FLW Tour action on Grand Lake, top-20 cut announced
07.Jun.2013 by Gary Mortenson
GROVE, Okla. – For the most part, the changing landscape of the FLW Tour event on Grand Lake has been a sight to behold. Water levels have shifted somewhat dramatically, starting off nearly 4 feet above normal pool and then receding steadily with each passing day. The muddied up waters that greeted anglers upon their arrival have slowly given way to more gin-clear conditions throughout significant portions of the lake. Throw in the fact that anglers witnessed sunny and calm conditions today, in stark contrast to the overcast skies and medium winds on day one, and it’s obvious that anglers have had much to process throughout this tournament.
However, given all of the significant changes anglers have had to battle through this week, the one constant appears to be the standing atop the leaderboard. For a second day in a row, pre-tournament favorite and Rayovac team pro Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., has dominated the headlines. Bolstered by a total, two-day catch of 40 pounds, 10 ounces, Christie took a 5-ounce lead after yesterday’s competition and inflated it to nearly 3 full pounds after Friday’s weigh-in.
And although Christie – who considers Grand Lake to be his hometown water – had attempted to argue at the start of the tournament that the conditions left him with no local advantage, the results say otherwise. Christie is clearly on top of his game. And he’s now obviously the man to beat.
“Twenty pounds a day, I’ll take it,” said Christie. “I’m where I wanted to be.”
While weights were down across the board in Friday’s competition, including Christie who recorded nearly 2 pounds less than yesterday’s catch, the Oklahoma pro still managed to haul in the day’s biggest stringer in either division with a whopping 18-pound, 14-ounce stringer.
“I have three different patterns going on in three different sections of the lake,” said Christie. “And I’m using all three patterns each day. I have about 1,000 places on this pond, but it has to be the right deal. A stretch that was good today might not be good tomorrow. The water levels are starting to stabilize and there’s still plenty of fish. But you have to be in the right place at the right time. Believe it or not, I’ve never fished a four-day tournament here and I’m learning just like everyone else.”
While Christie lost two nice fish today, he basically chalked it up to the way he’s fishing.
“I’m basically flipping a Yum Wooly Bug in two different colors and throwing a Booyah spinnerbait. But I’m mostly flipping,” said Christie. “I did lose two big fish at the boat today so that was kind of aggravating. But that’s going to happen. I didn’t catch as many keepers as yesterday, but I still caught 20 to 25 fish. So overall, I’m pretty happy with how today went.”
One of the keys to Christie’s success has been an area in deeper water where he’s been able to haul out some of his bigger largemouth. While Christie didn’t want to divulge much, he did note that it was “off the bank” and that he appreciates windier conditions where fish continue to get prodded out into deeper water.
“I’m fishing at different depths,” said Christie. “Tomorrow I’m going to have to (adapt) to the conditions like everyone else. I’m just going to go out there and go fishing.”
Rest of Story on FLWOutdoors.com
FLW Press Release
GROVE, Okla. – Rayovac pro Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., proved that in fishing there is sometimes a hometown advantage, as he brought a five-bass limit to the scales Thursday weighing 21 pounds, 12 ounces to take the lead at the Walmart FLW Tour at Grand Lake presented by Castrol. Christie now holds a slim 5-ounce lead over another Oklahoma fishing legend, Chevy pro Jimmy Houston of Cookson, Okla., who weighed in five bass worth 21 pounds, 7 ounces. Both will be looking to add to their totals tomorrow heading into day two of the four-day competition featuring the world’s best bass-fishing anglers who are vying for the top cash award of up to $125,000.
“I actually exceeded my expectations a little bit today,” said Christie, who has five career victories in FLW competition on Grand Lake. “I was hoping to catch 16 to 18 pounds and stay in the hunt, but I got lucky today and pulled up on the right spot at the right time, and they were there.”
Christie caught an early-morning limit by fishing shallow water, but knew that he needed to change his tactics in order to stay near the top of the leaderboard.
“At 12 o’clock I decided that what I was doing wasn’t working,” Christie said. “I knew that I needed to do something different, and it paid off for me.”
Christie made the move to his key area, where he was able to quickly upgrade his limit by culling all of his smaller fish. He said the area was not new to him, and was a place where he has caught fish in the past.
“It was definitely my lake experience that helped,” Christie continued. “This was a spot where I have caught a lot of fish under these conditions. I actually have a lot of places like it, but most of them don’t have any fish on them. If you look at my GPS, it’s crowded with waypoints, but a lot of them don’t have any fish on them because of the water color.
“With the way that they ran the water today, I think it pulled a lot of those fish out and set them where they needed to be,” Christie continued. “One thing about Grand Lake, though, is that they can be there today and gone tomorrow. You just have to try to catch them coming out, and today I had pretty good timing. Hopefully I can hit it at the right time again tomorrow.
“There are no secrets here,” Christie went on to say. “You just have to fish and move around until you find them. Grand Lake has so many fish in it that if you’re not getting bit, you’re not around them. You just have to keep moving until you find them.”
The top 10 pros after day one on Grand Lake are:
1st: Rayovac pro Jason Christie, Park Hill, Okla., five bass, 21-12
2nd: Chevy pro Jimmy Houston, Cookson, Okla., five bass, 21-7
3rd: Todd Auten, Lake Wylie, S.C., five bass, 20-12
4th: Randy Blaukat, Joplin, Mo., five bass, 20-3
5th: Matthew Stefan, Park Ridge, Ill., five bass, 19-14
6th: Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., five bass, 19-11
6th: Ryan Chandler, Valparaiso, Ind., five bass, 19-11
8th: Robbie Dodson, Harrison, Ark., five bass, 19-9
9th: Zell Rowland, Montgomery, Texas, five bass, 19-8
10th: Ish Monroe, Hughson, Calif., five bass, 19-4
10th: Troy Morrow, Eastanollee, Ga., five bass, 19-4
Rest of story on FLWOutdoors.com