Salina – Even while the “Super bowl of bass fishing” is taking place on Grand Lake’s expansive waters, its little sister, Lake Hudson, is also playing host to a pretty unique tournament as well.
Even casual fans who do not follow bass fishing too closely may find a reason to cheer for competitors in the Hudson tournament. In fact, that cheer may be “Go Pokes!” or “Boomer Sooner!” or even “Woo Pig Sooie!”
That is because the lake is hosting the fourth annual Bassmaster College Classic this Sunday, February 24. According to BASS, defending champions from the University of Arkansas will be on the waters, fishing against college anglers from both Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.
Unlike the big money prizes for the Bassmaster Classic, the college teams are fishing for bragging rights and the “Iron Fish” trophy. Most importantly, they will be fishing for the opportunity to defend their title next year when the Bassmaster College Classic is held in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Each team will be represented by two three-man teams,” said BASS College Series Manager Hank Weldon. “The weigh-in will take place at the BOK in Tulsa prior to the final Bassmaster Classic weigh-in and the winning school will be declared the 2013 Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic Winner.”
For the Grand River Dam Authority Ecosystems Management Department, which oversees the waters of Grand and Hudson lakes, this tournament is another indicator of the increasing popularity of the fisheries in the Grand River system.
“Lake Hudson has a terrific reputation among bass fishermen all across the region,” said GRDA Fisheries Coordinator Brent Davis. “Being able to play host to this BASS tournament while the Classic is underway just reinforces that reputation.”
In recent years, the GRDA Ecosystems Department has been very active in lake-enhancement programs designed to both protect and preserve the waters of Grand and Hudson. That is accomplished through efforts like aquatic plant transplant programs, new oversight efforts for fishing tournaments and the very popular “Rush For Brush” artificial fish habitat effort. In late November 2012 the department also announced the first annual “Crappie Christmas” program to collect used live Christmas trees after the holidays for use as fish habitats.
All that effort helps not only with the ecosystems but also with dollars and cents. When a lake has a reputation for good tournament fishing, more and more tournaments come. That brings in more dollars to the lake area and helps GRDA fulfill the important economic development portion of its overall mission. The lakes of the Grand River system have helped support a thriving recreation and tourism industry in Oklahoma for decades, and the GRDA enhancement programs in place today will help support it in the future as well.
“Our ‘Rush For Brush’ program is one of the most popular things we do,” said Davis. “We seem to get more and more volunteer interest every year and it’s been very successful.”
GRDA’s efforts at fisheries enhancement have not been lost on fishing enthusiasts – even those who do it professionally. Edwin Evers (Talala, Oklahoma), who will compete in the Bassmaster Classic knows the waters of Grand Lake well and also knows what it’s like to help with the GRDA’s artificial fish habitat efforts.
“The coolest thing they do to manage these lakes is they have this Rush For Brush,” said Evers. “This where volunteers come out and build habitats with materials supplied by GRDA, then fishermen can put them where they want to in the water. It’s just another thing GRDA does to make our lakes so great.”
Evers added that GRDA’s tournament rules, which are designed to protect the fisheries, have also helped enhance tournament results on Grand and Hudson.
“During those times when fish are caught deep and water temperatures are really high, they limit the amount of fish that can come in during a tournament,” said Evers. “They go from a five fish limit to a four fish limit in June and July. Then, they take it to a three fish limit in August when it’s the absolute hottest. When you do that, there is a lot less stress on the fish.”
All that habitat enhancement does make a difference in angler success. Each year, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) releases an Oklahoma Bass Tournaments Annual Report. In the most recent report, with numbers from 2010, Grand Lake ranks third to continue “its annual showing at or near the top of our list,” states the ODWC report. In past years, Hudson has also been a frequent visitor to the top 10 list. In other words, a standard answer to the age-old question “where are they biting?” can almost always be “Grand and Hudson.”
Just ask those at the “super bowl of fishing” or the college classic.
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