(Editor's note: This is part 1 of a 3-part story.)

By BassFan Staff

There's less than a month to go before the bass fishing universe converges on northeastern Oklahoma for the 43rd Bassmaster Classic at Grand Lake. Never before has the Classic been held that far north this early in the year and for months, there’s been plenty written and said about the potential issues that could arise if Mother Nature decides to throw a little winter blast at the region.



There are plenty of non-weather storylines as well, like the trio of Oklahoma natives who will compete in their home state – Tommy Biffle, Jason Christie and Edwin Evers. They’re garnering plenty of attention as early favorites, as is Mike McClelland, who lives just over the Arkansas border, but rest assured that the other 49 competitors will have something to say about that.

This will be Grand Lake’s first turn in the Classic spotlight – it last hosted an Elite Series event in June 2007 – and judging by the reports from those who paid the lake a visit prior to the off-limits period, the lake is chock-full of 3- to 5-pounders, which could make for some solid sacks of fish at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Of course, it's too early to tell much of anything yet as the field hasn't even wet a line on the fishery in a month. To help fill the time between now and the official Classic practice, here's an in-depth look at the 53-angler field. Anglers appear in alphabetical order.

Tracy Adams – Wilkesboro, N.C.
> Qualified through: Won Lake Norman Southern Open
> Classics fished: 1
> Best Classic finish: 49th (2011)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: N/A
> Current world rank: N/A
> Insight: Former FLW Tour angler with plenty of experience on the big stage – he’s fished six Forrest Wood Cups and one Classic. He’s steady and favors shallow water, but Grand seems to have something for everyone. He's not fishing the FLW Tour or Elite Series this season, so the Classic is all he's got.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Tommy Biffle – Wagoner, Okla.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points (27th)
> Classics fished: 17
> Best Classic finish: 2nd (1990 & 1994)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: 34th (2006), 30th (2007)
> Current world rank: 71st
> Insight: Biffle spent some time at Grand last winter throwing an umbrella rig around for fun, but we’re guessing he was also doing some homework for the Classic. Made a late-season charge up the points standings last year to qualify. He has a pair of runner-ups in the Classic and three 2nds in the Forrest Wood Cup on his résumé, so you know he’s champing at the bit to get it right this time, especially at home.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Andy Bravence – Tucson, Ariz.
> Qualified through: B.A.S.S. Nation Western champion
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: N/A
> Current world rank: N/A
> Insight: A complete unknown at this point. Any BassFans have some insight?

Brandon Card – Caryville, Tenn.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points (22nd)
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: N/A
> Current world rank: 126th
> Insight: The reigning Elite Series Rookie of the Year acquitted himself nicely in 2012, but limped into the clubhouse down the stretch. The Classic will be the first true pressure test for him.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Jonathan Carter – Brewer, Maine
> Qualified through: B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern champion
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: N/A
> Current world rank: N/A
> Insight: A first-grade teacher who won the Eastern Divisional in his first try after being an alternate in 2009. Otherwise, a complete unknown. Any BassFans have some insight?

B.A.S.S./James Overstreet
Photo: B.A.S.S./James Overstreet

Hoisting trophies got to be a bit of a habit last year for Jason Christie, who's being hailed as one of the favorites despite his Classic rookie status.

Brent Chapman – Lake Quivira, Kan.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points (1st), Toledo Bend Elite Series winner, Lewisville Lake Central Open winner
> Classics fished: 11
> Best Classic finish: 5th (2010 & 2011)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: 18th (2006), 35th (2007)
> Current world rank: 2nd
> Insight: So what does Chapman have planned for an encore to his magic carpet ride that was his 2012 season? Winning the Classic would be a good start. Grand was one of the lakes he cut his teeth on years ago and he’s as amped as anyone to have the Classic in his so-called back yard. He’s formidable with a flipping stick in his hand but proved last year that versatility is a must, and that’ll be a key at Grand. If the weather gets gnarly, don’t expect him to flinch. He won the Lewisville Lake Central Open last February despite brutally cold conditions.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Hank Cherry – Maiden, N.C.
> Qualified through: Won Lewis Smith Lake Southern Open
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: N/A
> Current world rank: N/A
> Insight: Cherry fished the FLW Tour in 2007 and 2008, and was nearly ready to park his boat and get out of tournament fishing. After winning the Smith Lake Open and finishing 4th in Southern Open points, he’s ready for his first Classic and to give the Elite Series a shot. He did something a little off the wall to clinch the Open win and that kind of open-mindedness could prove critical at Grand.

Jason Christie – Park Hill, Okla.
> Qualified through: Won Detroit River Northern Open
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: N/A
> Current world rank: 26th
> Insight: No angler has been mentioned more in pre-tournament prognostications as a threat to win than Christie. He has a long history on Grand, but hasn’t fished it a whole lot in recent years, especially in February. Still, a lot of eyes will be trained on him as he embarks on a year that will see him fish both the FLW Tour and Elite Series.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

John Crews, Jr. – Salem, Va.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points (19th)
> Classics fished: 6
> Best Classic finish: 16th (2008)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: 42nd (2006), 46th (2007)
> Current world rank: 36th
> Insight: Crews’ average finish in six previous Classics is 27th, but he concluded last season with three Top-30 placements. A shallow-cranking whiz, it’s tough to count him among the favorites right now, but he’s worth a look once competition gets under way.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Albert Collins – Nacogdoches, Texas
> Qualified through: Weekend Series champion
> Classics fished: 0
> Best Classic finish: N/A
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: N/A
> Current world rank: N/A
> Insight: A complete unknown at this point. Any BassFans have some insight?

Mark Davis – Mt. Ida, Ark.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points (20th)
> Classics fished: 15
> Best Classic finish: 1st (1995)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: N/A
> Current world rank: 59th
> Insight: He’s coming off cervical fusion surgery last October, but should be good to go by the Classic. When it comes to deep structure, few know the nuances better than Davis and Grand is brimming with fishy-looking structure with plenty of water on top of it. Cold, pre-spawn conditions don’t play to his strengths, so he’s a tough call at this point.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Ott DeFoe – Knoxville, Tenn.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points (2nd)
> Classics fished: 1
> Best Classic finish: 5th (2012)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: N/A
> Current world rank: 4th
> Insight: DeFoe has ascended close to the top of the ranks of pros who’re able to quickly break down and find success on new or strange bodies of water. Grand will be new to him, but he thinks it might resemble some lakes close to home in Tennessee. Always willing to think a little outside the box and we all know how valuable that can be at the Classic. A legit threat to win.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Boyd Duckett – Demopolis, Ala.
> Qualified through: Won Oneida Lake Elite Series
> Classics fished: 5
> Best Classic finish: 1st (2007)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: 8th (2007)
> Current world rank: 68th
> Insight: Duckett’s self-titled Comeback Tour hit its crescendo at the end of the 2012 Elite Series season with his victory at Oneida Lake that clinched a trip to Grand. He’s not a fan of cold-water scenarios, but he's not afraid to take a risk, either. Still, his bid for a second career Classic title may have to wait ‘til next year at Lake Guntersville in his home state.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Photo: B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina

Edwin Evers has a pair of Top-5 finishes at Grand Lake in his Elite Series career, but he wants nothing more than to capture his first Classic title there.

Edwin Evers – Talala, Okla.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points (8th)
> Classics fished: 11
> Best Classic finish: 5th (2009)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: 4th (2006), 3rd (2007)
> Current world rank: 6th
> Insight: He’s no stranger to Grand and has a strong history there with a 4th and 3rd from the Elite Series stops back in 2006 and 2007, respectively. He’s made no secret about how badly he wants to win either a Classic or an Angler of the Year title. As consistent as they come at the pro level, he’s coming off a third straight Top-8 finish in the AOY standings. If the bass are chewing spinnerbaits, he might be tough to beat.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Todd Faircloth – Jasper, Texas
> Qualified through: Elite Series points (4th), Mississippi River Elite Series winner
> Classics fished: 10
> Best Classic finish: 3rd (2010)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: 101st (2006), 16th (2007)
> Current world rank: 5th
> Insight: Fishing his seventh straight Classic, he’s posted Top-10 finishes in the last three and had a dynamite 2012 season with a victory and a runner-up showing. Grand won’t play to his pitching/flipping strengths, but he’s quite capable with a jerkbait and jig tied on. Has a scattered history there with a 101st and a 16th, but he’s fully capable of another Top-10 showing or better.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Pete Gluszek – Franklinville, N.J.,
> Qualified through: Cayuga Lake Northern Open winner
> Classics fished: 2
> Best Classic finish: 25th (1997)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: N/A
> Current world rank: 383rd
> Insight: It’ll be 14 years between Classic appearances for Gluszek, who co-founded The Bass University with Mike Iaconelli. Late winter, pre-spawn fishing doesn’t suit him, but he’s more than willing to think outside the box.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.

Shaw Grigsby – Gainesville, Fla.
> Qualified through: Elite Series points (25th)
> Classics fished: 14
> Best Classic finish: 2nd (1993)
> Elite Series finishes at Grand: 75th (2006), 59th (2007)
> Current world rank: 64th
> Insight: Finding off-shore fish isn’t the forté of this happy-go-lucky Floridian. He’d much rather be picking off bedding fish, but nobody’s expecting things to be that far along come Classic time. Still, he has enough experience under his belt to be able to figure things out. If the weather’s warmer than expected, keep him on your radar.
> View his BassFan Angler Profile here.