By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Tommy Biffle doesn't live much farther from Grand Lake, site of the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, than he does from Fort Gibson Lake, where he won a 2010 Elite Series derby after it had been relocated on short notice due to flooding on the Arkansas River. He can leave his home in Wagoner, Okla. and be floating on Grand an hour later.
He insists, however, that he won't have near as much of a "local advantage" at Grand come February as he did at Fort Gibson a year and a half ago. He was so confident about Fort Gibson, which he considers his home lake, that he opted to mow his lawn rather than take to the water and be seen checking on his prime locales during the one practice day that Elite competitors were allowed for that event.
He's fished many tournaments on Grand and won quite a few of those, but most are distant memories and none occurred as early in the pre-spawn as the Classic will.
"Right now, I don't have hardly any (advantage)," he said. "I never fished there in February before last winter, and that was just pulling the Alabama Rig around for fun. I'm up there now getting familiar with everything again because a lot of those docks and some other stuff wasn't there when I used to fish there a lot.
"I'm re-familiarizing myself with the banks and the docks, and if I do my homework right between now and the (Dec. 10 pre-practice) cutoff, then that might be an advantage. Nobody else is going to come here and stay for a month, and I plan to go every chance I get."
Big Weights No Matter What
Biffle said that if conditions are optimal, it'll take an average of 20 pounds a day to win the Classic at Grand. If the venue is in its absolute stingiest state, he thinks it'll still take 17 pounds a day.
"It's just the number of good fish that are in the lake and the number of good fishermen that'll be after them," he said. "The fish'll be heavy that time of year – it'll be before the spawn, so they'll be a little bigger. It's going to take some weight."
He said the worst-case scenario in terms of weights would be flooding on the Grand River that raised the lake's level and rendered the normally clear water considerably darker than usual. On a personal level, though, he wouldn't mind too much if that occurred.
"That'd make it tough and it might keep the jerkbaiters from catching them really good, and then I might be able to catch them on a jig or something. I've got as good of jerkbaits as anybody, but I don't like doing it. That'd be about third on my list, at best."
Who are the Favorites?
When asked to name a few anglers he expects to fare well (other than himself, of course), Biffle tabbed fellow Oklahoman Jason Christie, Mike McClelland and Kevin VanDam.
Christie, an FLW Tour regular who gained his Classic berth via a Bassmaster Northern Open win at the Detroit River, probably has more wintertime/early-spring experience at Grand than anybody else in the field. McClelland is a jerkbait ace with a strong history on the lake (one of his three Elite wins occurred there in 2006).
Rhetorical question: Why VanDam (a four-time winner of the event)?
"He's a jerkbaiter, and he's VanDam. He'll be hard to beat, I guarantee you."
He didn't want to talk too much about his own chances for success in his 18th appearance in the sports's premier event. He did mention that he won't be so focused on the fishing that he can't enjoy the peripheral aspects of having the event so close to home.
"I'm excited that it's here in Oklahoma and I'll get to see a lot of people that I haven't seen in a while. It could be a cold Classic, but it should be one of the best ones we've had in a long time."