Browning knew he had to hit the Red River on Saturday despite heavy rain. (James Overstreet photo)
Stephen Browning said he was surprised at what he saw on a rainy Day Two of practice. But at least he saw something.
“There have been days where I sat in the room and watched it rain,” Browning said. “You think, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m not gonna learn anything.’ And then you think, ‘You better get your butt out there.’ I was the third boat on the water this morning where I put in.”
Browning said he didn’t learn much Saturday, spending a lot of his day riding and looking at places he’d scouted before the river went off-limits. He attributed tough conditions to the usual suspects: cold, fast and muddy water. But Browning, one of the Elite Series’ well-known river rats, also pointed at another culprit – fluctuating river levels.
“I honestly think it’s the same thing that happened on the Arkansas River,” Browning said. “They’ve really jacked with the water a bunch the last two weeks. The fish haven’t had a chance to figure out what they want to do.”
When the Elite Series stopped in Little Rock, Ark., last summer, heavy rain had swollen the river in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Although river flows had fallen to more desirable levels by tournament time, fish were hard to pattern because of the wildly fluctuating water levels. As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved water through the system of locks and dams, it caused water to rise in some areas and fall in others, scattering fish everywhere.
(In that event, Denny Brauer won in a large slackwater harbor that wasn’t adversely affected by the fluctuating river levels.)
But even if there’s no more rain between the current storm system and Classic time, will the river stabilize fast enough to improve conditions?
“I think so,” Browning said. “I’ll look at the computer in the morning and check the river forecast.”
Water temperature also will need to climb out of the low 50s to help things along. Halfway through four days of practice, Browning said it’s doubtful anglers will rival the total weight put on the scales by the 2009 Classic field.
“It might take the same weight to win it,” he said. “But the overall weight – I just don’t think that’s going to happen.”
With the river changing so much, Browning said he may take the approach of a gambler in one of the Red River casinos in Shreveport-Bossier City when deciding where to start the tournament.
“I may lock once, I may lock twice, and I may start in the pool where we take out,” Browning said. “I may roll a pair of dice three times for each pool and the high number determines where I start.”