MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Tommy Biffle is no stranger to big leads, but he’s also seen the bad side of being too confident on the final day of a tournament.
“I’ve lost when I was ahead,” Biffle said. “Ricky Clunn beat me one time when I had about a nine-pound lead for the Classic. It was early in my career, and the red water came into my fishing spot, and I thought all I had to do was catch one fish and I stayed and stayed, instead of moving and catching two or three fish, and I lost the Classic.”
Biffle, of Wagoner, Okla., has been fishing the Arkansas River all his life, and has spent the entire tournament fishing the same shallow area accessible only by jet boat. He’s been targeting rocky ledges with Biffle Bugs in green pumpkin/chartreuse, green pumpkin and black neon. His top concern is lowering water levels on the Arkansas River that might make it difficult to get into his spot.
“If I can’t get in, I’m just going to turn the trolling motor on and go down the bank until its over,” Biffle said. “Everything else is beat up. I’ll catch some going down the bank fishing.”
In second place going into the final day of fishing is B.A.S.S. pro Lendell Martin of Nacogdoches, Texas, with 24-6, just a 9-ounce lead over Trevor Romans of Plano, Texas. Martin has been running down-river about 75 miles each way.
“I’m just going to try to find some different stuff again today,” Martin said. “I found some new stuff yesterday that I caught two nice fish off of. A lot of these places don’t replenish.”
Martin has been catching all his fish flippin’ laydowns of the bank in 3- to 5-feet of water. He’s been fishing with a Gary Yammamoto Flappin Hog in black and blue color.
“All my good fish have come off of wood, so I’m going to stick to that,” Martin said.
Competition is a lot closer in the co-angler division, where Matt McMillan of Fort Worth, Texas, has a 10-ounce lead over Clayton Coppin of Wagoner, Okla. McMillan has been fishing Shaky Head jigs in red, green pumpkin and blue. McMillan is fishing with pro Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif.
“We’re running up-river about 16 miles and flippin’ the grass,” Zaldain said. “All the fish I’ve been catching have been spitting up bluegills. The bass are real green and healthy, just nice quality fish.”
Zaldain made the drive from California to fish the Central Open Series in hopes of qualifying for the Elite Series in 2012. The Top 5 pros in the Open Divisions qualify for the Elite Series the following year. He sits in 7th place with 22-5.
“This is my second Top 10, so I feel pretty good about it right now,” Zaldain said. “Mark Tucker and I should be first and second in points after today. We should have about a 20-point margin, going into the last Open event.
Tucker finished the Bass Pro Shops Central Open #2 in 56th place after winning the Bass Pro Shops Central Open #1 in Lewisville, Texas, with 45-15. With the victory, Tucker secured a Classic berth but will have to fish the final Open next month on Table Rock to maintain his status.
Biffle didn't compete at Lewisville, so if he wins he won't garner a Classic spot. Anglers must fish all three Open in a series for teh berth.
Second Place Co-Angler Clayton Coppin, fishing with B.A.S.S.pro Chris M. Jones of Bokoshe, Okla., won the co-angler Division in Lewisville, and has prefished the Arkansas River for three weeks with his father, Farrell Coppin, who also qualified for the final day and sits in 8th place with 9-13. The elder Coppin is fishing with Biffle, and also qualified for the Top 12 in Lewisville, finishing sixth.
“It’s been just special fishing these events with my dad,” said Clayton Coppin. “We both made it through three days in both tournaments. It’s just awesome.”
The Top 12 boats fishing the final day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open left Three Forks Harbor in Muskogee this 6:45 this morning and will fish until 2:45 p.m. The final weigh-in is at the Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow, Okla., starting at 3:45 p.m.