BOSSIER CITY, La. — Stephen Browning has never met a river he didn’t like. Moving water is an angling strength of the pro from Arkansas. He’s proven that on river systems over the years with a consistent string of high finishes and wins.
Browning’s most recent win came on, you guessed it, a river. He’s currently the defending champion of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open presented by Allstate underway on the Red River.
After Day 1 of this go around on the Red you’ll find Browning’s name in fifth place. If things go his way, and the weather is shaping up in his favor, expect him to be a strong contender for a repeat on Saturday.
Consistently experiencing success on rivers like Browning does is a challenge for many anglers. That’s because rivers are so filled with bass-rich cover that finding a place to start is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Add current to the mix and you have a potentially dizzying array of choices from which to choose.
Here’s one of Browning’s secrets. He calls it the “cover within the cover” approach.
“Every day the fish are going to be on a specific piece of cover,” he said. “It requires keen observation and brain recall of what the fish are relating to on that given day.”
For the unskilled river angler that “cover within the cover” can be easily overlooked because it’s so subtle. In his example Browning called out lily pads as the “cover” and the stems as the “cover within the cover.”
“It sounds difficult but it’s not,” he said. “River fish are habitual about relating to the same thing. So once you find what that is you can make a run of those same things.”
Browning further straightens the learning curve by calling out the very core of a river pattern.
“The fish will set up on that ‘cover within the cover’ based on current,” he said. “It’s what positions bass everywhere on a river.”
The only caveat is that “cover within the cover” can be different on a daily basis. On the upside the change can be as subtle as the cover itself. Using his lily pad example the fish could simply switch from the stems to the pads as the “cover within the cover.”
“You have to treat each day different,” he observed. “But you can really lock in a good pattern once you find that one piece of cover the fish are keying on.”
Browning locks in his pattern after catching one or two quality fish. That’s what he’s found this week on the Red River.
“There are so many fish around the same size in this river that you need an edge, a kicker fish or two to be in position to win,” he said. “It takes a couple of four pounders to tell me I’m on to a pattern.”
Thursday he caught those fish while rotating through a half-dozen areas with strong “cover within the cover” potential.
The two things he needs the most—sunshine and calmer water—are in the forecast. And there are plenty of options here to find the “cover within the cover.”
It’s what Browning is counting on for a back-to-back win that could send him to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.