DEL RIO, Texas — Sammy Burks of Joplin, Mo., working what he called "a typical fall pattern" took a 3-pound-plus lead on the first day of the Bassmaster Central Open in Texas.
With 27 pounds, 4 ounces, Burks led the field in the season finale on spacious Lake Amistad. The pros are competing out of Del Rio through Saturday for a top
prize of $6,000 and a Triton/Mercury rig valued at $50,000.
Two Texans trailed Burks: Corey Waldrop of Fort Worth, with 23 pounds, 5 ounces; and Trent Huckaby of Fort Stockton, on Waldrop's heels with 23 pounds, 3 ounces.
Doug Garrett of Cabot, Ark., was fourth with 21-5, and Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jami Fralick of Martin, S.D., scored fifth place with 21-0.
The Amistad tournament wraps up the season's points race. The three pros who end up with the most points will qualify for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 22-24 on Lake Hartwell out of Greenville, S.C.
The five pros at the top of the points standings will be eligible to enter next year's 11-event Bassmaster Elite Series, the highest level of competitive bass fishing. Only the top 50 anglers will move on the final round of action on Saturday.
Burks said he had an area all to himself that produced his big limit by noon.
"I have four areas that are identical, and all of my fish came from one of them today," said Burks, a 42-year-old owner of a window and door supply company. "I'm seeing shad in an area where the 'groceries' are blowing in."
Waldrop, a 19-year-old who put his pre-med studies on hold to compete full-time and take a shot at qualifying for the Elite Series, said he feels his spots will hold for two more days.
"There's a lot of potential there. I don't feel I've had my best day there yet," he said — even though he boated a 7 1/2-pounder from the area.
The home-lake advantage came strongly into play for Huckaby, who had the day's Purolator Big Bass of 8-15, earning a $1,000 bonus. Although he's from Fort Stockton, he has a home on Lake Amistad, and he considers the vast impoundment his home lake.
Central Open points leader and one-time BASS winner Brian Clark, 31, of Haltom, Texas, finished in 60th place Thursday. "I was in a late flight today, so that means I'll be out in an early one tomorrow. That's going to help me out a lot," said Clark, who said his target water was "covered" by other contenders by the time he arrived there Thursday morning.
Competing in the Lake Amistad Open are two Bassmaster Elite Series pros making a bid for a Classic berth: Dave Wolak, 31, of Warrior Run, Pa., and Bradley Hallman, 32, of Norman, Okla. Both fell short of obtaining Classic berths through the Elite circuit, although both are qualified for the 2008 Elite Series.
Wolak — who is in second place in the Central Open points standings heading into this event — finished the first day at Amistad in 17th place. Hallman, who's making his Classic bid from sixth place in the standings, sat in 35th after the first day.
Clark Reehm of Russellville, Ark., who went into the Amistad competition third in the standings, managed 20th place on Thursday.
"That'll keep me in the hunt," said Reehm. "I'm feeling pretty good about it."
In the co-angler division, leading the field for the first prize of $2,000 cash and a $32,000 Triton/Mercury boat rig was Eric Sheley of Longmont, Colo., with 18 pounds. In second was Matthew Weaver of Sweetwater, Texas, with 15-0. In third was Bill Rogers of Jasper, Texas, with 14-3
The Amistad tournament continues Friday and Saturday, when the field will cut to the top 30. The pros will launch at 6:15 a.m. ET at Lake Amistad's Diablo East Marina, where weigh-ins will begin each day at 4:25 p.m. ET.
Daily weigh-ins will be covered live at www.ESPNOutdoors.com with streaming video and real-time leaderboards beginning at 4:25 p.m. ET.