SHREVEPORT, La. — Danny Smith, of Monterey, La., turned 47 on Friday. And he celebrated in grand style Saturday, winning the Bassmaster Central Open on the Red River.
His birthday haul? A new Triton TR20X2 boat/trailer combination powered by a 200 horsepower Mercury OptiMax engine, and $6,000 cash.
Smith's total bag weight Saturday of 13 pounds, 15 ounces. While it wasn't the biggest bag of the day, it was enough to give him a three-day weight of 42-6 and his first Bassmaster tournament win.
Hometown angler Marvin Ettredge, the leader at the start of the day, finished second.
In the co-angler division, 25-year-old Ryan Evans from Grapevine, Texas, scored his first victory with a three-day total of 29 pounds.
After Thursday's heat and humidity and Friday's rain, the top 30 anglers who made the cut were greeted Saturday with cloud cover and cooler temperatures. The rain held off during tournament hours, letting loose just as the first boats returned.
The changing weather and the changing conditions along the river had many in the field changing their tactics, but in the end the winner said he used a consistent strategy throughout the three-day event.
"I just stayed with what I was doing," Smith said. "Fishing a jig in maybe 5 foot of water around the bridges. I just stayed in two areas and went back and forth."
Smith's tactic is one he has used in the past.
"If you can get fish biting a jig they usually don't change very much," Smith said. "The topwater patterns and stuff like that are too undependable, I've found over the years. You can go to a place and annihilate them on topwater and go back the next day and they won't even look at it."
And while Smith's tactic helped him win the tournament, there was another key to his success.
"Me being confident in what I was using and what I was doing," Smith said, "and not letting other people control what I thought or what I did. I found some fish in an area and stuck with what I like to do, and that's throw a jig. I just stuck with it."
For second-place finisher Ettredge, the key to success was knowing the river and reading the currents.
"Current is what helps us to catch fish," Ettredge said. "When the current gets moving the shad get more active. Of course you've got to have the right water, the right drop and the right cover and have the bait fish, and if you have that you have the big fish.
"I've never fished current like this in June, it's always in the spring. It was definitely different but once I found them and got onto to the current pattern it kind of got easy."
In the pro division, Ryan Brown from LaPlace, La., was third. Brian Clark was fourth and Mike Pedroza rounded out the top five.
Keith Morris, of Nacogdoches, Texas, was second in the co-angler division.
Kevin Hanson from Pineville, La., took home the Purolator Big Bass trophy with a 7-pound, 4-ounce fish he landed on the first day of the tournament.
In the Bassmaster Central Division Points, Brian Clark maintains his lead. The Central Open Series heads to Lake Amistad in Texas, Sept. 27-29.