SHREVEPORT, La. — Just before dawn Thursday, 158 boats began the first of three days on the water as the Bassmaster Central Open took to the Red River.
When the final weigh-in was over Thursday afternoon, Brian Clark of Haltom, Texas, and his co-angler Matt Michel from Gonzales, La., led their respective divisions.
Brian was able to catch his limit of five fish, with a total combined weight of 17 pounds, 5 ounces. Michel took the lead among co-anglers, having also caught a limit with 12-7.
"I had a good day and I think I'll probably have the same tomorrow," said Clark, who leads the Bassmaster Open standings.
Clark scored an upset victory at the last Open, held in March on Lake Texoma in Texas. He said that gave him a great deal of practice time before this week's Open, which helped his Day One success.
"Anytime you're able to practice a lot, put a lot of time in and prepare, it gives you an opportunity to capitalize," Clark said. "That's when guys will say a guy gets lucky."
The strong current and the muddy waters of the Red River, combined with a temperature near 90 degrees before noon and high humidity with scattered thunderstorms, provided the 316 competing anglers with challenging conditions.
Danny Smith was one of those who was able to overcome the harsh conditions; he finished the day in second place with 15-11. Smith said he caught all his fish in shallow water.
"I caught mine in about a foot-and-a-half to 6 feet," Smith said. "The bite was slow, but I caught seven keepers. They're just scattered."
Most of the competitors echoed that theme: Catching fish early before the heat built up was the way to go.
"I had my limit in the boat by around 10 o'clock," said Aaron Martin, who is in fifth place. " I was able to cull by around 10:30. All in all it was a great day."
Clark agreed. He used some of his fishing time to look ahead to tomorrow.
"About 1:30 or 2, I knew I wasn't really going to be able to upgrade from what I had," Clark said. "So I went and checked some new water. But I wanted some of the better stuff left alone. I was really hoping to get about 13 or 14 pounds today, but I think that if you can get around 12 or 13 pounds per day you're really going to have a chance, and I'm ahead of that."
In the Pro Anglers division, Marvin Ettredge from Shreveport is in third, Ryan Brown from LaPlace, La., is fourth and Martin, from Kimberling, Mo., rounds out the top five.
Ryan Evans, of Grapevine, Texas, is second in the co-angler division.
The Bassmaster Central Open will continue Friday, with the top 30 finishers advancing to Saturday's final round.