SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. — Homer Humphreys pared down Billy McCaghren Jr.'s lead to less than 2 pounds, but McCaghren stayed on top Friday with 37 pounds, 10 ounces, in the season opener of the Bassmaster Central Open on the Red River.
McCaghren of Mayflower, Ark., is shooting for his first BASS win and the top prize of $45,000. With 35 pounds, 11 ounces going into the final day, veteran Humphreys of Minden, La., is looking to duplicate his 2002 BASS win on the Red River.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Clark Reehm of Russellville, Ark., moved in on the leaders Friday with a 20-pound limit that boosted his two-day weight to 33-13. His big day pushed him from 18th place into third.
In fourth with 33-1 was the 2007 Red River Central Open champion, Danny Smith of Monterey, La. Rounding out the top six were Sammy Burks of Joplin, Mo., with 32-5, and Elite pro Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., with 31-11.
The six lead the field of 30 pros who made the cut for the final day of competition. The Saturday showdown will be covered by www.Bassmaster.com with live, streaming video and a real-time leaderboard beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT.
Besides a piece of the $215,000 purse, Central Open pros are competing for points that count toward qualifying for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 20-22, also on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City. The points race also determines which 10 Central Open pros will get invitations to join the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series.
McCaghren said he worked hard the first two days to defend his water in the river's Pool 4, a spot he's sharing with other contenders.
"I don't know how beat up my fish got today. There's a lot of pressure in my area," he said. "I got a limit today in the first 10 minutes, culled two or three times, then got out of there to save them for tomorrow."
Humphreys said his day "could not have been better," but, like McCaghren, he's concerned about how his fish will hold up, given the amount of pressure his spot is getting.
"I decided last night to go sit on my spot today," he said. "I had my limit by 7:45. I'm fishing a 30-yard stretch, back and forth, all day."
Humphreys is hoping for a windy day. "I've got to have the wind to keep the shad in there. The baitfish are just beginning to blow in for the spawn this week."
Reehm said he had 10 of his 20 pounds in the boat within minutes on Friday, thanks to a new pattern.
"I've got three different patterns running, and this is the third," said Reehm. "I culled several 3-pounders today, and probably had 15 to 20 keepers today.
"The sacks are a lot higher than anybody thought they'd be," he said of the tough but prolific Red River. "I should have had about 16 yesterday, which would really have made this show interesting."
Besides Reehm and Hackney, three other Elite pros made the cut: South Dakota's Jami Fralick (11th), Oklahoma's Bradley Hallman (14th), and four-time Bassmaster Classic Rick Clunn (24th) of Ava, Mo.
Also on Saturday, the top 30 co-anglers will compete for a first prize of a Skeeter/Yamaha boat rig valued at $32,000. Leading the division Friday with 28-13 was Heath Willard of Brookhaven, Miss., who shot up from 17th place. Right behind him is Paul Cobb of Montgomery, La., with 27-15. Third place was Brent Cutrer of Natchez, Miss., with 23-7.
Fans are invited to attend the final-day launch at 6:30 a.m. CT and weigh-in at 2:30 p.m. CT, both at Red River South Marina off Highway 71-S, south of Bossier City at 250 Red River South Marina Road. There is no admission charge.
Bassmaster Open sponsors include Toyota Tundra, Advance Auto Parts, Berkley, Lowrance, Mercury, Purolator, Skeeter, Yamaha, Optima Batteries and Triton Boats
Local sponsors include the Shreveport Regional Sports Authority