JASPER, Texas — A pair of Texans named Tommy are locked in a tight struggle for the $50,000 top prize heading into the final round of the CITGO Bassmaster Central Open presented by Busch Beer on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
Tommy Durham bootstrapped himself from third place on day one to the leader's spot on day two with a 16-pound, 7-ounce limit of bass that brought his total weight to 33-9. Durham was very aware of fellow Texan and Rayburn expert Tommy Martin, whose 16-15 catch on Friday brought him from 10th place to a bare 6 ounces behind Durham.
But is Durham worried?
"Who wouldn't be?" he asked. "Tommy's been around here a long time, knows more about this lake than I'll probably know before I die. I ain't scared of him, though."
For one thing, Durham has held a few areas in reserve for the final day in a bid to win his first BASS event. In the absence of the abundant grass for which Rayburn is known, Durham and Martin are working similar strategies — for Durham, that means cranking deep near the lake bottom's brush piles.
"You can't let it (the lack of grass) be a problem," said Martin, who has been flipping Texas-rigged Zoom trick worms to underwater ledges. "... You have to look at alternate kinds of water. The fish aren't going to leave deep water just because the grass is gone. ... I know the bottom of the lake pretty well because I've fished it so many years, so that's an advantage."
The pair shares another advantage: the tournament field cut from 175 boats to just the top 50 anglers in the boater and non-boater divisions for the final round of the $315,700 tournament. In addition to cash and prizes, the anglers are competing to improve their spots in the Central Open season point standings. The top 15 anglers at the end of the season will earn berths in the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship, where the top three boaters will earn berths in the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic, bass fishing's world championship.
Martin brought in the boater side's Purolator Big Bass of the Day, a 6-14 lunker worth $1,000 from Purolator. It wasn't big enough to edge out Durham's 9-8 big bass from day one, which will earn Durham another $1,000 if it holds out to become the Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament. On the non-boater side, Joseph Hurley of Arkansas brought in a 9-3 largemouth to earn $400 from Purolator. On Thursday, the non-boater Purolator Big Bass went to a 7-15 whopper caught by Louisiana's Mike Williams.
Competition continues Saturday with anglers launching from Twin Dikes Marina. The final weigh-in will begin at 2:45 p.m. at the marina.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Central Open presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Toyota, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include Jasper/Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce.