BRANSON, Mo. — Tommy Martin is spinning some of that old magic that has made him a 19-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier.
The Hemphill, Texas, pro will turn 71 next month but he has showed no signs of slowing down during the first two days of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open at Table Rock Lake.
Instead Martin is full of vim and vigor as he leads the event with 22 pounds, 5 ounces and is the only angler in the entire field to catch a limit each day. The first day he weighed in 10-6 and stood in 10th place. He followed up with an 11-15 bag today to take the lead.
The tournament veteran started out Thursday morning throwing a spinnerbait since conditions were ideal (windy and overcast) for a blade bait, but the pattern produced only one fish.
“I made an adjustment and started fishing deep and caught four more,” he said. “Today I started out deep and stayed deep all day and had about eight keepers. I am fishing anywhere from 20 to 50 feet deep. Yesterday when the wind was blowing the fish were 20 to 26 feet and today they were 30 to 50 feet.
“They were on fire this morning. When I got to my spot I caught four in about 10 minutes which really gave me a lift. We just had one of those good days today. Here on Table Rock in the fall if you can catch five keepers a day you are going to be real high in the standings.”
Martin’s lofty spot in the standings could lead to his 20th Classic appearance, but he revealed that is not the main reason he has fished the Opens this year.
“I am here because I like to fish and I like to fish B.A.S.S. tournaments. If I do make the Classic I am going to be real excited and it will be a thrill to go again,“ he said.
Local favorite Brian Snowden bagged four keepers weighing 8-15 to move into second place with 21-7. A lack of wind made it difficult for the Elite Series pro from Reeds Spring, Mo., to duplicate his pattern from the previous day.
“It was one fish here, then real slow for hours and hours and then I caught three at the end,” Snowden said. “As slick as it was I still caught all of my fish cranking in shallow water. I tried some deep stuff with a football jig and in some brush piles I have planted and a drop shot but we couldn’t even see fish (on the graph).”
Elite pro James Niggemeyer of Van, Texas slipped from second to third place with 20-0, while Day One leader Robbie Dodson of Harrison, Ark., dropped to fourth with 19-13. Elite pro Kevin Short of Mayflower, Ark., jumped into the fifth spot with 18-1.
Rounding out the top 12 is Bassmaster legend Roland Martin, who stood stageside watching the leaderboard. Hopeful after hopeful needing only one or two fish missed their chance to knock him out.
"It just seemed so impossible with 10 guys ahead of me, but those guys blanked, and so I made it," he said.
Catching three keepers weighing 7-8 moved Vincent Borrego of Scottsdale, Ariz., into the co-angler division lead with 9-8. Rounding out the top five are Stanley Grice, Kentwood, La., in second with 8-11; Jim Furr, Hemphill, Texas, third, 6-10; Clayton Coppin, Wagoner, Okla., and Allen Trillingham, Pineville, Ark., both tied for fourth with 6-7.
Hosting this event is the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tomorrow’s launch will be held at the Table Rock State Park Marina, 380 State Park Marina, Branson, Mo. The weigh-in will move to the Branson Landing water fountains near Bass Pro Shops in Branson, located at 1 Bass Pro Drive and will begin at 4:15 p.m. CDT.