Henry Ford is credited with saying that people could buy any color Model T they desired "so long as it's black."
Likewise, Sam Rayburn Reservoir will give anglers a chance to fish any way they want to — as long as it's in the grass — in the Sept. 3-5 Bassmaster Central Open presented by Oakley out of Jasper, Texas.
"Sam Rayburn's a grass lake, so most of the fishing will be centered around bass relating to the hydrilla in the lake," said Chris McCall, a Central Open pro who lives in Jasper. "There's going to be a ton of ways to catch them, from flipping hydrilla with a jig or some type of plastic, or working a topwater, wacky worm or whatever — but everything's going to be related to the grass."
At stake for the pros is a top prize of $45,000 and valuable points toward qualifying for the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series season and two berths in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala. Co-anglers compete in the Opens for the top prize of a boat/motor package valued at $32,000. After Day Two, the field will be cut to the top 30 pros and co-anglers, who will advance to Saturday's final day of competition.
The points leader heading into the Rayburn event is Bassmaster Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer of Van, Texas, winner of the Central Open division's season opener on Toledo Bend Reservoir out of Many, La., in early March. He took the Toledo title in a rare tie-breaker that called for a fish-off against fellow Texan and Open pro Jerrel Pringle.
Hot off his Open win, Niggemeyer continued to do well in the upper echelon of the Elite ranks — so well, in fact, that he qualified Aug. 16 through the Elite circuit for the 2010 Classic and next season's Elite Series field. That means he could double-qualify if he continues to dominate the Central Open schedule. Niggemeyer would then take his Classic and Elite qualifications through the Central Open, and BASS would award the entries to Elite pros by working down the Elite Series' Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year standings.
With only one of three 2009 Central Open tournaments in the books, however, the circuit's points race is still wide open. McCall has at least three things going for him: One, he is 10th in points; two, the next tournament is on his home lake; three, the final 2009 Central Open, set for Nov. 5-7, will be on Atchafalaya Basin, a Louisiana fishery on which McCall has competed several times.
"You hear it said that it's every fisherman's dream to fish the Classic, and it's true," he said. "While I'd be extremely ecstatic to make it, if I say that's my goal that's just all the more pressure I'd put on myself for this tournament at Rayburn, and I'm already putting enough pressure on myself."
The Sept. 3-5 stop at Sam Rayburn will mark the 32nd time BASS has selected the fishery for a pro-level event.
The first time was in October 1968, just a few years after the 114,500-acre lake was created by impounding the Angelina River in 1965. BASS founder Ray Scott brought his All-American — the precursor to the Bassmaster Classic — to Rayburn. The winner was a soon-to-be legend and three-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, Bill Dance, who wrested almost 73 pounds of bass from Rayburn through three days.
The most recent stop was in March 2006 for a Bassmaster Elite Series event. Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., won with 79 pounds, 10 ounces, through four days.
Rayburn is still a heavyweight fishery, but that fact might not be proved by an early September tournament, said Todd Castledine of Nacogdoches, Texas. Now age 30, Castledine said he has competed on Rayburn since he was 14 or 15.
"Rayburn is fishing kind of differently — but it always changes at the beginning of September," Castledine said. "What we're noticing right now is they're starting to move. Some fish are going shallow, some are staying deep, some are grouping up. It makes fishing tough."
McCall gave a similar description of Rayburn. He guessed that the Open winner will total about 45 pounds through three days.
Castledine said anglers likely will try an array of lures and techniques.
"There will always be people who go Carolina riggin' and people who will flip into grass," he added. "The grass is in pretty good shape, about normal for this time of year."
Castledine is in third place in the Central Open points race. Rayburn is his home lake, so, like McCall, he's a strong candidate to earn one of the Central Open's qualifying berths for the Classic and the 2010 Elite Series.
"The Classic is my main goal," Castledine said. "If I make the Classic, I'm sure I will fish the Elites next season."
Fans are invited to the Open's Thursday-Saturday takeoffs and weigh-ins at the Umphrey Family Pavilion, 538 RR/255 West in Sam Rayburn. Anglers will launch their boats at about 6:45 a.m., and the weigh-ins are scheduled to begin at 2:05 p.m. All activities are free and open to the public.
Live, streaming video of the Sept. 3-5 weigh-ins will be on Bassmaster.com at 3:50 p.m. ET. The Web site also will offer daily standings, reports and photo galleries.