While Bassmaster Central Open pros are competing April 24-26 on Louisiana's high, mighty and muddy Red River for a $45,000 first prize, most are likely to have the 2009 Bassmaster Classic on their minds -- for two reasons.
First: Three Classic qualifiers will emerge from the Central Open at the end of the division's season. Second: Like this month's Open, the Feb. 20-22 Classic will take place on the Red River, launching from Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
Besides invitations to the Classic, the Central Open's final points standings will determine eligibility to join the 2009 Elite Series. Ten Central Open pros will be offered Elite berths.
All the action of the Central Open's season opener will be available at Bassmaster.com. The site will present streaming video and real-time leaderboards during the Thursday-Saturday weigh-ins, plus photo galleries and stories that recap each day's competition.
Fans are invited to watch the pros launch their boats at 6:30 a.m. CT and attend the weigh-ins at 2:30 p.m. CT. All events are at Red River South Marina, just off Highway 71-S at 250 Red River South Marina Road in Bossier City. There is no admission charge.
For many anglers in the field of about 200 pros and 200 co-anglers, the Red River is familiar territory. BASS has hosted six pro-level tournaments there since 2000. One was the 2007 Central Open, won by Danny Smith of Monterey, La., with a three-day total of 42 pounds, 6 ounces.
Smith, who considers river fishing his strength, threw a jig in all three days of the mid-June event. He said he expects to do the same next week.
"With the water conditions right now, I expect the jig to work, or maybe possibly a spinnerbait," Smith said. "Those will probably be the two dominant lures with the water conditions, which are higher and muddier than last year due to heavy rains."
Water level and current are the wild cards on the river, Smith said. Rising water can create productive backwater spots that disappear the next day if the water level falls. Main-river patterns hinge on the velocity of the current.
"You'll still be able to catch some on the river, but a faster current makes it hard to stay out there and position with the trolling motor," he said.
Smith said the winning weight might go to 60 pounds, higher than at the 2007 Central Open, because some bass are still spawning.
Another pro in the field, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Clark Reehm of Russellville, Ark., said finding clear-water spots that no one else discovers will be a key.
"The muddy water conditions are going to make things tricky," said Reehm, who scored a 10th-place finish with 28-9 in last year's Red River Open, and is hot off a second-place finish in the Elite's Battle on the Border on Texas' Lake Amistad. "Clear water will be a commodity, and the river's going to 'fish small' because of that."
The stained water could push anglers to go to "loud baits," such as chatterbaits and buzzbaits, Reehm said. He said other productive techniques might range from flipping to working shallow crankbaits and topwaters.
Reehm is one of 11 Elite anglers who signed up to compete in the Red River Open.
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.