BOSSIER CITY, La. — There’s no doubt that Stephen Browning’s lifelong experience of fishing moving water was a major key to his win at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open #2 presented by Allstate.
The bass fishing on the Red River mirrors the patterns on the Arkansas River, where Browning is respected as one of the best. He is always the favorite to win whenever the tour stops on a river system. The Red River is no exception, where he’s now won back-to-back Open events.
Here are key factors beyond the textbook factors contributing to Browning’s win. Not surprisingly, each relate to his uncanny ability to read water in rivers.
Key #1: “Fishing in the dirt”
Browning targeted post-spawn fish positioned along shorelines off the main river channel. The cover didn’t change but the water level did. The fluctuating water caused Browning to adjust his lure presentation each day.
“Making contact with the cover was crucial,” he said of his crankbait technique. “The water level had everything to do with where I put my lure on a piece of cover.”
The strike zone was at its widest on Day 1. For that reason Browning moved in shallow to close the distance between the cover and his lure.
On Day 2 the water dropped 8 inches overnight. That gave Browning the benefit of moving into shallower water. He calls it “fishing in the dirt.” That’s river slang for fishing in water less than 2 feet deep.
The “dirt” is where Browning caught fish on the final day to seal the win.
Key #2: “Cover within the Cover”
Here’s one of Browning’s secrets. He calls it the “cover within the cover” approach.
“On a river every day the fish are going to be on a specific piece of cover,” he said. “And I’m not talking about lily pads or laydowns.”
Browning defines “cover within the cover” as a secondary piece of structure that directly relates to a bigger feature.
In Browning’s case the “cover” was small, knotty stumps. The “cover within the cover” was the stems of lily pads growing beside the wood. That extremely focused approach might seem excessive to some. But for Browning it gave him even more confidence in his technique.
Key #3: River Rat
The “cover within the cover” is an extreme example that underscore’s Browning’s keen eye for dissecting myriad cover that attract bass on a river system. Here’s another.
“I like lay downs but not for the obvious reasons,” he said. “Horizontal cover like that creates a point.”
That boils down to an ambush point where the bass preyed on shad spawning in the area.
Browning’s logic for fishing horizontal cover goes deeper.
“You get the point, cover and shade,” he said. “What I found was that on windy days the fish were on the shady side where the wind came off the logs.”
The fish never had a chance. They didn’t have a chance to fool a “river rat.” Browning was always a step ahead of where they might move.
The win came with a ticket to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. All it will take for the ticket to be punched is for Browning to show up and fish the final Central Open event of the season. It’s in September and ironically enough, it’s on the Arkansas River.