Lester at home on The Rock

BRANSON, Mo. -- Dustin Lester’s third trip to Table Rock could be a charm. 

The Huntington Beach, Calif., angler jumped into the pro division lead with 37 pounds, 3 ounces in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open at Table Rock Lake by catching the biggest limit (21-15) of the tournament today. His catch puts him in a good spot to win the event and a berth in the Bassmaster Classic.

“I had a limit by 10 o’clock and then it slowed way down until about 1 o’clock,” Lester said.  “Then I caught two of my big ones but never had another bite afterwards.”  

Lester made the long drive from California last spring to compete in the 2011 Open at Table Rock, but flooding conditions caused the postponement of the tournament until the fall. 

“I fished for five days (before the event was postponed) and then I had to drive back home, but it was a good practice,” he recalled. 

Lester fished in the rescheduled Open at Table Rock last fall, but had a tough time. What he found out in practice last spring apparently is helping him in this event.

“I practiced for five days and figured this pattern out - two days before this tournament started - and I don’t believe many people are doing it,” said Lester.

Since he likes to fish rivers back home, Lester is making a 45-mile one-way run up one of the rivers at Table Rock to catch shallow bass.

“I just feel at home up there,” said Lester, who weighed in a 15-4 limit yesterday. “I did the exact same thing today. I have been catching some good fish up there, but yesterday I just didn’t get the good bite.”

Greenville, Texas angler Brady Winans has gotten some “good bites” each day to move into second place with 37-2.  

”I worked the same pattern as yesterday (when he had a 19-2 limit) and got lucky again and had another good fish,” he said. “Keepers aren’t really hard to come by, but big fish are.”   

Winans believes his pattern has gotten stronger each day. “I’ve keyed in on what type of pattern was going on and what type of bank to look for,” he said. “I have just been burning up the bank winding and grinding.”

Local favorite Kelly Power of Cape Fair, Mo., is lurking in third place in the pro division with 36-6, followed by Casey Scanlon, Lenexa, Kan., in fourth with 35-13, and James Kiser, Cypress, Texas, in fifth with 33-8.

Cattle rancher Michael Kent Robinson took the lead in the co-angler division with 19-6.

“I didn’t have a fish until about 9:30 and we got into one little area and started catching them,” said the Carter, Okla., angler. “I probably had a limit in about 30 minutes then.”  

Rounding out the top five in the co-angler division were Mike Burns, Lucas, Texas, in second place with 18-9; Kenneth Moore, Red Oak, Texas, third, 17-13; Mike Williams, Delhi, La., fourth, 17-10; and Roger Hackman, Harrison, Ark., fifth, 17-4.

The top 12 competitors on the pro- and co-angler side advance to the final round, set for tomorrow. The Branson/Lakes Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.ExploreBranson.com) is hosting the Open. Tomorrow’s launch will be held at the Table Rock State Park Marina, 380 State Park Marina Drive.

The weigh-in will move to the Branson Landing water fountains near Bass Pro Shops, at 1 Bass Pro Drive, and will begin at 3:15 p.m. CDST. 

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