Dillard delivers the goods at Table Rock

BRANSON, Mo. -- It was a slow day of fishing on Table Rock for most of the competition, but Jim Dillard got off to a fast start to take the lead in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open #3 presented by Allstate.

After a slow practice, Dillard’s first three bites Thursday were 4-pounders that helped him take the lead in the pro division with a five-fish limit weighing 16 pounds, 15 ounces.

“The day went way better than I expected,” he said. “It turned into a good day.”

The West Monroe, La., angler said he saw one of the 4-pounders he caught Thursday when he was practicing this week. He also saw some more 4-pounders that he missed.

“They would follow my bait so I know there are more in the area,” he said.

Dillard hopes the cooler weather predicted for this week will turn the fish on as the tournament progresses.

“That would be nice,” he said. “I am fishing a little shallow and a little deep. It just depends on what I run to. I am basically running from waypoint to waypoint from around here (on the lower lake) to up lake.”

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Tommy Biffle hopes to make the Bassmaster Classic in his home state of Oklahoma by winning this Open. “I am going to be sick if I am not (in the Classic),” he said. “If I don’t make it I will probably schedule a trip to Afghanistan or something.”

After catching a 14-12 limit Thursday and moving into second place, Biffle might be able to avoid that Afghanistan trip.

The Wagoner, Okla., pro caught plenty of keepers in practice but the cold front that passed through this week slowed down his fishing.

“I thought today was going to be better than what it was,” he said. “I just didn’t get as many keeper bites as I had been getting in practice.”

Biffle noted he caught seven keepers relying on one pattern but he believes Table Rock bass are in between summer and fall patterns now.

“There are fish out deep and up shallow and they don’t know where they want to be yet,” he said.

The rest of the top five spots on the pro side belong to James Watson, Nixa, Mo., in third place with a 14-5 limit; Allen Rude, Pauls Valley, Okla., fourth, 13-14; and James, Elam, Tulsa, Okla., fifth, 13-4.

Nixa, Mo., railroad conductor Jason Newberry relied on his experience of his home lake to catch three keepers weighing 11-3 and take over the lead in the non-boater division.

“I have spent a lot of time on the water here the last two weeks,” Newberry said. He caught most of his keepers early in the morning on a football jig and tube bait.

The Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.explorebranson.com) is hosting this event. Friday’s launch, weigh-in and the final day launch will be held at the Table Rock State Park Marina, 380 State Park Marina Dr., in Branson.

The final day weigh-in will move to the Branson Landing Water Fountain near the Bass Pro Shops at 1 Bass Pro Drive in Branson.

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