The second Central Open was a study in why pros are pros and the rest of us are recreational anglers. Chad Brauer, son of legendary bass angler Denny Brauer, not only blew away his closest competitor by more than 16 pounds, he did it going away with weights that were heavier each day.
Here's how he tells the story:
(1st Place — 56 pounds, 14 ounces)
I found this big oxbow back in February when I was prefishing the river. It was probably 2 miles long and full of trees, wood and barge ties. The water was up back then, so it was fairly easy to get to it.
That wasn't the case last week, however. It took me half a day to find a way to get to it in practice, not counting two hours to get my boat off a sand bar that I didn't see until it was too late. Anyway, I made the effort to find a path back in there because I didn't want to fish a community hole. That's not my thing.
It worked out for me. I had the place pretty much to myself. The water dropped during the event, so I had to keep moving out with the fish. I'd target submerged trees in 7 or 8 feet of water with a black/blue flake Strike King Rodent Texas rigged with a 4/0 Mustad Tube Hook and a 3/4-ounce Denny Brauer Tru-Tungsten Flippin' Weight.
My rod was an American Rodsmiths Denny Brauer Signature Series H3 Titanium Flipping and Pitching Rod (7 foot, 4 inches) with an Ardent Denny Brauer Signature Series F700 Flipping and Pitching Reel spooled with 25-pound-test Seaguar Fluorocarbon line.
The bass were suspended in the wood about 2 or 3 feet from the surface. I'd drag the Rodent slowly through the limbs. Most of my strikes came as the bait fell down right after it came off a limb.
My secondary pattern was throwing a Strike King Pro-Model Series 4S crankbait — chartreuse with a black back — around the barge ties. Again, they were suspended at about 2 feet regardless of how much water was under them. My best retrieve was erratic, something different with every cast. There wasn't one thing that worked any better than anything else.
I used an American Rodsmiths Carolina Rig Rod with my crankbait. It's just a little heavier than most crankbait rods, which I like. My reel was an Ardent XS1000 (6.3:1 gear ratio) spooled with 20-pound-test monofilament line.
If there are any lessons to be learned by my win it's that fish move out with dropping water but they don't move vertical. They move horizontal — suspend. When your water drops, look for them up off the bottom relating to whatever structure or cover they can find.
The second thing is that my time spent finding a place to myself was time well spent. Fishing community holes might get you a limit, but it'll rarely get you a win. It's very difficult to share fish.
A final factor is to know your fishery and its fish. Red River bass are mixed up when it comes to size. If you're getting lots of bites from little fish, keep fishing. Every so often you'll catch a big one. I culled a lot of bass to get to my final weights. You can't do that everywhere.