Man of the moment

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Stephen Browning has spent a lifetime of fishing the Arkansas River. His home stretch runs through Little Rock but it’s no different than what goes through Oklahoma. The river is the same and so is his game plan.

“My game plan is all about keeping an open mind,” he said. “You can’t let your mind get too deep into the details in river fishing.”

Browning knows the best thought out game plan can be carried away with a changing river. And change it will without a moment’s notice. Strategic thinking is toxic in moving water.

“Seventy percent of the time what you go into thinking you’ll do in a tournament day will change,” he continued. “And it could change in a matter of a few hours.”

Change is a given this week at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central #2 on the river. The weather is changing. So is the water level. The current is rising. There are many uncontrollable variables between now and Saturday when the tournament concludes.

Browning woke up this morning with the same wide-open mindset. By 9:30 a.m. he knew it was time to change.

“I started missing some bites and it triggered me to make a change,” he said. “My fish went from aggressively feeding to being passive.”

The change for Browning was switching to reaction lures. Experience came into play too.

“One of the assets of river fishing is being thrown so many mental curve balls,” he said. “You learn to read water quicker because there are so many things that can change at one time.”

Browning knows tomorrow will be different, though. Tonight a cold front moves through the area, bringing with it thunderstorms and a 25-degree drop in the daytime high.

“It will affect everybody,” he said. “The guys who know how to think in the moment and make the adjustments then and there will fish on Saturday.”

Browning stands a good chance of being there. He’s currently in 10th place with 13 pounds. All he needs to improve is for the river to change.

“I’ll wake up in the morning and see what it brings,” he said. “It will be different from today, but no one will know how much until they get out there on the water.”

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