SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. — Transferring his home-river expertise to Louisiana's rough Red River, Billy McCaghren Jr. of Mayflower, Ark., built a 3-pound-plus lead Thursday in the season opener of the Bassmaster Central Open.
His 21 pounds, 4 ounces, put him in front of the field, including Homer Humphreys Jr. of Minden, La., in second with 18-2. Two pros with 17-12 tied for third: Sammy Burks of Joplin, Mo., and Monterey, La., pro Danny Smith, defending champion of the 2007 Open on the Red River. Gary Giudice of Norman, Okla., was fifth with 17-7.
Pros are competing for a first prize of $45,000 and points that count toward qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 20-22, 2009, also on the Red River out of Shreveport/Bossier City. The points race also determines which 10 Central Open pros will get invitations to join the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series.
All the action of the Central Open's season opener is available at www.Bassmaster.com, including live, streaming video and real-time leaderboards during the weigh-ins.
More likely than not to be a tough fishery, the Red River threw just about everything at Open anglers Thursday. High water and a stiff wind hampered many anglers. Even the river's normally clearer backwaters were like chocolate milk.
McCaghren, despite the conditions, boated a quick limit.
"The water level is actually helping what I'm doing, and I'd like it to stay the way it was today," said McCaghren, who said he used his knowledge of the Arkansas River to break the code of the Red River. "I maybe have something figured out that will hold up."
He said he shared his water in Pool 4 with "several others."
Humphreys, a versatile veteran, said he tapped into his 35 years of Red River experience to find his fish in water he has to himself, and it's not far from the Red River South Marina launch site. But that didn't make his day easier.
"Conditions are really tough," he said. "With the flood stage up and down and around, the fishing changes every day. I went out today planning to get five bites, and fortunately got 18 to 19 bites."
The wind can quickly change conditions on the Red River, Humphreys said.
"The wind hurts here because it stirs up the sand on the bars and blows it back into the pockets," he said.
Three Elite pros placed in the top 20 after the first day. The trio includes four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo. (8th), Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La. (16th) and Clark Reehm of Russellville, Ark. (18th).
In the co-angler division, Andy McDaniel of Mississippi led with 16-10, including a 7-6 bass worth a $300 bonus as the co-angler Purolator Big Bass of the day. Behind him were Oklahoman Tim Wheeler with 15-1 and Texan John Hayen with 14-6.
Fans are invited to watch the pros launch their boats at 6:30 a.m. CT and attend the weigh-ins at 2:30 p.m. CT on Friday and Saturday. All events are at Red River South Marina, just off Highway 71-S at 250 Red River South Marina Road in Bossier City. There is no admission charge.
Bassmaster Open sponsors include Toyota Tundra, Advance Auto Parts, Berkley, Lowrance, Mercury, Purolator, Skeeter, Yamaha, Optima Batteries and Triton Boats
Local sponsors include the Shreveport Regional Sports Authority