SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. – When the 12 remaining anglers in a Bassmaster tournament are separated by only 5 pounds and 2 ounces heading into the final day of fishing, it can be anyone’s tournament to win or lose.
Arkansas pro Stephen Browning proved that on Saturday when he surged from 12th place to first place to win the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open No. 1 on the Red River here in northwest Louisiana.
“I’ll just have to go over here and sit down, because it's been a long day,” Browning told the crowd when he was the first angler to weigh in at the Bass Pro Shops in Bossier City. “When you have to start off in 12th place, there’s only one way to go, and that’s up.”
Browning occupied the hot seat while the next 11 boaters weighed in and, of course, was there when the tournament was complete.
On an interesting side note, Browning was tied for 12th after Friday’s action with fellow Elite Series Pro James Niggemeyer. Thinking he had lost his spot in the final cut, Browning left Friday’s weigh-in, but quickly received a call telling him to turn around and come back to the weigh-in site for the Top-12 meeting that followed.
Tiebreakers are determined by who had the biggest stringer during the first few days of fishing, and Browning held the edge over Niggemeyer in this event.
The Bassmaster Opens are always chock filled with anglers, and the first Central Open was no exception. In all, 186 boaters and another 186 co-anglers fished this tournament.
Michael Iaconelli, who is no stranger to crowds wherever he fishes, said there was a world of difference between the other 185 boats that were on the Red River on Thursday and Friday, compared to the 12 on Saturday.
“It’s amazing what 180 or so less boats can do for your catch,” he said. “The fish were here all the time, it just took a while for the water to calm down and then we started catching some bigger fish.”
Iaconelli finished eighth overall with a three-day total of 34 pounds, 6 ounces.
Tennessee pro Wesley Strader said finding a secluded spot on the Red River wasn’t a problem for him this week. He fished alone in the farthest stretch of Pool 5.
“I think I saw four boats all week,” he said.
Strader finished second to Browning with a three-day total of 38 pounds, 12 ounces.
SIGNS, SIGNS, EVERYWHERE THERE’S SIGNS
There’s nothing like having the hometown crowd behind you when you fish a Bassmaster event. Just ask Pete Daniels, who lives in Shreveport. A large contingent of Daniels’ family and friends arrived a couple hours early on Saturday to stake out front row spots at the final weigh-in.
“You’re the man, Pete Daniels. Love, your family,” one sign read.
Daniels acknowledged the showing with a heartfelt thanks as he choked up a bit on stage. He finished 10th in the Central Open with 33 pounds, 4 ounces.
As one of the few women fishing in the Central Open, Kim Giddens was a crowd favorite this week, as well. She finished second on the co-angler side with a 20 pound, 14 ounce overall total. The only problem she had on Saturday was when one of her keepers slipped out of her bag during the final weigh-in.
Giddens wasted no time dropping to the floor of the stage and gathering the rogue bass, though.
“You’re as good at catching them on the stage as you are on the water,” said B.A.S.S. Senior Tournament Manager Chris Bowes, drawing a laugh from the crowd and from Giddens.