Open: Hamilton takes over

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Tennessee angler Skylar Hamilton took a slow ride today to move into first place in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on the Arkansas River.

The 21-year-old Hamilton is running an aluminum boat which helps him get into skinny water areas but he is concerned about his boat’s lack of speed. “Going up current my speed is not good at all,” said Hamilton, who took over the lead in the pro division with a two-day catch of 33 pounds.

Fortunately for Hamilton, he found a place down river Thursday where he caught a quick limit. “My little area is just a real shallow backwater,” he said. “It just looked good to me and I knew it was going to be tough for fiberglass boats to get in there. I saw a couple there but they kept getting stuck so they got kind of disheartened and went away.”

The Dandridge, Tenn., angler returned to the same spot today and caught another quick limit before moving to another spot.

“There is a really big bag in there because I don’t have much company with me,” said Hamilton, who guides on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake. “I would have probably caught more if I would have stayed in my area but I just figured I needed to save it.”

When he moved to another spot he culled out two fish and finished the day with a 19-4 limit. “So I have a pretty good deal going on,” Hamilton said.

First-day leader Scott McGehee struggled as he caught only two keepers, but his travelling buddy Teb Jones caught his second straight 15-pound limit (15-13) to take over second place with 31-12. “I was doing the same kind of things in the same area (both days),” the Hattiesburg, Miss., angler said. “I just had to catch every one that bit because it was slow. I fished clean today and I fished clean yesterday.”

Jones has noticed the fishing pressure is starting to affect the action in his area.

“I leaned on my fish pretty hard the last couple of days to try to make the (Top 12) cut and it is starting to show,” said Jones, who serves as the Mississippi B.A.S.S. Nation conservation director. “I fished hard and I focused hard. The main thing is fishing clean because it is so hard to catch quality fish here even though the weights have been good.”

Rounding out the top five in the pro division are Lee Livesay, Longview, Texas, third place, 30-5; Jason Christie, Park Hill, Okla., fourth, 30-4; and Chris Jones, Bokoshe, Okla., fifth, 28-5.

Being paired with Hamilton paid off for 49-year-old Robert Fortner, who caught three keepers weighing 9-15 to take over the lead in the co-angler division.

“I fished the way I like to fish and it was also the way he liked to fish, so it worked out for the both of us,” said Fortner, the City of Conway, Ark., water system superintendent who’s two-day total is 16-4.

The Muskogee Chamber of Commerce is hosting this three-day open. Saturday’s launch will be held at Three Forks Harbor at 5201 Three Forks Rd. The weigh-in will move to the Bass Pro Shops, 101 Bass Pro Drive, in Broken Arrow and will begin at 3 p.m. CDST.