Opens head to sweet home Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Stephen Browning hails from Hot Springs, Ark., but says he feels like he’ll be heading home when he drives his rig to Alabama’s Lake Logan Martin.

“When I saw Logan Martin come up on the schedule, I knew I wanted to go back,” Browning said. “I won the last B.A.S.S. tournament there in 1998 and had a chance to win the Bassmaster Classic in 1997. I just like going there. It feels like a homecoming.”

Browning is one of many Bassmaster Elite Series anglers planning to fish the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open tournament, the third in the Southern Opens series, to be held in Pell City, Ala., May 16-18.

It’s understandable that he’s eager to return to waters where he’s experienced such success, particularly on the heels of his April victory at the Open on the Red River, a feat that secured his berth for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

When he won on Logan Martin more than 15 years ago, Browning said things just gelled for him on the last day.

“It was one of those tournaments that was tough until the final day,” Browning said. “It seemed like I had some areas on fire. It just lit up the last day. Everything I did that day was exactly what winners do. Every place I pulled into, I caught fish. Everything worked out exactly how you want it to go to win one.”

Browning brought in a “great big sack” of largemouth and spotted bass using what was a new technique for him.

“I had never thrown a shaky head and a little finesse worm,” Browning said. “Craig Daniels from Cullman, Ala., introduced me to it in practice. It’s the deal on the Coosa River for some reason, but I never had thrown it in my life. I didn’t know much about it, which was probably the reason I caught so many with it. I wasn’t able to overthink it.”

Browning has only been back to Logan Martin once, several years ago, between other tournaments, but when he passes by it, there’s a definite feeling of nostalgia.

“I’ve driven over it a thousand times,” Browning said. “Every time I drive over the bridge, I get a fuzzy feeling. I drove over going to West Point Lake [site of the fourth Bassmaster Elite Series tournament], and I wanted to stop and spend time on the bridge. It’s one of those lakes I really enjoy fishing. I think it’s that Coosa River spot that really gets me.”

Browning likes that the spotted bass grow bigger in the South than in other parts of the country, and that they put up a fight when he sets the hook.

“It’s an aggressive fish and fun to catch,” said Browning, who is looking ahead to how the lake will fish.

“Next week is going to be all about water conditions,” he said. “I don’t know if the fish are going to be prespawn or postspawn or spawning. I think it’s going to be a little of everything. I hope that on the first day of practice, I can figure it out in a short time.”

Browning is on a roll and wants to keep the impetus going for his return to Logan Martin.

“This will be the fifth tournament in a row that I’ve fished, and I’m looking forward to it,” Browning said. “I’m not burned out. I’m just as pumped up as I’ve ever been.”

Anglers will launch each day at 5:30 a.m. CT from Lakeside Park, 2801 Stemley Bridge Road, Pell City, AL 35054. On Day 1 and Day 2, weigh-ins will be held at the same location at 2 p.m. CT. On Day 3 at 3 p.m. CT, the weigh-in will be held at Bass Pro Shops, 5000 Bass Pro Blvd., Leeds, AL 35054.

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