RIDGEDALE, Mo. — Fishing without any preconceived idea of a game plan is paying off for Mark Rose, who took the lead at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship on Table Rock Lake.
Rose, of Wynne, Ark., caught a 5-bass limit weighing 15 pounds, 9 ounces, to earn first place ahead of Caleb Sumrall. The New Iberia, La., angler took second with 15-1, while Tyler Rivet of Raceland, La., claimed third place with 14-6. Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif., is fourth with 12-14. Ed Loughran III, of Mechanicsville, Va., is fifth with 12-12.
Transition. That word best describes fishing conditions this week on Table Rock. The transition occurs when fall cold snaps prompt the bass population to migrate from deep to shallow water, where the fish feed on roaming baitfish. The bass are moving shallower each day, posing a greater sporting challenge to this tournament. Keeping track of those moving bass is the goal.
“When it’s transition time that makes it tougher, but I’m the most instinctive fisherman that I know of,” said Rose. “It’s what I like to do the most.”
The fundamental of being instinctive is rooted in fishing with an open mind. Rose caught fish from the shoreline out to 35 feet deep, playing off the textbook conditions in play this week. He intentionally skipped the optional scouting period prior to the tournament.
“Table Rock and all these Ozarks lakes are very conditional,” he explained. “The patterns are textbook, very black and white, and you catch bass in shady areas during sunny conditions, on moving baits under cloudy skies.”
He continued, “I don’t like pre-fishing these conditional lakes. The fish are going to move and patterns are subject to change on a daily basis, especially in the fall.”
On Friday, Rose expects to completely change his fishing strategy based on the weather, which is also in transition. After today’s sunny skies and seasonal temperatures the forecast calls for rain and chilly weather on Friday.
Sumrall is dialing into transitional bass moving into shallow water. Covering territory is a must to gain ground on the fish. The idea is to be prepared as the fish come to him.
“I was able to move when the bite slowed and pick it up again at the next stop,” he explained. “I’m looking for specific transition areas where there are multiples of bass schooling together, running the bank and looking for baitfish.”
Rivet is also covering lots of water with a pattern most productive under cloudy conditions. That didn’t pan out until midday and even so, the Louisiana angler had a fallback plan.
“I put together a pattern during practice for the sunny skies, but only to hold me until the main pattern came into play,” he explained.
Rivet took advantage of that slim opportunity and boated vital keepers early in the day.
“Sure enough it worked, when the clouds came in, and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow,” he added. “I’m fishing a specific combination of transitional habitat that will greatly benefit with the rain on Friday.”
The Opens Championship is the climax of a year featuring eight events in as many states. The Top 28 pro and co-anglers in the point standings from the Central and Eastern divisions qualified for the championship.
The overall winner earns a berth in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, plus $10,000 cash and a Triton 19 TrX with Mercury 200 Pro XS package worth $45,000. The Top co-angler receives a Nitro Z18 with a Mercury 150 Pro XS outboard.
The Top 3 pro anglers in points from each division following the championship are also invited to the Classic, set for next March in Knoxville, Tenn.
Frank Talley, Brad Whatley and Toby Hartsell currently occupy the Top 3 spots in the Central Division standings, while Brandon Lester, Bobby Lane, and Garrett Paquette lead the Eastern Division.
Leading the Phoenix Big Bass Award is Rose with a largemouth weighing 6-1. Alex Heintz of Denham Springs, La., caught a largemouth weighing 4-7 to lead the co-angler division. Heintze also leads the co-angler division with 3 bass weighing 8-9.
The anglers launch at 7: 15 a.m. CDT from Long Creek Marina. The Friday weigh-in at the marina begins at 3:15 p.m. The Saturday weigh-in begins at 4:30 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Springfield.