Stumpf leads Central Open

BRANSON, Mo. — Ernie Stumpf had a day of firsts in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open at Table Rock Lake.

Fishing for the first time on Table Rock in his first ever Bassmaster Opens tournament, Stumpf moved into first place in the pro division with a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds. The 3M regional salesman has traversed in a roundabout way to fish in his first B.A.S.S. event. “I am originally from California, then lived in Las Vegas for nine years and then moved out to Texas about three years ago,” he said. “We didn’t have any B.A.S.S. events at the time out there, and I didn’t make any trips out of the state then.”

The 44-year-old angler from Frisco, Texas, signed up to fish the Central Opens last year but was too far down on the waiting list to get the call. This year he signed up early and made the roster.

Stumpf said he had mixed results while practicing for his first Open. “I had some days when I was wondering what the heck to do out here, and then I had a couple of days when I caught some good ones (including a bass in the 7-pound range),” he said.

Fishing all the spots he had found in practice, Stumpf eventually caught his limit by about 3:50 p.m. today. His final stop produced a 6-1 largemouth that put him in the lead for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award. “I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” Stumpf said of his big catch.

Kimberling City, Mo., angler Tom Statler relied on his extensive experience on his home waters of Table Rock to move into second place in the pro division with a 16-10 limit. The Championship Marine Repair shop owner also had inconsistent practice days. “Monday was awful,” he said. “Tuesday was pretty good and Wednesday I just expanded on what I learned.”

The 47-year-old local angler is unsure what to expect the next couple of days based on his knowledge of Table Rock’s fickle ways in the spring. “The fish are starting to move up,” Statler said. “It is just that transition where they are up today and down tomorrow. If you ask me how is it going to be tomorrow? You never know. It is Table Rock and it is in the spring. I may have to do something totally different. I think the guy who wins this is going to fish three different ways on three different days.”

Other anglers in the Top 5 of the boater division include Ryan Heavener, Tulsa, Okla., third, 16-4; Randy Sullivan, Breckenridge, Texas, fourth, 15-5; and Drew Sloan, Scurry, Texas, fifth, 15-0.

Taking over the lead in the nonboater division is Mike Jones of Fayetteville, Ark., with three bass weighing 11-2. The 41-year-old car salesman said he frequently fishes Table Rock because he lives only an hour and a half from the lake. “We got into the fish and it was ‘hammer down,’” he said of his day. “I was just fortunate enough to get a couple of big bites.”

Leading the co-angler division for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award after the first day is Brian Murphy of Sulphur, La., with a 5-3 largemouth.

Hosting this event is Friday’s launch, weigh-in and the final-day launch will be held at the Table Rock State Park Marina, 380 State Park Marina Drive in Branson. The final-day weigh-in will move to the Bass Pro Shops at 1 Bass Pro Drive in Branson.