Watson takes command at The Rock

BRANSON, Mo.—As super sleuth Sherlock Holmes would say, “It's elementary, my dear Watson.”

Nixa, Mo., pro angler James Watson would have made Holmes proud Friday as he solved the mystery of Table Rock Lake’s tough bass fishing and took the lead at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open #3 presented by Allstate.

Watson caught a five-fish limit weighing 15 pounds, 14 ounces to move into the pro division lead with 30-3.

“I had to find calm water today,” said the 42-year-old Watson. “I couldn't get bit in the wind today, but yesterday I did get bit in the wind. So today I had to shift gears and find the calmest water I could to get bit.”

Having fished the lake his whole life, Watson knows the caprices of his home waters.

“That’s Table Rock. It’s a crapshoot. If I am not catching them a certain way I know I need to make a couple of adjustments to get that one clue. I got the clue this morning and I just stayed with it.”

Watson got some clues about Table Rock during practice when he caught 15 to 16 pounds a day on multiple lures and patterns. The local angler also found out he better do a lot of running and gunning.

“Today, I fished nothing that I fished yesterday,” he said.

“And tomorrow, guess what? [I’ll fish] all new stuff.”

Climbing into second place with 26 pounds was James Margraves of Diana, Texas.

“I found those fish yesterday kind of early in the morning covering a lot of water and I came back to them yesterday afternoon and filled the rest of my limit,” said the 32-year-old Margraves.

“Today I sat there and stayed there so I had a limit a lot sooner.”

The Lake Fork guide is relying on one lure and one spot, which he believes contains plenty of fish.

“I lost three or four really good ones today, and there are a lot of fish in that area,” he said. “So I think what I got will hold up.”

The rest of the top five in the pro division includes Joseph Brantley of Willard, Mo., and Bassmaster Elite Series pro Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., tied for third place with 25-12 apiece; and Jacob Wheeler, Indianapolis, Ind., in fifth with 25-3.

Jason Newberry retained the lead in the co-angler division with 15-12, but he caught only two keepers weighing 4-9 Friday.

The Nixa, Mo., angler believes he has “beaten his fish up” after fishing in a championship tournament last week and relying on the same spot in this event.

“I have fished a set of docks and I think I have caught 28 keepers off that set of docks in three days, so I think it is pretty much done," Newberry said.

He caught his fish Friday on a football jig and a swimbait.

Hosting this open is the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Saturday’s launch will be held at the Table Rock State Park Marina. The weigh-in will move to the Branson Landing Water Fountain near the Bass Pro Shops at 1 Bass Pro Drive in Branson, and will begin at 4 p.m. CT.