MORGAN CITY, La. — Fish-offs are a rare thing in Bassmaster events. However, for the second time in a single season, two Bassmaster Central Open anglers will face off against each other after tying for the final-day lead.
"Can you believe this?" Louisiana's Mark Smith asked, after learning he would be fishing an extra day against Bassmater Elite Series pro Edwin Evers in the circuit's final stop in the Atchafalaya Basin.Smith held the first two days' lead, but Evers jumped from third to the first-place tie when the scales settled on identical weights of 35 pounds, 9 ounces.The anglers will fish a full day tomorrow because each is making a run of more than an hour. They will meet back at the dock at 3:20 p.m. ET, at which time the winner will be decided.At stake in the competition is a top prize of $45,000 (based on a full field).The two anglers' confidence going into the extended tournament was polar opposites.
"My bite is severely used up," Smith said. "This is the first time (in the tournament) I don't have any confidence."
The first two days' limits for Smith came from one stretch of water, but he was forced today to move around and pick off enough fish to build his five-fish stringer.I think the east wind got me today," he said. "I had no wind on my bank."
Evers, on the other hand, said he his bite was coming on."I just got a little more familiar with where they're hanging out," he said.While the tournament win remained in limbo, two important matters were decided when the scales closed.
In the Central division points race, Bassmaster Elite Series pro James Niggemeyer sewed up the win.
This is huge," said Niggemeyer, who won the season's first divisional in a fish-off. "The central part of the United States has some of the stoutest fishermen around. To win the first event really gave me a huge boost, but to win the points was a real blessing from God."With the points-race win, Niggemeyer double qualified for a 2010 Bassmaster Classic spot. However, his Classic qualification will come from the Opens, opening the way for Elite Series' Mark Tucker to move into the championship from the Elite Series.Louisiana's Cliff Crochet placed second in the divisional points race, locking up the second Classic spot from the Central Opens."Nothing's sunk in yet," Crochet said as he wiped tears from his eyes. "It's a dream come true."Crochet also qualifies for the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series. Joining him and Niggemeyer as Elite Series qualifiers will be Evers, Texas' Chris McCall and Texas' Todd Castledine.
In the co-angler competition, Louisiana's David Cooper wrapped up a wire-to-wire victory after knocking Arkansas' Jeff Wade off in a final-day tie breaker. Each angler weighed a total 21-11, but Cooper won the tie-breaker with the largest single-day weight.Cooper said his win came primarily by pitching flooded cypress trees."I fished the same area all three days," Cooper said. "I think the fish were quality there, so even though I only caught nine fish when you stuck one you knew what you were going to get." The competition wraps up tomorrow with a 7:15 a.m. ET launch and a 3:20 p.m. weigh-in at the Belle River Boat Landing north of Morgan City, La. All events are open and free to the public.