Forecast kills Central Open's first day

MANY, La. — The first day of competition for the Bassmaster Central Open on Toledo Bend Reservoir was canceled this morning after meteorologists issued a high-wind advisory.

 "They're calling for winds of 15 to 25 mph, with gusts of 35 mph, out of the south," Tournament Director Chris Bowes said. "This lake pretty much runs north-south, so the wind will run right up the lake."

 He said that, combined with the masses stump fields anglers have to negotiate, really made the call a no-brainer.

 "With the stumps in the lake, it would be difficult for anglers to stay in the boat lanes, so we decided to err on the side of caution," Bowes said.

 The decision was met with overall agreement.

 "First and foremost is safety," Missouri's Sammy Burks said. "This lake is so huge, with a south wind and gusty winds, I can perceive the waves getting huge."

 Bassmaster Elite pro Jeff Kriet said he was ecstatic with not having to brave possibly dangerous conditions.

 "This is the worst lake, probably in the United States, to be on with a straight north wind or south wind," Kriet said. "I fished a Top 150 here (in 2001), and I ran all the way to the north end. I speared more waves coming back that day than in my entire life.

 "I bet I speared 80 waves, and I feel like I can drive a boat a little bit."

 The problem, he explained, is that there is little wiggle room to work the waves while running because stumps line the edges of the boat lanes.

 "You've got to run the boat lanes, and I don't want to tear my stuff up," Kriet said. "A 15-mph wind can kill you here. Any time they cancel a day on Toledo Bend I don't complain."

 Burks, who has never fished a tournament on Toledo Bend, said he wished the cancellation hadn't been necessary, but understands the decision.

 "It's not blowing very much right now," Burks said as he headed back to his room. "Getting to your fish this morningwouldn't be a problem, but it's going to be a matter of trying to get back.

 "And if you've got to cross (the lake) side ways to the waves, that's the Achilles heel."

 Unfortunately, Bowes said Friday's forecast sets up the possibility that a second day could be canceled, as well.

 "The forecast is better, but not by a lot," he explained. "We just have to make a decision day to day."

 The good news is that the conditions look to improve on Saturday.

 No matter what happens tomorrow, the tournament will not be extended, Bowes said. That sets up the possibility of a one-day shoot-out if officials are forced to cancel Friday's competition.

 "We have too many people with too many obligations to extend the tournament," Bowes said.

 Burks said that, even though such an occurrence would make it tougher to win, it would be very difficult to add another day or two the event.

 "Sunday is usually a travel day, and in the Open division a lot of people have jobs they have to get to on Monday," he said. "It's going to be even more important to execute on the bites you get.

 "Every ounce counts now."

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