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Cranking out a win on the Red River

Posted by stephen on April 28, 2013

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We hear it all too often in this game, but the old adage, "never leave fish to find fish" slipped my mind and took a few hours and a whole lot of gas to remind me. Thankfully, I remembered in time to catch the fish I needed to win the Bassmaster Central Open and picked up a trophy that would make even the sturdiest of mantles cry uncle. It's been over a decade... ok, since 1998, that I've lifted such a magnificent piece of hardware. And unlike the old leaving-fish adage, this is a feeling you never forget.

After an abbreviated practice period that revealed no clear pattern to bank on, I'll admit my hopes for success weren't the highest. But that's probably what ended up working in my favor. Sometimes you just have to rely on your instincts and listen to the fish. The crankbait I was throwing wasn't getting the action I needed. I thought back to prior experience on the Arkansas River and what had worked for me in the past. The fish I had found were on a shad run and switched up to baits I've had success on in the past and that ended up being the game-changer.

One thing I've found on the Red River is that there may be a whole lot of water down here but it fishes small. It gets a lot of pressure and some areas can pay off with big numbers but not a whole lot of weight. What my practice did show me was that I was not on a lot of numbers but the bites I was getting were the right bites. This was setting up to be a typical dirty river tournament where 13-15 lbs a day gets you the win. And I was getting them on a pattern I've been throwing since I was a teenager - square bill crankbaits around laydowns and stumps in 3 to 5 foot breaks. On day 2, the first fish I caught was a 5-pounder. My second fish was a three pounder. Once that started kicking in, I felt I was doing what it was going to take to win this thing. And once I revisited my sweet spot after a long dry run, confidence was high.

Confidence was even higher when I returned to weigh in on day 3. I heard that the live B.A.S.S. blog revealed that local pro and day-2 leader, Mike Pedroza had a rough day. Then when I saw the rest of the field and the look in their eyes, I started getting a good feeling. 30 minutes after taking the hot seat, that good feeling was confirmed. My prayers were answered and they handed me the trophy.

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Now that I've had had little while to take it all in, I think this win puts the rest of the season in a little different gear. Now that I've qualified for my 9th Bassmaster Classic, rolling the dice a little more on the water won't be such a make it or break it proposition. And after celebrating my 46th birthday today, a little less stress and a huge hunk of hardware riding shotgun with me is a welcome addition to my career.

On to Georgia and on to Guntersville in 2014.