Johnson Leads Central Open Tournament on Red River


SHREVEPORT, La. — The Red River’s dropping water level created problems for several of the anglers in the Bassmaster Central Open tournament today, but Jimmy Johnson of Ganado, Texas, found the conditions to his liking.
“I think it actually helped me,” said Johnson. “It let me see a little bit more of the stuff I was fishing. Visibility is only about 4 inches, so when it dropped about 3 inches, I saw something new to fish.”
The Texan relied on the newly revealed cover to catch a 16-pound, 5-ounce limit and take over the lead in the boater division of the tournament.
Despite the falling water, Johnson was able to fish the same lures and areas that he did in practice. The only difference he noticed from practice to the first competition day was the size of the fish.
“The big fish were a surprise,” he said. “The fish just grew a little bit. I had a limit before 8:30 and had a 4-pounder by then. When you get that limit early, you just relax, and then you just go to work.”
While other anglers had to share spots, Johnson found a secluded oxbow where he saw only two other boats all day. He fished three shallow areas where he believes the postspawn bass he is targeting will replenish in the next two days.  
A 7-pound largemouth, which was the Carhartt Big Bass of the day, propelled Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., into second place with a 15-14 limit. He caught the big fish — his eighth keeper — around noon.
“I have a place where I can catch a limit fairly easily, and today it took until about 9 o’clock,” Tharp said. “I feel like I can go back there and do that again, which will get me fishing another day. Where the big ones are, though, is just hard to get a bite. I fished for four hours in that area and had two bites, but both [of those] fish came to the weigh-in.”
Tharp had a good first day of practice, but it went downhill the rest of the week. He rebounded once the competition started. “Today was the second best day I have had here,” he said
Rounding out the Top 5 on the pro side are Chad Wiley of Louisiana in third place with a 14-12 limit; Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mike Iaconelli of New Jersey, fourth, 14-9; and Roy Sanford of Texas, fifth, 14-7.
Ernest Smoak of Louisiana took over the lead in the non-boater division with three bass weighing 9 pound, 9 ounces. The Louisiana State University Health Science Center facility maintenance manager said he fishes the Red River at least two or three times a month.  
Smoak applied a technique he was using in practice at his partner’s spot.  “For some reason it seemed to work,” he said.  
Hosting this event is the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission. Friday’s launch and weigh-in and the final day launch will be held at the Red River South Marina on Hwy. 71 S., 250 Red River South Marina Rd. The final day weigh-in will move to the Bass Pro Shops at 100 Bass Pro Drive, in Bossier City.

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