MANY, La. – When you put the top 80 anglers from the CITGO Bassmaster Open series presented by Busch Beer on Toledo Bend in December, you are bound to have an exciting four days of fishing.

That was the case Wednesday when Arkansas' Stephen Browning brought in 18 pounds, 10 ounces of bass, giving him a 1-pound lead over fellow Arkansan Scott Suggs with 17-10. California's Skeet Reese brought in a 5-bass limit weighing 17-8, which was good enough for third.

Browning was operating at a disadvantage to begin with. He had been up all night sick.

"Eighteen-10 and sick as a dog." Browning said. "I think it was a little stomach flu last night; I don't know what it was. … It was a horrible night. It got a lot better this morning, after about 20 minutes of fishing.

"It took me till about 11 o'clock to catch a limit, but after that I had three more big bites. I ended up catching about 12 keepers today.

"I have a lot of confidence that I'm going to get five bites and I think the 13- to 15- pound day is very doable. It's just a matter of slowing down and working an area. The area has got a lot of fish in it. When they get turned on, you'd better be there, because if you miss the bite, you're just out of luck."

"I think the noon till two (o'clock) is really the key time that I've been getting most of my bites. Normally you wouldn't be able to see the grass and stuff that I'm fishing, but I think the way that the water is, it's helping me fish a little bit better."

This will be a long tournament, as Suggs pointed out, and there are plenty of scenarios to be played out on Toledo Bend.

"I had a limit in the first hour, but I'm making a long boat run," Suggs said. "When I got one, my fifth fish was one of the five that I broke off. I managed to cull in the first hour and I probably caught 20 keepers before one o'clock.

As always, weather will play a key role in each day's strategy.

"I hope the wind is 5 to 10 (mph) tomorrow and if it is, then I think I have a supper good shot," Suggs said.

David Curtis from Texas and Stacy King from Missouri were fourth and fifth with weights of 17-0 and 16-9 respectively.

On the non-boater side, Connecticut's Ken Brodeur topped all anglers on the list with a 20-pound, 3-ounce catch and has a very sportsmanlike outlook for tomorrow.

"We all get paired up and, without having David Curtis there to put me on the fish, you'll never catch them," Brodeur said. "There's a lot to catching them also, but you have to be on them to catch them."

Tom Duarte from Idaho (12-1) and Chuck Thurlow from Alabama (11-11) rounded out the top three non-boaters.

Day two of the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer continues Friday. Take-off is daily at Cypress Bend Park. Weigh-ins start at 3:00 p.m. each day.

The CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer will be telecast on ESPN2, Jan. 3, 2004.

A CastingKids event will be held Saturday at the Cypress Bend Park from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Kids between the ages of 7-14 are invited to come participate in the scholarship competition. Louisiana BASS Federation members will be on hand to teach children to flip, pitch and cast a hookless lure.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. In 2004, BASS will introduce the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Chevrolet Trucks, Yamaha Outboards, Mercury Marine, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Progressive Insurance, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Diamond Cut Jeans, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, and BankOne.

Associate Sponsors include Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning and G3 Boats.

Local Sponsors include the State of Louisiana and the Sabine River Authority.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit