WEST MONROE, La. – The “Hack Attack” still leads the pack, but the race for five Classic berths is tight at the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Open Series Championship on the Ouachita River. Anglers fought muddy, rising waters, cooling temperatures and bass that were mostly uncooperative.

After two days of tough fishing, only the top 10 boaters and 10 non-boaters will be moving on to fish Day Three. On Saturday, BASS will crown the Open Series Champion on the non-boater side while the boaters vie to make Sunday’s cut to five and a berth in the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer. The Open Series Championship will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Jan. 8, 2005 at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Louisiana’s Greg Hackney leads the field of boaters with a two-day catch weighing an even 26 pounds. He followed up his first day limit with just three bass weighing nine pounds, seven ounces. It was enough to hold onto the top spot.

“I only had five bites today,” Hackney said. “I caught four of them, and one of them was too small. Luckily, the three I caught were good ones.”

Hackney knew things would be tougher on Day Two when he went to his primary spot and found that the water had risen a foot overnight.

“I caught my fish by flipping and pitching today,” he said. “There wasn’t any wind or current where I was fishing, so I didn’t even pick up the spinnerbait I used some yesterday.”

Hackney is pitching and flipping a dark Rattle-Back Jig to backwater bass that are escaping the heavy current and muddy water on the main channel of the Ouachita River. The water is slowly clearing and cooling, and only 30 five-fish limits have been weighed in by boaters over two days.

Bradley Stringer is alone in second place, a little more than two pounds behind Hackney, with 23 pounds, 13 ounces. The Texan is using techniques that work under similar conditions on his home lake, Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

“I’m slow-rolling a Stanley spinnerbait around woody cover,” Stringer said. Though he’s fishing in only his fifth BASS event, he says he has a “positive feeling” about things and hopes to make Sunday’s cut to qualify for his first Classic.

Mississippi’s Cliff Pace is in third place with 23 pounds, five ounces. Chris Baumgardner of North Carolina used the day’s big bass, a five pound, eight ounce largemouth to move from seventh into fourth place with 22 pounds, 10 ounces.

Chip Hawkins of Arkansas was in second place after the first day of competition, but went fishless on Day Two. Nevertheless, he still managed to make the cut by finishing 10th with 15 pounds, nine ounces.

Central Division points champion and 1974 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Tommy Martin wasn’t as lucky. In third place after the first day, Martin managed just one small bass on Day Two and finished 19th.

Friday was moving day for California’s Art Berry. Starting Day Two way back in 43rd place, few would have given the Western Open Series qualifier much of a chance to make the cut, but a solid limit weighing 12 pounds, 12 ounces vaulted him all the way to ninth place and put him in Saturday’s field.

Another Californian, Mike Campbell leads the non-boaters with 14 pounds, seven ounces. He’s just one of three California anglers who will be competing on Saturday for the title of Open Series Champion in the non-boater division. Sieg Taylor and Brian Stafford also made the cut.

First-round leader in the non-boater division, Larry Cundiff, came to the scales empty-handed on Day Two, but finished third on the strength of his 12 pound, 12 ounce first-round catch.

On Sunday, only the top five boaters will be on the water, each having earned a spot in the Classic and vying for the title of Open Champion and a first-place prize worth $45,000.

Weigh-ins will be held on Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. CT at Lazarre Point Recreation Area.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, 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 Southern Open include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Toyota, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, and Bass Pro Shops.

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