It was a classic race between the tortoise (Stringer) and the hare (Hackney), and Stringer proved that in this year’s Open Championship slow and steady wins the race. After Hackney’s opening round catch of 16 pounds, nine ounces, his numbers dwindled. Stringer was able to bag a solid limit every day, catching Hackney on Day Three and increasing his lead in the final round.
“I did all my fishing with three rods today,” Stringer said. “I was using a Carolina rigged Trick Worm or Centipede in chartreuse pepper, a one-ounce Stanley Thumper spinnerbait with a big Colorado blade and a Texas-rigged six-inch Zoom lizard.”
Stringer concentrated his efforts in five to 12 feet of water on the main creek in D’Arbonne Bayou. His fish were stacked into small areas in the creek and on adjacent backwater areas.
“My best fish came on a spinnerbait,” he said, “and they were concentrated in an area about half the size of a bass boat. I had to slow roll or yo-yo that spinnerbait through the area to get a bite. If the bait didn’t stay in the area for a long time, they wouldn’t hit it.”
The same “soaking” technique was necessary to generate strikes on his Carolina and Texas rigs. Stringer would pull the lures into the key zones and then twitch them in place until a bass picked up or he reeled in for another cast.
“This was the most fun I’ve ever had in competitive fishing,” added the new Open champion, who will be fishing his first Classic next summer. “I probably caught more than 100 bass over four days and just had a great time.”
Pre-tournament favorite Greg Hackney finished second with 41 pounds, 14 ounces. The “Hack Attack” flipped and pitched backwaters with Rattle-Back jigs for his bass. After leading the tournament for the first two rounds, he managed only 15 pounds, 14 ounces over the final two days.
Hackney will be fishing his third Classic when the world’s most prestigious bass tournament visits Pittsburgh and the famed Three Rivers area next July.
North Carolina’s Chris Baumgardner is a veteran of three Classics and leapt from fifth to third place on the strength of an 11 pound, one ounce limit in the final round. His fish turned on early, and he was able to catch them all day long on spinnerbaits and creature baits.
“I caught about a dozen keepers today, including a limit in the first hour on a spinnerbait,” said Baumgardner. “I was targeting points in the flooded bushes and waking a ?-ounce white tandem spinnerbait with a No. 7 Indiana blade. After I caught a quick limit on the spinnerbait, I was able to cull some fish by flipping and pitching a root beer Baby Brush Hog with a 5/16-ounce slip sinker.”
Edwin Evers of Oklahoma slipped from third place into fourth after a final round catch of just one bass weighing a pound and 15 ounces. He’ll be going to his fifth CITGO Bassmaster Classic next year.
“I had my chances today,” Evers said. “I had some bites. I just didn’t put them in the boat.”
Rounding out the top five was Mississippi’s Cliff Pace with 28 pounds, two ounces. Pace was in third place after two days, but after weighing in just two bass over the last two rounds, he fell to fifth.
“Chris Baumgardner and I were fishing in the same general area for all four days,” Pace said. “I was fishing the first pond in this backwater area, and Chris was coming through and fishing the second pond, further back. I think my fish may have moved up some today and into his area.”
Although only Stringer can claim the title of Open champion, all five of the anglers who qualified for the final two rounds leave the event as winners. They’ve each earned a berth in the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer to be held in Pittsburgh, Pa., next July.
By virtue of his opening round catch weighing 16 pounds, nine ounces, Greg Hackney has also earned a spot in next year’s Busch Shootout. That tournament field is made up of the 13 pros with the heaviest single-day weights at the 10 stops of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer (Tour and Elite 50), the heaviest single-day weight at the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship, the CITGO BASS Federation Championship and the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
In addition to the fine angling display over the past four days, the anglers did their part for charity at the Open Championship. On the first day of the tournament, BASS officials placed a Christmas tree on the weigh-in stage and asked the competitors to contribute a signed lure to the tree as an ornament. With more than a hundred baits displaying the signatures of Classic champions, Anglers of the Year, future fishing superstars and more, it made for a very distinctive holiday decoration.
The tree was auctioned off today to the highest bidder and earned $1,400 that will go directly to the Ronald McDonald House of Northeast Louisiana to improve the health and well being of area children.
The Open Championship will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Jan. 8, 2005 at 10:00 a.m. ET.
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 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.