It was a good day for anglers from the Southern and Central Open Series, as they dominated the top spots. Just a pound behind Hackney is Arkansas’ Chip Hawkins who weighed in 15 pounds, nine ounces of bass, including the Purolator Big Bass of Day One on the boater side of the competition — a five-pound, eight-ounce largemouth.
Third place belongs to Central Open points champion, Tommy Martin of Texas who bagged a limit weighing 13 pounds, five ounces. Another Texan, Bradley W. Stringer, is fourth with 12-11. Cliff Pace of Mississippi is in fifth place with 12-2. The only other boater in double digits is Oklahoma’s Kenyon Hill who brought 11 pounds, four ounces of bass to the scales.
Hackney flipped and pitched in the dingy backwaters of the Ouachita and occasionally cast a spinnerbait to take his bass. They key was to fish his selected area very thoroughly.
“I fished my main spot two or three different ways,” he said. “The fish there are doing several different things, and no one technique or bait will catch them all.”
Chip Hawkins, who grew up fishing tournaments against Hackney in Arkansas, was doing the same thing to grab second place.
“Pitching, flipping and slow-rolling a spinnerbait caught all my fish today,” Hawkins said. “I fished four areas and caught one bass from each. My big bass took a spinnerbait.”
Hawkins expects the fishing to improve as the weather warms and the mud in the river settles. He believes there could be some big weights at the scales on Sunday and hopes to be one of the five remaining boaters in the final round.
On a day when only 14 of 78 boaters caught a limit, Tommy Martin said he caught enough keepers for two limits. The 1974 Classic champion was fishing a soft plastic bait that he described by saying only, “it’s not really a worm.”
There was more geographic diversity on the non-boater side of the competition, where seven different states and one foreign country are represented in the top 10. The Open Championship is truly an international event, as anglers from as far away as Australia and Japan have convened in Louisiana to crown the Open Series champions.
The top non-boater on Day One was Larry Cundiff of Kentucky, who only caught three keepers, but they weighed a healthy 12 pounds, 12 ounces. Cundiff’s catch was anchored by a six-pound, four-ounce bass that was not only the Purolator Big Bass of the day on the non-boater side, but the biggest bass caught by anyone on Day One.
Mike Campbell of California is second with a limit of bass that weighed an even ten pounds. No other non-boater broke double digits on Day One. Australia’s Kim Bain is in tenth place with four pounds, eight ounces.
After one more day of competition involving all 78 boaters and 77 non-boaters, the field will be cut to the top 10 on each side for Day Three. That’s when the non-boater champion will be crowned. Weights will be carried over after each day of competition.
On Sunday, only the top five boaters will be on the water, each having earned a spot in the Classic and now vying for the title of Open Champion and a first-place prize worth $45,000.
Weigh-ins will be held each day at 3:00 p.m. CT at Lazarre Point Recreation Area.
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