SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. Fishing conditions on the Red River improved just slightly with wind and cloud cover, and that was all Waco, Texas, angler Russell Parrish needed to grab the Day 1 lead in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open. His 18-pound, 10-ounce haul also included the day's heaviest fish, a 6-14 lunker.
That gave him a 1-9 lead over Fort Worth, Texas, dentist, Dr. Gil Coats, who weighed in 17-1. Chad Brauer brought in 16-15 to hold third; Craig Schuff, winner of the Central Division's opening event at Lake Amistad, grabbed fourth with 15-8; and Mark Kirkpatrick sits just two ounces behind Schuff in fifth with 15-6.
Although weights dropped quickly behind Kirkpatrick, the overall picture was certainly an improvement over the preceding practice days, in which some pros never caught a fish and many reported only one or two. Water temperatures range from the high 80s to low 90s, but many areas, particularly the Red River itself, are extremely muddy. That's often creating crowded conditions in the clearer backwater sloughs and oxbows.
Many anglers locked downstream into Pool 4 in hopes of finding better water conditions, and 13 pros continued to Pool 3, but the overall water conditions were not that much better. In fact, some places were muddier today than on Thursday.
Parrish, who declined to divulge any specifics about his technique, did say he was "surrounded" by other anglers, but still managed to have his catch in the livewell by 11 a.m. He culled once.
Coats likewise said he had his fish early, and that he culled three times. "I wanted to come in by 10 a.m.," he joked. "Yesterday I found an area that held fish that wanted to bite a plastic worm, and today I caught more bass by mid-morning than I'd caught during the entire practice."
Third-place angler Chad Brauer reported catching only six keepers all day, but he wasn't sure he'd even be able to fish his area on Friday because of the falling water. In his spot, which he has to himself, the water level has
dropped about 18 inches since practice began.
"The fish have pulled out into slightly deeper water," he said, "so I can actually use crankbaits and spinnerbaits to catch them, but if the water drops much more, I simply won't be able to get to them."
The most unusual catch of the day was reported by Florida pro Lee Sisson, who, while fishing a SPRO Popping Frog over heavy vegetation, caught a one-pound, one-ounce bullfrog. Sisson was fishing an area in which he'd caught two bass over five pounds during practice, and when he saw the wake following behind his frog thought he was about to hook another one.
"The bullfrog literally grabbed the lure with its front legs and stuffed it into its mouth like a baby eating candy," he said.
On the non-boater side, Ronnie Terry of San Angelo, Texas, leads with three bass weighing 10-2. His catch also included a 6-2 heavyweight, the biggest bass among the non-boaters. Terry is followed by Dustin Wood with 8-13, and Todd Gibson with 8-9.