SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, La. — Chad Brauer's mastery of the Red River continued Saturday and left even local anglers shaking their heads in disbelief. Bringing the week's heaviest catch, 21 pounds, 3 ounces, to the scales as the last angler to weigh in, the Missouri pro totally blew away his competition in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open here. His three-day total of 56-14 easily bested runnerup Craig Schuff by more than 16 pounds; Schuff weighed in 40-12.
"Tournaments like this don't happen very often," said Brauer, whose only other win in BASS competition came in 1996. "I had a large area completely to myself the entire week, so all I had to do was figure out what the bass were doing. I never had to fish defensively at all."
Concentrating in an off-river oxbow he found on Internet maps and visited this past February, Brauer flipped a black/blue flake Strike King Rodent and cranked a Strike King Series 4S crankbait around various types of flooded timber. With water levels dropping daily, he followed the bass as they moved from the shoreline out to about 10 feet where they suspended in fallen timber.
"I had my limit today by 9 a.m.," Brauer noted, "but it only weighed about 10 pounds. Then, between 9:30 and 11 a.m., everything I caught was in the three to four pound range. I left the area at 11 a.m to come back to the weigh-in."
Shuff, winner of the Central Division's opening event at Lake Amistad, fished within site of the launch ramp, but had to work much harder. Rather than fish a floating frog over lily pads as most were doing, he swam a 5/16-oz. Eakins Finesse Jig with a NetBait Paca Craw trailer through the pads a foot under the surface. As unusual as the technique may have been, it kept Schuff in the top five all week.
James Biggs of Bedford, TX followed in third with 38-11; he was fishing laydown timber with nearby deep water and catching 15 to 20 bass a day with finesse-type plastic worms and light line. Keith Combs captured fourth with 32-10, after spending his tournament fishing a shallow backwater area with floating frogs and shallow-running crankbaits.
Dianna Clark, a former Women's Bassmaster Tour champion and one of several former WBT anglers in the tournament, claimed fifth with 31-5, flipping a Lake Fork Trophy Tackle finesse lure to shallow stumps and laydowns. Rather than run to different areas, Clark, who's known for her flipping skills, stayed in one small area and worked it thoroughly all three days.
Thomas Tysdal, an IBM program manager, won the non-boater division with four bass weighing 20 pounds, 14 ounces. More than half that weight came with one bass, an 11 pound, 3 ounce giant he caught on a Spro Bronzeye Frog Jr. on Friday.
Saturday's final weigh-in was conducted at Bass Pro Shops in Bossier City where an overflow crowd watched in 95-degree heat as each pro and his non-boater partner were pulled to the weigh-in stage in Toyota Tundra trucks. Afterward, the anglers stayed to visit with the crowd and sign autographs.