Touring pro Randall Tharp was the epitome of consistency at Ross Barnett Reservoir during the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open.
After catching 13-pound-plus limits the first two days of the tournament and holding the lead each day, Tharp followed up on the final day with a 12-pound, 11-ounce limit to win the Open and the top prize of a Triton 19XS/Mercury 200 Pro XS package worth $40,000 and $6,315 in cash. His three-day catch of 41-15 also earned him a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic and the Central Opens points standings title.
“Ninety percent of my fish this week came on a 1/2-ounce Randall Tharp Signature Series 4 x 4 jig, and almost all of my big fish came from around isolated docks,” Tharp said. “I weighed in two fish on an Alabama rig off the riprap, and I weighed in one fish on a ChatterBait.”
The Port St. Joe, Fla., angler noticed the timing of his bites changed each day. On the first morning, his best action was in the morning, but the second day he caught most of his fish in the afternoon.
“(Today) it was slow in the morning, and I just put my trolling motor down and didn’t pick it up until I got five fish. There was a small window (of action) from about 11 to 12 o’clock.”
When he caught two small keepers during that time frame he thought the fish were going to turn on.
“So I started running to the isolated docks that I had saved, and the first one I went to had two boys fishing on it,” Tharp said. “I told them that I was going to catch a fish right underneath them, so I pitched under there and caught a 3-pounder. The next dock I went to, (a 5-pounder) bit, and that is the kind of bite you dream about getting on the final day.”
Hot Springs, Ark., pro Stephen Browning turned in the heaviest bag of the tournament (16 pounds, 14 ounces) to jump from 10th place into the runner-up spot on the pro side. During the first two days, he flipped a black/blue Z-Man Zinkerz stickworm around the lily pads, but the fishing pressure in the pads prompted him to change strategy today. Browning switched to pitching a black/blue 7/16-ounce Jewel Bait Stephen Browning Casting Jig with a blue sapphire Z-Man chunk to catch his big limit from brush piles and stumps in the sloughs.
Port Allen, La., angler Will Major caught only a 1-pound, 4-ounce keeper today, but it was enough weight to win the non-boater division and the top prize of a Skeeter T2X 170 with Yamaha F115LA valued at $25,000. The 66-year-old retired BASF plant operator relied on a white Zoom Horny Toad to catch most of his seven keepers during the tournament, weighing 17-1.
The Carhartt Big Bass award of $500 for the largest bass caught at the tournament was awarded to Roland Martin of Florida on the pro side. Jim McCaskill of Mississippi won the award on the co-angler side.
The Luck-E-Strike Heavyweight honor was awarded to Browning on the pro side, and to co-angler Bob Walton of Texas with 8-14. Each received $250.
The Livingston Lures Leader award of $250 was presented to Tharp, the pro angler in the lead on Day 2, The leader on the Day 2 co-angler side, Major, received a Livingston Lures gift pack valued at $250.
The Ridgeland Tourism Commission hosted the Central Open, which was the last 2013 event in the three-region, three event Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series.
A moment of silence was observed during each tournament day this week to honor the memory of James “Jimmy” Johnson of Ganado, Texas, who was fatally shot on Oct. 13 while staying at a motel near the lake. Johnson, 56, was scheduled to compete in the tournament and was ranked No. 11 in points in the Bassmaster Central Opens division before this week’s competition.
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Image courtesy James Overstreet/Bassmaster