Clayton Coppin of Wagoner, Okla., copied a page out of Stephen Browning’s playbook to take the pro division lead in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open presented by Allstate finale on the Arkansas River.
“I have a little magic tree,” Coppin said. “About three or four years ago we were here, and I did really well out of it.” Bassmaster Elite Series pro Stephen Browning claims he also had a magic tree on the Red River that produced the key fish he needed to win the 2013 and 2014 Central Opens. Coppin’s magic tree yielded a five-fish limit weighing 16 pounds, 8 ounces for the Oklahoma angler fishing in his pro division debut.
The 43-year-old co-owner of a lawn care service business was on the waiting list to fish this event and got his chance when a friend helped him recruit a co-angler. “I barely got in,” said Coppin, who missed out on practicing this week. “I was really nervous. I was on the bubble and didn’t know if I was going to get in the tournament or not, so I took my chances and stayed home and mowed some yards.”
When he arrived at his first stop this morning, Coppin noticed the river had dropped about a foot and his fish weren’t biting. He was about to leave the area when he saw the magic tree. “All of a sudden I just made a hard right to the tree. On the first cast, I caught my big fish, and it just went from there,” he said.
While other competitors said their fish had moved away from cover due to the cloudy weather, Coppin found the opposite was true at his magic tree. “They were nosed up on it,” he said.
After catching his limit from the tree, Coppin left the hot spot even though he had a small keeper to cull. “I’ve got other spots, so if the water just stabilizes for me the fishing will be better,” he said. “We know a cold front is coming in, but I don’t think it is going to affect me. I think it is going to affect the fish though. I just hope it pushes more shad into the area.”
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., also had a disappointing start at his first stop, but rebounded to catch a 16-3 limit and move into second place. “I think it got a lot more rain there because there was a lot of stuff blown out,” he said of his primary spot. “I didn’t really fish there much because it got muddy. I put the trolling motor down, made one cast and saw so much stuff floating that I thought it was time to go.”
“I am just hopping around and fishing the conditions,” the Oklahoma pro said. “The way the weather is going to be tomorrow, I am probably going to fish different stuff. I learned on this river a long time ago that you just fish the conditions and what it gives you from day to day.”
Eight ounces of fish care penalties kept Brian Potter of Claremore, Okla., from taking over the lead. He finished the day in third place with 16-2. The rest of the Top 5 contenders in the pro division include Andy Young of Mound, Minn., in fourth place with 15-14; and Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., fifth, with 15-13.
French native Jean-Christophe David took over the co-angler lead with three bass weighing 13-4. “That kind of weight with three fish sounds crazy,” the 44-year-old David said. He caught two of his keepers on back-to-back casts and landed his third keeper 40 minutes later.
Nine events in nine states covering three geographic regions will send winners to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell out of Greenville, S.C., and top performers to the Bassmaster Elite Series.
For those anglers hoping to take the next step in their careers, the Opens are the way to reach the most prestigious professional fishing circuit in the world, the Elite Series. Opens competitors earn performance points at each tournament, and at the end of the season the Top 5 ranked anglers in each division who aren’t already qualified for the Elites will be invited to join the premier tour.
As of Thursday, in contention for those five coveted Elite Series spots from the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens are Stephen Browning (585 points) of Hot Springs, Ark. (already an Elite Series pro), Troy Broussard (532) of Beaumont, Texas, Logan Sherrer (531) of Karnack, Texas, Brian Clark (523) of Haltom City, Texas and Carl Jocumsen (521) of Frisco, Texas.
Hosting this event is the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce. The Three Forks Harbor at 5201 Three Forks Road will be the site for tomorrow’s launch, weigh-in and the final day launch on Saturday. The final weigh-in on Saturday will move to the Bass Pro Shops at 101 Bass Pro Drive in Broken Arrow, Okla.
Image courtesy James Overstreet/Bassmaster