All week leading up to a Bassmaster Open, locals and those arriving from out of town start making bets on who will win, what the biggest fish will be, and what the winning three day catch total will end up being. Even those that don't follow fishing, regularly get in on the act to place their bets and see who will make the headlines.
Bassmaster touring pro Randall Tharp stole most of the headlines this week at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
The angler from Port St. Joe, Florida caught his limit each day, as he seemed to find the right formula when other pro seemed to struggle in the tricky conditions of Ross Barnett Reservoir.
“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.”
Tharp led after day one and took the momentum into day two when a fog delay started the day and caused some uncertainties. It turned out, afternoons were Tharp's best friends.
“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.”
Tharp took home quite a haul from winning this title.
A Triton 19XS/Mercury 200 Pro XS package worth $40,000 and cash. Over the three days of competition, Tharp caught 41-15. More importantly to Tharp, he secured a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Central Opens point standings title.
Tharp edged Hot Springs, Arkansas, pro Stephen Browning. Browning had a huge Sunday as he caught 16 pounds, 14 ounces of bass to vault from 10th place into the hot seat until Tharp arrived.
Browning, who had won a Bassmaster Open title earlier this season felt he had nothing to lose and got creative on the last day of competition. Browning fished the brush piles and some of the stumps in the sloughs of Ross Barnett Reservoir.
Will Major of Port Allen, Louisiana won the non-boater division and the top prize of a Skeeter T2X 170 with Yamaha F115LA valued at $25,000. The 66-year-old Major relied on a white Zoom Horny Toad to catch most of his seven fish. Major also received a Livingston Lures gift pack valued at $250.00.
The Bassmaster Central Open had 148 boats entered and on each boat there was a pro and a co-angler.
It's a big undertaking to hold a Bassmaster Open event, and Ridgeland Tourism and all of its partners worked tireless not only to bring this event to Ridgeland, but to make sure it went off without a hitch and all the anglers had a great time.
Chris Boews, Sr. Tournament Manager at B.A.S.S., the organization that puts Bassmaster events on says there are certain requirements needed to put on a Bassmaster Open, and Ridgeland has it all.
"We need to have a fishery, a fishery available that has a decent population of bass. We also need to have the infrastructure and the size and space we need to accommodate a 150-200 boat field. We have all of that in Ridgeland."
Prior to this year's event, the Bassmasters haven't been in Ridgeland and at Ross Barnett since 1998. 15 years is a long time for the people of Ridgeland and the Jackson area of Mississippi to wait for an event of this stature. I'm betting it doesn't take that long for the next one.