Watson Earns Classic Berth

BRANSON, Mo.—Missouri pro James Watson can definitely relate to one of the late Yogi Berra’s great quotes after winning the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open #3 presented by Allstate on the final day at Table Rock Lake.

It was definitely “déjà vu all over again” for Watson, who used a topwater pattern to win a Professional Angler Association (PAA) tournament on his home waters in September 2013, and then he relied on about the same pattern to win the pro division of the Central Open with a three-day total of 46 pounds, 4 ounces. Despite a slow start, he caught his heaviest limit of bass Saturday weighing 16-1.

Watson Earns Classic Berth

Watson Earns Classic Berth

“I was struggling to get a bite before noon,” Watson said. “It was the slowest morning I’ve had, but I just kept winging it. I followed the wind and looked for the right kind of rock and just kept plugging away.”

During all three days of competition, Watson had to play games with the wind. On Thursday he caught all of his fish in the wind, but the second day he had to find calm water to trigger bites.

The Nixa, Mo., pro relied on two topwater lures — the Luck-E-Strike Frantic Frog (a toad-style bait) and the River2Sea Whopper Plopper —to catch most of his fish. “I was running as much bank as I could and trying not to run the same bank twice,” he said. “I would try to find the biggest rock I could.”

Watson’s victory secured a berth for him in the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro at Grand Lake in Oklahoma March 4-6. He also earned a top prize of a Skeeter/Yamaha valued at $45,000 and $7,918 in cash.

Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, Ind., caught the largest limit (17-9) of the tournament Saturday to move into second place with 42-12. Wheeler also relied on a topwater pattern as he ran both steep and flat banks. “The second day I figured out they wanted an (Accent) Game Changer buzzbait and a (Rapala) Skitter Walk with a shaved-off side that made it translucent,” he said.

The rest of the Top 5 pro division finishers were: Rick Clunn, Ava., Mo., in third place with 40-15; Joseph Brantley, Willard, Mo., fourth, 38-5; and Justin Margraves, Diana, Texas, fifth, 35-8.

Brien Vaughn of Kinmundy, Ill., won the co-angler division with 20-8 and took home the first-place prize of a Nitro/Mercury boat-and-motor combo valued at $30,000. Vaughn caught all of his fish on a topwater prop bait and a swimbait.

Elite Series pro Rick Clunn won the $750 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass Award on the pro side by catching a 5-pound, 13-ounce largemouth. Jason Newberry also weighed in a 5-13 largemouth to earn the $250 Bass Pro Shops Big Bass Award on the co-angler side.

James Watson received the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for finishing as the top pro on the second day. Finishing as Friday’s leader on the co-angler side, Jason Newberry received a Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250.

The Allstate Good Hands, Great Day award was given to anglers in both divisions who advanced the most places up the leaderboard from the first day to the second day. Bassmaster Elite Series pro Josh Bertrand collected $250 by jumping 67 places from 77th to 10th. After not catching any fish on Thursday, co-angler Derek Mangold picked up $150 by climbing 72 spots to finish in 28th.

The $500 Power-Pole Captains Cash award went to Watson.

Wheeler took home the A.R.E. Top Angler Award of $500.

2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops

2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Presenting Sponsor: Allstate

2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: A.R.E. Accessories, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, GoPro, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha

2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Huk Performance Fishing, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rigid Industries, Shimano

About B.A.S.S. B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series presented by Allstate, Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation events, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open – Table Rock Lake presented by Allstate


Table Rock Lake, Branson, Mo.

(BOATER) Standings Day 3

Angler Hometown No./lbs-oz Pts Total $$$

1. James Watson Nixa, MO 15 46-04 200 $52,918.00
Day 1: 5 14-05 Day 2: 5 15-14 Day 3: 5 16-01

2. Jacob Wheeler Indianapolis, IN 13 42-12 199 $17,524.00
Day 1: 3 08-03 Day 2: 5 17-00 Day 3: 5 17-09

3. Rick Clunn Ava, MO 14 40-15 198 $13,518.00
Day 1: 4 11-00 Day 2: 5 14-12 Day 3: 5 15-03

4. Joseph Brantley Willard, MO 14 38-05 197 $11,424.00
Day 1: 4 09-03 Day 2: 5 16-09 Day 3: 5 12-09

5. Justin Margraves Diana, TX 14 35-08 196 $9,968.00
Day 1: 5 12-12 Day 2: 5 13-04 Day 3: 4 09-08

6. Brett Preuett Monroe, LA 15 34-15 195 $8,512.00
Day 1: 5 10-03 Day 2: 5 13-15 Day 3: 5 10-13

7. Josh Bertrand Gilbert, AZ 11 33-08 194 $7,418.00
Day 1: 2 07-00 Day 2: 5 16-11 Day 3: 4 09-13

8. Shane Long Willard, MO 14 32-07 193 $5,712.00
Day 1: 5 09-13 Day 2: 5 15-04 Day 3: 4 07-06

9. James Elam Tulsa, OK 13 30-00 192 $4,256.00
Day 1: 5 13-04 Day 2: 5 10-14 Day 3: 3 05-14

10. Jay Brainard Enid, OK 12 29-10 191 $3,920.00
Day 1: 5 13-03 Day 2: 4 09-13 Day 3: 3 06-10

11. Luke Clausen Otis Orchards, WA 11 26-05 190 $3,584.00
Day 1: 5 11-00 Day 2: 5 13-10 Day 3: 1 01-11

12. Sam Canoe Georgetown, LA 11 25-04 189 $3,360.00
Day 1: 5 10-10 Day 2: 5 12-10 Day 3: 1 02-00


Rick Clunn Ava, MO 05-13 $750.00

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