Focusing on current-related habitat enabled Cody Bird of Granbury, Texas, to win the Neely Henry Lake Bassmaster Central Open with a 3-day total of 34-01.
Bird was 3rd after day 1 with a limit of 13-01 and moved into the day-2 lead after adding 11-90. In the final round, he turned in a limit of 9-07 and earned the $35,000 top prize for his first B.A.S.S. win.
“I have two 2nds, a 3rd, a 4th, two 5ths, a 6th and three 7ths – it feels good to finally win one,” Bird said. “I’m just not a closer. This time, when I got up there, I made up my mind that they were going to have to take it from me.
“It took me a while, but it was worth it. I earned this one, for sure.”
Fishing fast to cover lots of water, Bird said he covered a 15-mile stretch up the Coosa River. Throughout the event, he reported making upwards of 100 stops a day – often visiting key spots multiple times – and making approximately 1,000 casts a day.
Bird formulated his fast-paced strategy for the tough fall transitional period that found Neely Henry in a stingy mood. Bites were scarce, but Bird quickly dialed in the types of spots he needed to fish.
“I had a terrible first day of practice, so I decided to run up the river and check it out,” he said. “(Alabama Power) was running water wide open and the fish were really biting, so I figured that I was going to stay in that area.
“I knew the fish wouldn’t bite as good when they weren’t running water, so I ran tons of little drains that had water running out.”
Bird said he also targeted docks positioned in areas with good current exposure.
“I had a couple little stretches where I could line up with where the current came down,” he said. “The end of a dock is always good and you could get in behind them and find a few fish.
“I also caught several goods ones off stumps. I didn’t ever catch many off laydowns, but they were on stumps.”
Catching a mix of largemouth and spotted bass, Bird did most of his work with Lucky Craft RC 1.5 square-bills. He had each bait custom-painted in bright chartreuse patterns, but presentation was the most important element.
“The whole key to it was burning that bait,” he said. “The water was a little clear for a square-bill, so you had to trick them. I don’t know how many spots hit my bait at the boat and didn’t take it.”
Matthew Robertson of Kuttawa, Ky., finished 2nd with 33-01. The first 2 days saw Robertson weigh limits of 11-00 and 11-08. On Saturday, he missed his limit by one fish but turned in the biggest sack of the day – 10-09.
“This week I’ve just been winging it; fishing stuff I never fish,” Robertson said. “I stayed on the main river and threw a Strike King Red Eyed Special spinnerbait.”
Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., finished 3rd with 32-11. After a day-1 bag of 9-05 had him in a tie for 38th place, Browning found his biggest sack on Friday – a 13-06 limit that included a 5-5. He closed with a 10-pound bag.
Targeting wood, riprap, chunk rock and gravel banks, Browning caught his fish on a Z-Man JackHammer ChatterBait with a Z-Man Razor ShadZ trailer and a Jewel finesse jig with a craw worm.
“It was just typical river fishing; you just fish what’s in front of you,” Browning said. “Realistically, I had (approximately) the same bag three days in a row, I just had that big fish on Friday that bumped me up really good.”
Here are the final totals for the Top 12:
1. Cody Bird: 34-01
2. Matthew Robertson: 33-01
3. Stephen Browning: 32-11
4. Derek Hicks: 31-11
5. Kenta Kimura: 31-01
6. Joey Nania: 30-13
7. Jason Christie: 29-00
8. Wyatt Burkhalter: 28-15
9. Keith Poche: 28-13
10. Darold Gleason: 28-01
11. Matt Pangrac: 25-08
12. Brandon Palaniuk: 22-11