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Tyler Takes BASS Open Lead on Ark. River

His strategy of relying on past history and “winging it†is giving local angler Mark Tyler an edge at the Bass Pro Shops Basssmaster Central Open finale on the Arkansas River.

The Vian, Okla., angler sacked up a 14-pound, 12-ounce limit today to take over the pro division lead with 30-5. Tyler said he has been so busy with his cattle ranch this year that he hasn’t been able to fish the river much, so he had to rely on his extensive experience on his home waters.

“Over the past five years, I have probably spent a hundred days a year on the river,†said the 41-year-old Tyler, who estimated he spent only about six hours practicing for this event.

The strategy is working well for Tyler who weighed in a 15-9 limit the first day. “I am just fishing in the moment and reading the conditions, and not tying myself down to a bank where I got bit in practice or anything,†he said. “I am just reacting, and I think it is really helping me.â€

A cold front and north wind has caused him to make changes both days. “I’ve just been flying by the seat of my pants from the first day,†he said. “I am just going where the conditions seem right, where the water clarity is right and where I can make a presentation the way I want.â€

Even though he has bagged two solid limits each day, Tyler notes fishing has been “extremely tough†for him. “I am grinding on every bite, and I don’t know if I am even going to get a limit until I get that fifth one in the box.â€

Pro runner-up Vu Au of Tucson, Ariz., has never fished the river before, but he has found one primary area that has produced 30 pounds, 4 ounces. The 32-year-old auto repair shop owner said he missed a couple of quality fish yesterday, but made up for the lost opportunities today with a 17-15 limit. “I had to mix it up a bit,†he said. “I don’t know what it was today, but they didn’t eat the same thing they ate yesterday.â€

Au said he tripled his catch today by staying on a 200-yard stretch of the river. “I know that spot is reloading,†he said. “I made one pass and caught two, and then made a pass and caught nothing. Then I came back there and caught three.â€

The field was cut to the Top 12 anglers in both divisions for the final day of competition. Rounding out the Top 5 on the pro side are Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas, in third with 29-13; Tommy Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., in fourth with 28-0; and Brian Potter of Claremore, Okla., in fifth with 27-1.

Afton, Okla., angler James Hartsell moved into first place in the co-angler division with 20-4. The 43-year-old upholsterer fishes several regional tournaments in Oklahoma, but this is only his second time on the river. Both days his pro division partners have taken him to the same section of the river.

“I knew what to do once we got up there,†he said. “The fishing wasn’t easy, and it’s probably going to get worse, but that’s alright.â€

Pro Matt Lee won the Allstate Good Hands, Great Day Award for advancing the farthest up the pro leader board on Friday. His jump from 28th to 15th won him a $250 bonus. Dustin Wrona won the same co-angler Allstate Award for moving up from 107th to 31st.

The Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for finishing as the top pro on Day 2 was given toTyler. The Day 2 leader on the co-angler side, Hartsell, received a Livingston Lures gift pack worth $250.

The top angler in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open standings is currently Elite Series pro Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark. Because Browning is an active Elite Series anlger the Top 5 spots in Central Opens points will move to the next five anglers.

As of Friday, in contention for those five coveted Elite Series spots from the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens are Jordan Lee (551 points) of Vinemont, Ala., Carl Jocumsen (544) of Frisco, Texas, Brian Clark (536) of Haltom City, Texas, Randy Allen (530) or Shreveport, La., and Ken Iyobe (528) of Tokoname, Japan.