Caleb Sumrall Takes Lead In Bassmaster Opens Championship At Table Rock

Caleb Sumrall is turning a handicap in his favor, and today it earned him the lead at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship on Table Rock Lake.

Fishing from a borrowed boat, Sumrall has no fish-finding electronics to function as his underwater eyes in his search for bass. Instead, he is relying on his own vision to pattern what is emerging as a winning pattern.

Sumrall, of New Iberia, La., today added 12 pounds, 3 ounces to his overall total of 27-4. Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif., is second with 26-1, while Justin Atkins of Florence, Ala., moved into third place with 24-6. Brandon Lester is fourth with 23-3, and Tyler Rivet holds down fifth place with 22-13.

Sumrall, a Bassmaster Elite Series rookie, is targeting bass in transition between summer and fall fishing patterns. The bass are moving from deeper areas in the main lake into shallower creeks to feed on baitfish. Sumrall is wisely choosing to stay shallow to let the bass come to him.

He said the heavier largemouth he had been catching were being replaced by more aggressive, but smaller, spotted bass. “I made a key adjustment so I could get dialed back into the largemouth,” he said.

The payoff was adding a much-needed 4-pound largemouth to his livewell.

“Fishing without the electronics makes me think how many times we overthink, overanalyze the simple basics of finding fish,” he noted. “Honestly, with fishfinders I would probably be more distracted, not so dedicated to finding these key areas that are visible above water.”

For Sumrall that is the right combination of trees, rock and depth that are rest stops and ambush cover for the migrating bass.

“It’s likely I wouldn’t have found that combination if not forced to visually search while I fished,” Sumrall explained. “I’m literally going in and out of creeks, reading the water as I go, fishing with my eyes.”

Catching so many smallmouth in textbook areas normally favored by largemouth pleasantly baffles Lintner. On Thursday smallmouth filled his weigh-in bag; today only one largemouth occupied the space.

“I don’t get it at all because I’m flipping jigs into cedar trees in shallow water — classic largemouth areas,” he said.

Vital to the success of his pattern is wind, which adds a prismatic effect to break up the water clarity. Lures are less easy to identify, and the bass can be more easily fooled into biting.

“Cloudy wind, sunny wind, it doesn’t really matter,” he added. “I caught eight keepers off one windblown stretch where yesterday there were none.”

Sunny, mild weather on Thursday gave way to rainy, chilly conditions on Friday. Daytime temperatures struggled to reach the mid-40s and rain chilled the water even more.

Fishing in such miserable weather seems absurd unless you are fishing for the most coveted prizes in the sport. Those are seven coveted berths in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

The Opens Championship is the climax of a year featuring eight events in as many states. The Top 28 pros and co-anglers in the point standings from the Central and Eastern divisions qualified for the championship.

The overall winner earns a Classic berth, $10,000 cash and a Triton 19 TrX with Mercury 200 Pro XS and accessories worth $45,000.

The Top 3 pro anglers in points from each division following the championship are also invited to the Classic, set for next March in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Thursday leaders of the Phoenix Big Bass Award still hold those spots. They are Mark Rose of Wynne, Ark., with a largemouth weighing 6-1, and co-angler Alex Heintz of Denham Springs, La., with a largemouth weighing 4-7.

Winning the co-angler division with a weight of 13-7 was Mandel Pettus. The angler of Miller Place, N.Y., won a Nitro Z18 with a Mercury 150 Pro XS outboard and accessories, $10,000 cash and paid entry fees in the 2019 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens division of his choice.

Pettus won the title in his rookie season as a co-angler in 2014, and is now able to make a dream come true.

“I just fished my last event as a co-angler, am going to live my dream, hone my trade as a boater and pro angler,” said Pettus, a fitness business owner.

The Top 12 anglers launch at 7:15 a.m. CT from Long Creek Marina. The Saturday weigh-in begins at 4:30 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Springfield.

On Saturday you can follow the action live on a special edition of Bassmaster LIVE, from 8-11 a.m. and Noon until 3 p.m. CT. Find the show on and see BASSTrakk real-time scores, updated photo galleries, videos, a live blog and articles.