High winds, high hopes

DENISON, Texas — The winds of fate have not been kind to Central Open competitors this year.

After being hounded by the wind during the last tournament on Kentucky Lake, anglers once again launched to heavy winds and high waves on Lake Texoma.

The site of the final Central Open of the year was unfriendly even during the opening hours of competition.

Elite Series pro Jami Fralick suffered motor failure within minutes of launching and was spotted sprinting back up to the dock to get the spare loaner boat his service crew had brought.

"I think it was a coil," said Fralick, relaying the message that the only thing on his mind was getting back on the water to stay in contention.

By the end of this weekend, three more Bassmaster Classic berths will be awarded. Unlike the Southern Open finale, the race to Shreveport is wide open and Fralick, in fifth, is only 5 points away from a Classic berth.

The rest of the top 10 is also within striking distance. While Jerry Williams holds a sizeable 65-point advantage over second place, the race gets tighter from there on out.

Elite Series pro Rick Clunn (seventh) is only 19 points away from the third and final Classic berth.

Even though Clunn has already qualified, thanks to Bobby Lane's Southern Open performance, a double-up by Clunn here would make Elite Series pro Rick Morris the next man in the Classic.

The Central Open field is littered with Elite Series pros, many of whom are well within striking distance of their own Classic berth.

One of those Elites is Bradley Hallman, who has been haunted by the talk of big bags.

"I haven't been having a good practice," said Hallman. "That worries me because everyone I've talked to is smashing them."

That may be true, but if there is one thing Elite Series pros have become good at, it's embellishing their stories and underestimating their own potential.

Elite Pro Preston Clark (currently 15th in the points) was more calm and collected when assessing his chances of landing in the Classic.

"I have a very good chance to finish in the top 10, but I'm probably going to have to win the whole thing and lead for a day or two to have a shot at the Classic," said Clark.

"I think I can do it — I mean, someone will and it might as well be me."

It is worth noting that the Central Opens sport a large Louisiana contingent, all focused on making the Classic this February on the Red River. After Boyd Duckett broke the home-water jinx with his victory in 2006, it is very believable a local angler could walk away with the coveted trophy in 2009.

Homer Humphreys, fourth in the Central Open points, certainly doesn't think it is out of the question. A Red River rat living fewer than 30 minutes from the lake, Humphreys likes his chances in the Classic, should he snare a berth here this week.

"I've had quite a few first- and second-place finishes out there, so you could say I'm looking forward to it," said Humphreys jokingly. "I've had calls from a few guys already saying 'I wish you well this week Homer, but I sure hope you don't make it (the Classic)."

The Classic picture will begin to get clearer after the Day One weigh-in, which begins at 4:35 p.m. ET from Highport Marina.

Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Central Open 3 from Lake Texoma, Texas., Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4:35 p.m. ET.