There are good reasons why Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., is a pro to keep your eye on in the Feb. 24-26 Bassmaster Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
One: He’s a self-proclaimed “river rat”. The Arkansas River was his proving grounds, and the ways of this river are an ingrained part of his fishing expertise.
“There are some little things I grew up doing, as far as fishing shallow for prespawn fish, that I feel like will be an advantage, something I can capitalize on,” the Bassmaster Elite Series pro said after two days scouting the Red in late November.
Two: Only three hours by car, Hot Springs isn’t far from Shreveport-Bossier City. Browning thrives on the idea of supportive friends and fans being there with him.
“You get a lot of support when the event is closer to home,” he said.
There’s an underlying third reason: redemption. Browning did not qualify for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, the first time the Classic was booked for the Red River. For a river rat, missing that first Red River Classic was, he said, “disappointing, even more so because it was close to home.”
Browning’s recent reconnaissance of the Red was the first time he’d been on the river since 2002. He went primarily to update himself on navigation and changes in the riverbed. A recent rain muddied the water, but that’s that kind of river condition he can handle, he said.
Browning will be appearing in his eighth Classic. His highest Classic finish was seventh in 1997 on Alabama’s Logan Martin Lake, the Coosa River impoundment on which he took his sole Bassmaster tournament title in 1998. His Bassmaster career record includes 25 top-10 finishes.