Fishermen pile into Muskogee for BASSmaster Open title

MUSKOGEE, Okla. - From the professional to the average angler, more than 300 of the best fisherman in the United States are in Muskogee this weekend, competing for the BASSmaster Open title.

There are nine BASSmaster Opens in the U.S. The winner of each goes on to compete in the Elite Tournaments -- the precursor to the biggest tournament of the year, the BASSmaster Classic.    
    
This is the second BASSmaster tournament in Green Country since late February, when Grand Lake and Tulsa hosted the Classic.
    
Officials at the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce believe their sales tax dollars will increase by 3 percent this week and the hotel/motel sales tax dollars by 30 percent.

Park Hill native and professional Jason Christie brought in 13.9 pounds Thursday, tying for sixth place.

"It doesn't matter if it's spring, winter, fall, summer -- I'm fishing two foot or less," Christie said. "The fish here like to live shallow."

While anglers are reeling in fish on the Arkansas River, just down the road, Mike Hitt is reeling in money at Mike's Outdoors.

"They've never fished these waters before, a lot of them don't know what baits to bring, so they come to the local shops. It works out real well," Hitt said.

Hitt said for the past week, the working class fisherman are there buying bait. It's a $2,000 boost for business when he's normally setting out hunting gear.

"It's $3 here, $4 there. It adds up," he said. "A good boost for this time of year. We're selling baits we don't normally sell this time of year."

As for Christie, of course he wants to win the money and boat, but  doesn't need to win here. He already has enough points to make it to the Classic.

"I don't need to be fishing here, but whenever you're giving away $50,000 just 20 minutes from my house, it's hard not to go," he said.

As of Thursday night, the leader is Dale Hightower, from Mannford, with 15.2 pounds.
    
Muskogee officials signed a contract for another BASSmaster tournament in 2014. It's the fourth tournament in four years.

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