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Entries in Arkansas (18)

Tuesday
Jun062017

Kennedy Wins Bassmaster Elite at Lake Dardanelle

Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., wasn’t dominating the event until he weighed 16 pounds, 9 ounces of bass during the final weigh-in to take home $100,000 and the third championship of his career at the GoPro Bassmaster Elite at Lake Dardanelle presented by Econo Lodge.

A big bass late in the day on Monday that weighed 5-10 anchored his five-bass limit and pushed his four-day winning weight to 63-12. The last time Kennedy topped a Bassmaster Elite Series field was in 2011 at Georgia’s West Point Lake.

“I’ve been so close so many times before, and I’ve usually lost tournaments because of a missed bite, or losing a fish before I could get it inside the boat,” Kennedy said. “It sure feels good to win one, especially after nearly winning this year’s Classic on Conroe.

Kennedy won $50,000 for an impressive second-place finish at the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in March on Lake Conroe in Texas.

The 48-year-old veteran made a 100-mile round trip each day to fish a small backwater just below the Ozark Dam on the Arkansas River.

“I found that spot during practice, and since the water is over 20 feet high right now, I was able to get my Bass Cat into the small pond-like area,” he said. “Once I got in there, I was impressed with the amount of life that was present. There were gar surfacing everywhere, shad flicking and bass feeding, which told me it was worth a visit each day.”

On Friday’s opening round of competition, he made the run to the dam and caught 16-10, which had him quietly in ninth place. Saturday morning he went to the same location, caught 14-3 and moved up the leaderboard into fifth place.

“On Sunday I caught 16-6, which had me in third place and I knew I had a real shot,” he said. “After I caught that big fish today I felt like I had it locked up, but Mark Davis kept it too close for comfort.”

Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., led the event on both Saturday and Sunday, but could only manage 13-10 on the final day and finished second, only 1-10 behind Kennedy.

Most of the fish that Kennedy brought to the scales this week were caught on a 3/4-ounce D&L Advantage flipping jig with a white plastic trailer.

“I used the exact same program at the Classic back in March,” he said. “There was still a bit of a shad spawn going on this week, and by swimming the jig through the willows, stopping it and letting it fall along the edge of the weeds, the bass would absolutely smoke it. I also caught several fish on a green pumpkin swim jig, and a few on topwater.”

With Kennedy’s wife and children there to congratulate his victory, he was elated.

“It’s been a while,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform and do well, and when I don’t succeed I take it hard. It means a lot to my family and me to bring home one of those coveted blue trophies.”

Other top finishers included Kevin VanDam, third with 60-11; Mark Menendez, who won here in 2009, fourth with 57-9; and Dean Rojas, fifth with 56-7.

Ott DeFoe, who finished 15th at Dardanelle with 41-12, has a slight lead over Jacob Wheeler and Brandon Palaniuk for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year with three more regular season tournaments remaining in the Elite Series. He was awarded $1,000 for leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race at the end of the event.

David Mullins of Mount Carmel, Tenn., claimed the $1,500 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award for a 6-pound, 8-ounce largemouth he caught during Friday’s opening round.

Davis won the Livingston Lures Day 2 Leader Award of $500 for leading the tournament on Saturday’s second day of competition.

Jamie Hartman of Newport, N.Y., won the Toyota Bonus Bucks Award of $3,000 for being the highest-placing eligible entrant in the program. The second-highest-placing eligible entrant, Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., received $2,000.

Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., earned the Power-Pole Captain’s Cash Award of $1,000 for being the highest-placing angler who is registered and eligible and uses a client-approved product on his boat.

Monday
May222017

Family Friendly Places to Fish and Boat

Whether they're professional anglers or professional athletes, plenty of people love to fish and boat with their families. So we asked around, and added their family favorites to our list of best places to fish and boat in the country--- Take Me Fishing


LUKE BRYAN -J. PERCY PRIEST RESERVOIR, TENNESSEE

"It’s the first place I ever caught a smallmouth bass. Me and my boys love the bass fishing there."


AL VILLANUEVA -PRESQUE ISLE BAY, PENNSYLVANIA

"Nothing better than fishing the lagoons in the summer. I spend a lot of my free time fishing and really cherish any time on the water."


JUSTIN MOORE -DE GRAY LAKE, ARKANSAS

"It’s where I always went as a kid, and now I take my children there. My favorite memory has to be watching my oldest daughter catch her first fish all by herself."

To find out more family friendly locations by region, go here.

Wednesday
Mar222017

Little Arkansas Lake Yielding Big Bass

Yielding three double-digit largemouth bass in January, little Lake Akins in west-central Arkansas is looking more and more as if it just might be the fishery to produce the next state record bass. The current record, a hefty 16 pounds, 8 ounces, was caught by Aaron Mardis in 1976 on Mallard Lake.

On Jan. 23, an 11.7-pound bass was taken from a public pier on the 752-acre lake managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). A few days later, Sharon Vinson of the Lucky Landing Bait Shop weighed in another 11, as well as a 10 and several others that topped 5 pounds. Most of those, including the second 11, also were caught from the pier, with minnows and shad the baits of choice.

Those big bass likely were among the first Florida-strain bass stocked in the lake in 2003, after it was rehabilitated, according to biologist Frank Leone.

“That would make these fish about 14 years old, which is nearing the end of a Florida-strain bass’s lifespan in Arkansas,” Leone said. “We’re keeping an eye on the population and hoping that we don’t begin to see a decline in those fish that reach what we like to call the ‘memorable’ class.”

Lying between Interstate 40 to the north and the Arkansas River to the south, Lake Atkins originally was impounded in 1956. But over the years, it became overrun with rough fish, including carp and bigmouth buffalo, and that prompted a drawdown and renovation project. A partial drawdown and fish kill in 2002 turned into a near total drawdown when a dam gate malfunctioned, leaving only 25 acres of water left at one point.

“That drawdown enabled us to remove the rough fish and remove northern strain largemouths from the system before we stocked it with Florida-strain bass,” the biologist added. “Through our genetics testing, we’ve seen the lake begin to shift slowly back to northern-strain bass, possibly from fish entering the system from the feeder creek or people moving fish, but we still see many good 5-pound-plus fish every time we electrofish at Atkins.”

Thursday
Dec292016

More States Look to Grow Trophies With Florida-Strain Bass

Tennessee state record bass caught in 2015 at Lake Chickamauga.Can Tennessee biologists turn Chickamauga into another Lake Fork?

Probably not.

That Texas lake is the gold standard for trophy bass fisheries, and duplicating the success there is not a reasonable expectation, especially for a state with a less hospitable climate.

But resource managers are hopeful that they can grow bigger bass in Chickamauga through the introduction of Florida-strain largemouths into the population.

“I’m convinced that Florida bass will grow big in Tennessee,” says Bobby Wilson, assistant director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “I hope that can happen in Chickamauga. And, if it does, we’ll move to other lakes with it.”

So far, Wilson has two very persuasive pieces of evidence to support his conviction: In October of 2009, biologists electroshocked a 16-15 largemouth at Browns Creek Lake, where Floridas also have been stocked. And in 2015, Gabe Keen caught a 15.2 in Chickamauga, good enough to establish a new state record.  

By contrast, the previous record was just 14.5, caught in 1954 at Sugar Creek.

 “We’ve had a few 13-pounders reported by fishermen (from agency lakes),” Wilson adds. “They probably were Florida bass.”

But the verdict still is out on Chickamauga.

The same goes for Lake Guntersville, just to the south in Alabama.

 “We haven’t stocked them (Florida bass) on a regular basis,” said Keith Floyd, a fisheries supervisor for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “It’s been periodically in one or two embayments, to see if we can incorporate Florida genomes into the population.”

Tennessee, however, has been much more deliberate in its approach. After stocking 200,000 fry annually for five years throughout Chickamauga failed to show much of a genetic shift, biologists decided to focus on three creeks for the next five.

“Anglers (at Chickamauga) are saying they are catching bigger bass,” Wilson explains. “And they say that the bass look different from what they are used to seeing.”

Anglers also are catching bigger bass at Lake Atkins in adjacent Arkansas, where the fishery was rehabilitated and then stocked with Floridas. In 2011, anglers caught at least three 12-pound bass in that 752-acre fishery.

Wilson says that his state used criteria from Arkansas and Oklahoma in deciding where Florida-strain bass could be stocked successfully in Tennessee. That turned out to be south of a line from Dyersburg in the west to Chattanooga in the east.

But as Virginia proved during the early 1990s, bass with Florida genes can do well even farther north than that. After being stocked in the late 1980s, Briery Creek Lake yielded a 13-4 trophy in 1992. It followed with a 16-3 (one ounce shy of the state record) in 1995 and 16-2 in 2002. And from 1994 to 2002, it produced the largest bass in the state annually.

“A lot of people are excited about this,” Wilson says about Tennessee’s Florida bass program. “But some don’t want them because they have heard that they are finicky than northern bass.”

And there’s the argument that native bass populations are weakened when Florida bass are added.  “But these aren’t native systems,” the Tennessee fisheries chief points out. “These are manmade impoundments.”

Texas’ long-term success with Florida bass in Lake Fork and other reservoirs provides a strong argument in support of Wilson. And the fact that more than 500 largemouth bass of 13 pounds and more have been entered in its Sharelunker program seems to dispel the “finicky” fear as well.

From my own decades of experience with Florida bass in Florida, Texas, and Mexico, I’ve noted that they can turn off when temperature drops just a degree or two. But I do not believe them more difficult to catch than northern bass. When cold and/or high pressure turns them off, you just have to slow down and adjust your tactics. Instead of throwing a spinnerbait, flip a soft plastic along the edge of a weedline.

Also, I’ve found Florida bass to be, pound for pound, much more challenging fighters than northern bass. A big Florida is like a mean smallmouth with a belly. And I’ve seen 12-pounders tail walk.

Count me as one who is not troubled by the occasional finickiness of Florida bass or the fact that they are being introduced into manmade fisheries in Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and perhaps other states outside their native range. I’ve been blessed to catch a few double-digit Floridas, and I’d like to see more opportunities for other anglers to do so as well.

Whether Chickamauga and Guntersville are two of the fisheries capable of growing those genetically enhanced big fish likely will be revealed in the years ahead.

Thursday
Dec082016

Snakehead a Concern in Arkansas, as Well as Potomac

Although the Potomac receives most of the notoriety for its snakehead population, some Arkansas waters have them as well. And that has prompted Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGF) to begin a new monitoring program that it hopes will help keep the population in check.

"We need to refresh our information on exactly what species are in these areas and what the population dynamics are before the snakehead populations grow to cause any sort of impact," said Jimmy Barnett, AGF aquatic nuisance species program coordinator." "These baseline data will be critical in future management of the fisheries and the fight against invasives."

According to Barnett, biologists are concerned about the possible impact that the exotic predator is having on bass and other native fish. To find out what is going on, the agency will conduct in-depth fisheries profiles of about 40 sites in eastern Arkansas.

Back in the spring of 2008, a breeding population of northern snakeheads was found there in ditches and near an irrigation pump. Worried that they would spread into waterways connected to the White, Arkansas, St. Francis, and Mississippi Rivers, resource managers quickly applied rotenone, killing about 100 of the invasive predators and collecting 55 specimens for live study. AGF also  attempted to eradicate the fish with  the Piney Creeks drainage near Brinkley. But occasional reports still surface of someone catching or seeing a snakehead there.

"Snakeheads have spread slowly since their introduction, but the last three years in a row, we've seen them expand their range," Barnett said. "They once were only found in one of our fisheries districts, but now we're seeing them reach out to the edges of three other districts."

Barnett says the recent prolonged flooding in east Arkansas and the drainages connecting the White, Cache, and Arkansas Rivers may have increased the speed at which the species has spread.

"There have been a lot of sloughs and ditches that have had water in them for a longer period of time that could have helped the species reach new areas," Barnett said.

Anglers can help in the fight against snakeheads by continuing to kill any they catch and reporting them to the regional AGF office nearest the body of water where it was found.

"People should take a picture of the fish for positive identification, and try to keep the fish until they've talked to a biologist about it," Barnett said. "A native species, the bowfin, looks similar to the snakehead, so we want to verify these sightings to help paint an accurate picture of the species' expansion."

Snakeheads likely were introduced into Arkansas waters by a fish farmer, who intended to raise the exotic fish commercially before their possession became illegal. Upon the advice of state and federal officials, he decided to kill the fish by removing them from his ponds and dumping them on levees. Unfortunately, snakeheads can live for several hours out of water and even crawl to water, which probably is what happened.