Chase Heaton and Ryan Wood have established the closest thing to a pattern that I've seen so far today. They're fishing near the midpoint of Pool 9 where a half-dozen jetties line up through a mile-long stretch. Heaton just put his second fish in the boat with a silver lipless crankbait. As I was writing the last sentence, Wood caught his fourth keeper today. He estimated his weight at about 7 pounds.
Fishing jetty tips is a tried-and-true technique on the Arkansas River, and the Western Division representatives have found a good place to run this pattern. Without wasting a lot of time running, they're jumping from jetty to jetty in this short stretch, and it seems to be paying off.
Chase Heaton and Ryan Wood of the Western Division are cranking a jetty tip on the main river. Wood has three keepers in the livewell, while Heaton has one. Heaton just bowed up on a fish, but it was a just a big drum. He lost a bass about five casts later. There are obviously some fish on this jetty near the midway point of this pool.
Another small keeper for Thompson. This one a 14-inch largemouth. Thompson caught six fish in the last eight casts with a shaky head. All but one were nonkeepers. But at least things are looking up on the activity front.
The currents are starting to pull, and the sun is popping out. Two things that Doug Thompson wants to see. It may get right out here pretty soon.
Keeper No. 3 in the box for Thompson. A little better at around 2 1/2 pounds .
Two keepers now for Thompson. Both small spots, but two keepers nonetheless. Those go a long way with few big bites. Just ask Jeff Lugar, Thompson's nearest competitor at the start of the day. Lugar only brought four fish to the scales on Day 2 and trailed Thompson at the start of Day 3 by 15 ounces — about the weight of a 12-inch spot.
Rivers are constantly changing. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said you can never step into the same river twice. Well, the Arkansas River has already changed this morning for the JWC contenders. The flow has picked up in Pool 9, presumably the result of an increase in hydropower generation at the dam. As with any river system, these anglers will have to constantly adapt to changing conditions.
Here's a quick update on fishing conditions on Pool 9 of the Arkansas River: It's a few degrees warmer than yesterday's practice, but the river appears to be about a foot lower, and there's not quite as much current. There's still a noticeable flow, but it appears the hydropower plant at the dam isn't cranking as many units as it was during practice. I'm not sure the current will have as much effect as the lower pool level, which could take some small backwater areas out of play.
The lack of current is killing Thompson's bite, early at least. He's made the same pass now twice with only one keeper. Fishing down main river jetties with an umbrella rig, Thompson says the current is critical to keep the fish pushed up against the bank. Right now he's hearing a few bust the surface but they're at random to say the least and typically out of reach. He's hoping a few folks fire up the electric heat pumps this morning so he can get on a hot streak of his own. If they don't start generating some power soon ... well, let's just say Thompson is trying to figure out what comes next.
After some early equipment trouble, I'm back on the water. The first boat I spotted was the Southern Division representatives, Ben Stone of South Carolina and Clayton Childs of Georgia. Childs just put a small keeper in the boat. It's the second keeper for their boat this morning, but it's the only fish in the well. Stone caught a small spotted bass and elected to release it because "it started acting funny" when he put it in the box.
"I didn't want to take a chance on getting a penalty," Stone said. "But the way he swam off, I think he might've been playing possum."