LITTLE ROCK, ARK. — It's going to be hot, the skies may be bluebird and there isn't much current expected.
Welcome to bass fishing southern style — elements that are usually found every summer in places like this on the Arkansas River.The 55 anglers in the field of the Bassmaster Legends presented by Goodyear are expected to deal with such scenarios today. And not surprisingly, the fickle nature of bass fishing in the south during parts of the summer has the Elite Series anglers guessing what to expect from this fishery.
The pros will have to guess well if they want to survive the cut and fish this weekend. At stake is $250,000 to the winner, not to mention the prestige that will go with securing the championship in the Elite Series' third Major of the year.
Denny Brauer, who won the Champions Choice on Lake Champlain in New York last month, didn't have similar success during practice. He said he hadn't talked to many other anglers to gauge their results on the Arkansas River, but was fairly certain everyone will be pressed to bring in big bags this week.
"Fishing is really tough," Brauer said. "It's about getting into a couple productive areas and slowing down. It's been hard to get quality bites. You can't get too carried away with running around. Hopefully when they turn on, you can catch a few."Brauer said that's to be expected in the middle of August — especially in the Deep South.
"It's a fairly tough bite, with the hot weather," he said. "The evening bite is always better during the summer time … Look, the Arkansas River is a tough fishery … I'm probably going to fish backwater areas. That doesn't mean it's right or wrong. I haven't been able to tell a big difference between main river and backwater, as far as action. A lot of fish are just roaming on bait pods. They're not really relating to any structure. You just have to be in the right spot when a school blows up and you'll be in good shape."Todd Faircloth, who is currently 35th in the Angler of the Year standings, said he also found the going rough during practice."Catching fish isn't a problem, it's catching the keepers that's been tough," he said. "They were far and few between for me. It's going to be a grind out there for me today."Faircloth said there are certain weather patterns he'd like to see to aid his productivity."If we get some low-light conditions it would help" he said. "Cloud cover would be my preference. If you get a little ripple on the water, that would help. But dead calm slick with high skies, you don't want that."Kelly Jordon, who won the last Elite Series tournament (the Capitol Clash in Maryland earlier this month), said he welcomed the calm conditions, however. He's fishing in a backwater area which is nearly a three-hour run southeast from the launch in downtown Arkansas.
"I'll only have about two hours to fish," Jordon said. "I don't care if I've only got two hours, it's in an area with conditions I like to fish … I want it hot and sunny. If I'm on where I think I can catch them, that may screw up where other people are fishing. From what I saw the first day of practice, they got more active when it was hot and sunny. The shad got grouped up more. I saw them schooling. It was cloudy yesterday, and it didn't help the bite, at least my kind of bite. When it's hot and sunny, it means you better be dialed in on your stuff. I think I am."
Mark Menendez has finished among the top six in the first two majors this year. He's hoping to make a move to the top of the leaderboard here in Arkansas."I'm targeting fish on the river and some backwater stuff if there's a natural flow into it," he said. "That puts the bait fish in there. So (the bass) aren't going to be far from that."
Menendez agreed with many of his fellow anglers, saying that locating keepers was difficult during practice rounds. But he wasn't worried, he said.
"I've finished top five in the past two (majors)," he said. "And I had absolutely nothing going in those tournaments. I don't have much here, so maybe this one will work out too."