LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A little patience, a little luck and some good timing will be required for a big paycheck in the Bassmaster Legends — the third and final major of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series.
Bassmaster.com asked local angler Matt Lee what to expect this week as the pros head to the Arkansas River, where the 39 year old has fished for more than 20 years.
The conditions are not favorable for big bags, said Lee, who added that 14-pound stringers were good enough to win events the past two weekends on the river.
"It's going to be tough. It's going to a rough tournament for a lot of guys," he said. "There's no flow and the water is real clear. When that happens, you have a lot of night activity, but it can be tough in the day."
Bass are feeding on schooling shad around sandbars, underwater jetties and rocks, but Lee said only in a certain time slot.
"The window to catch them and to win it is from 10 till 2," he said, professing patience. "I can spend 45 minutes on an area and say it's not going to happen, but be patient because the fish aren't biting till midway. You have to hang tight, because you can go fish the same stretch of rocks, or the same jetty, or the same sandbar, but until the sun gets high, they won't bite. I go back at 11:30 and I catch four good fish."
Lee said just locating schooling shad doesn't mean the bass have found them.
"You've got to see them blowing. Most times, it's more than one blow," he said of bass breaking the surface as they feed. "If you see them blowing, you've got to go."
There are some 4- to 5-pounders in the schools and an angler can quickly catch a limit on a Sammy or Zara Spook if he finds the elusive hotspot, Lee said.
"If you find that school, it's a gold mine," he said. "It's going to be a combination of backwater and main river. If you can find them on the main river, you can win it."
With several miles in each direction from the downtown takeoff point off limits the first two days, Lee said he expects a number of anglers to go through the Murray Lock and Dam and make their way back into the Little Maumelle and Big Maumelle rivers.
"Depending on the barge traffic, that's going to burn 35 to 40 minutes a lock. If there's a barge, you're looking at hours," he said. "The key is going to be the guys who practice up and down and are able to play the lock game."
Both sides of the off limits area are similar, Lee said, adding that the first 3 to 4 miles above Little Rock is pretty good fishing right now.
"The past two weekends have taken 14 pounds. I don't see somebody doing 14 twice. Of course, these guys are the best in the world," he said. "I think 20 to 23 pounds should make the cut.
"If Scott Rook makes the cut, he's going to be tough. That's his home deal. That's where he made his hay growing up. He knows the good grass, underwater rocks, the sandbars. I think it's his to lose if he makes the cut."
Lee also puts two other home state anglers in the hunt.
"Kevin Short, he's been real good in Little Rock. And I really think Stephen Browning is going to be hard to beat. It will be interesting if they all three make it."
But Lee also likes the chances of current Angler of the Year leader Mike Iaconelli.
"I see Ike doing all right because he's a junk fisherman, and it will take some junk," Lee said. "There hasn't been a spinnerbait bite going on, but now that I say that Kevin VanDam will probably come down here and make me eat my words.
"I see the guys who throw the finesse worm all day, like Aaron Martens, making the cut. I just think it's going to be so tough."