BULL SHOALS, Ark. — Kevin Short believes bass fishing at Bull Shoals Lake will produce some surprising results when the Bassmaster Elite Series TroKar Quest begins Thursday.
"I think a lot of people that have never heard anything about Bull Shoals are going to say, hey, they're catching a lot of fish there," said Short, who is from Mayflower, Ark. "The weights may kind of surprise some people too, the people who haven't been here in awhile."
In a brief survey of the Elite Series pros Wednesday evening, the prevailing opinion was that catching a five-bass daily limit shouldn't be a problem, but finding some bigger fish will be the key.
"If you're around them, you'll catch them from the time you put the trolling motor down until you pick it up," Short said. "There will be guys that will catch 30, 40 and 50 fish a day. And I think you're going to have to do that because I've not found any way you can catch just big ones. You've got to go through a bunch of fish."
Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark., fished Bull Shoals Lake often in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but hasn't been here much in recent years.
"It's phenomenal the number of keeper-size fish that are in this place right now," McClelland said. "There's a lot bigger population of fish than I've ever seen, and they are really, really healthy."
Those 14- to 17-inch largemouth bass are primarily the result of the 2008 spawn, when Bull Shoals was in flood stage for most of the spring.
"I'm impressed with the lake," said Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla. "It's better than I thought it was. There's going to be a lot of fish caught. The trick will be getting one or two good ones. I think there will be a lot of 11-pound bags. If you can get 14 (pounds) or better, you'll be okay."
Short said he thought it would take 18 pounds a day to win this four-day event, and most other angler estimates were in that ballpark.
"The one thing that has baffled me is catching some bigger fish," McClelland said. "In the early spring here you'll see a lot of 20-pound bags, but this time of year 15 or 16 pounds a day is going to be pretty strong. I still think somebody is going to catch some 18- to 20-pound bags, and that's going to be the difference-maker."
Bassmaster Classic champion Chris Lane is in the same boat as Short, McClelland and Kriet in failing to find a big-bass pattern during the past 2 ½ days of practice time.
"There are so many 2 ½- and 2 ¼-pounders out there it's unbelievable," Lane said. "I really don't know that there's a whole lot of things to do different to catch a bigger fish. There might be, but the guys I've talked to are saying the same thing. I'm kind of anxious to see if somebody did figure out something else."
Emphasizing that point, Short said, "There's going to be a lot of people with 11 or 12 pounds a day – a lot."
There's one factor that could keep some anglers from catching bass as well during the tournament as they did during practice: Bull Shoals is getting clearer by the day.
"The water was really colored when we got here," McClelland said. "It's clearing dramatically. It's going to change what a lot of people have done during practice. I think it will start to fish like a White River chain of lakes ought to fish by the end of the week."
Kriet agreed that the clearing water will be a factor over the next four days.
"That's going to make it a little bit tougher on some guys," Kriet said. "I think you're going to have to be pretty smart and really pay attention to conditions."
Daily takeoffs begin at 6:30 a.m. at the City of Bull Shoals Boat Dock. Weigh-ins begin a 3:15 each day at the Bull Shoals State Park Pavilion #2, located on the east side of Bull Shoals Dam.
After two days, the 99-angler field will be cut to the top 50 for Saturday. The top 12 after Day Three will fish in Sunday's finale.