2011 Elite Series - Diamond Drive Arkansas River - Little Rock, AR, Jun 9 - 12, 2011

Diamond Drive Live Blog - Day One

 

Day One - Arkansas River

3:01 p.m.

KVD checked in on time with a limit of fish! Time to help KVD put the boat on the trailer and go see what they weigh.

 -- Eric Pinter

The 2:46 p.m.

The anglers are checking in across the river at the North Little Rock ramp, and our crew is starting to head out to meet them on the other side at the weigh-in under the blue tent at the Little Rock Ampitheater.

Should be an interesting weigh-in to watch. You have to wonder what kind of stories the anglers will tell about their day on the Arkansas River.  It starts at 4:30 ET.

In the meantime, you can check out James Overstreet's images from his day on the water.

-- Mike Suchan.

2:30 p.m.

Kevin makes a quick stop just short of the lock from Pool 5 to Pool 6. He hopes to pick up a kicker fish to up his weight of about 12.5 pounds.

His makes a final stop at a jetty before checking in for the day.  He notes that the water is about 18 inches higher in Pool 6 since we left this morning.

-- Eric Pinter

2:20 p.m.

If we were just going to marry up the AOY top 50 catches, then it looks like Kevin VanDam is making a healthy statement. He will no doubt be in the top 12 or so after today.

Then again, he has to keep up that pace for at least two more days. Going into this event, the prevailing wisdom was it would be hard to concentrate on one place for four consecutive days.

VanDam is in Pine Bluff. That’s two locks one-way. He’s definitely tempting fate to do be able to do that every day without a barge or something else messing him up. But if does it, then Jones, Scroggins, Evers and Kennedy need to get on the stick or KVD will be well on his way to yet another AOY title.

While I not only have supreme confidence in VanDam (He’s actually on my fantasy fishing team, duh) I do wonder if that trip is possible. On this river, where I have spent more days than I care to count sitting in a lock during a weigh-in, it’s a gamble.

I’m struck by the similarities of this and the previous Classic. VanDam told me before the start of that event that it would not be won at Venice. He hadn’t practiced yet, but he felt the trip was too long and too hard to get through every day.

It’s not quite as long from Little Rock to Pine Bluff, but the locks add that extra pucker factor.

Typical Arkansas River fishing on top of that makes it hard to guess even with what looks like a KVD lead in the AOY after today. These fish are notorious for being there one day and gone the next. He has to go back tomorrow, since he caught a hefty sack today. But if it goes like it does for so many of us who fish here, the fish could be on vacation tomorrow.

Then again, we’re talking about KVD. No fish dare go on vacation around him.

While I’m looking forward to the start of the weigh in, I’m really looking forward to seeing the AOY points after today.

 

-- Steve Bowman

2:09 p.m.

KVD, riding back from throwing the first pitch at the Triple A Arkansas Travelers game last night, said he was approaching the Diamond Drive to win.

He’s displaying a put-his-foot-down-on-throats mentality today by locking down twice to Pine Bluff, a risk-reward move. He said there’s no playing it safe on the Arkansas River.

When asked if the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, in which he currently sits tied for second, would come down to the final minutes of next week’s event on Wheeler Lake, he said no.

“I think this event, because of how challenging the fishery is and all the things that can wrong, it will pretty much be decided here. It should shake out this week.”

If things hold as shown on BASSTrakk, that statement could prove rather prophetic. The unofficial results show KVD third with none of the other AOY contenders close.

“I’m going for the win. It’s the only way to fish," he said. "The rest, the AOY, will take care of itself.”

-- Mike Suchan 

 

1:50 p.m.

 

On our way back to Little Rock, we found Aaron Martens. He was throwing a frog, which he said was getting smashed in practice. However, all that he can get today are boils and swipes. He's got 8 pounds or so. He said that the water, river and weather are all different than practice. "Every day's different," he sang. He also mentioned that he hasn't hit anything yet. He needs to find some wood to knock on now.
 
We found Scott Rook just upstream of the ramp and he's still catching fish. Problem is, they're either 11-inch Kentucky bass (which need to be 12 to keep) or 14-inch largemouth (which need to be 15 inches to keep). We just saw him lose a keeper at the boat.
 
"I can't catch a freaking break!" he exclaimed. As I typed that he boated another short. "The little ones don't come off," he said.
 
He's using the same Firetiger crankbait, parallelling the bank.

--David Jones

 

1:46 p.m.

One of the things that every Arkansas River angler has to deal with everyday is moving water. Current, or flow, is something they all like. It puts fish into position to be caught and helps you pinpoint and then pattern the fish on the river.

 

But Current comes in a lot of forms. It not only brings muddy water but it can move up and down with varying degrees of flow, all dictated by the Corps of Engineers. Some pools have power generaters on them. Most don't. So the biggest part of the flow is simply the Corps running off the water that is in the main river channel.

 

Early in the blog it was mentioned what that flow was this morning. Typically it was around the 51,000 cubic-feet-per-second rate. We call that "cfs." To give you an idea of the amound of water that means: 60,000 cfs is the equivalent of the water it would take to fill 33 Olympic-sized swimming pools coming through the dam every second of the day.

 

To give you an idea of what these anglers will be dealing with look at the forecast for the Little Rock Pool for the next few days. They have it at 51,000 cfs today, 43,000 tomorrow, 46,000 on Saturday and 45,000 cfs on Sunday.

 

Those are changes that will make an impact every day. Truth is those are just averages for the day. They could swing up and down at any given point, which further frustrates anglers. That's why this event will be so fascinating. These kind of changes forces an angler to keep moving, keep thinking and keep changing with it.

 

It may be frustrating to those accustomed to being on a lake, but for all the river fishermen in the land, this is the kind of test they deal with every day. They no doubt are wondering how these guys are going to deal with and how well they will fare through the course of this event.

--Steve Bowman

 

1:43 p.m.

Chris Lane isn’t to be found on BASSTrakk, but standing in 10th in the AOY race, he came into this event knowing it could be big for him.

He would love to be in the top eight and make Toyota Trucks All Star Week, or better.

“It’s huge. I’m only 140 points behind,” he said. The river does present its issues he said, reporting that he ran into an underwater jetty in practice – “my motor came completely out of the water … not a scratch on it.”

While there have been boat issues today -- namely with AOY contenders Alton Jones and Davy Hite -- trying to come in with a nice bag and having problems would be just too much heartache to stand.

-- Mike Suchan

1:28 p.m.

The weights are starting to build and it looks like there will be some decent bags of fish hitting the scales in a couple of hours.

We have Ish Monroe leading the way in the top 50. He has to be feeling good now.

Going into today, he was in 50th in the points standings, which put him well out of the Classic. If he keeps this up for the next three days, then he will likely be sitting well within those standings going into the final event.

That's the kind of move a lot of these guys are hoping for.

Stephen Browning appears to be making a move up the standings as well. he was in the mid 30s in the AOY standings and wants to be much higher going into next week.

The standings are shaking up. Although half the field doesn't have a tracker, it's a decent guess that you can just double the position where those guys are and come pretty close to where they will be at the end of the day.

For instance, Browning is in 6th place in the standings of the AOY anglers. It's a guess he would be around 12th place in the tournament. That would be a big move for him in AOY points.

All guesses, of course, just like the weights on BASSrakk. But it's the only thing we have to go by at this point.

--Steve Bowman

1:19 p.m.

Anglers who locked up or down from pool 6 this morning are starting to make their way back up to Little Rock. Here is what the leaderboard looks like right now:

Place Angler Fish Total
1 Ish Monroe 5 14-04
2 Keith Poche 5 13-00
3 Kevin VanDam 5 12-08
4 Gerald Swindle 5 10-08
5 Andy Montgomery 5 10-00
6 Brent Chapman 5 9-08
6 Takahiro Omori 4 9-08
8 Stephen Browning 5 9-05
9 Jared Lintner 5 9-04
10 Greg Vinson 4 9-04
11 Greg Hackney 4 8-06
12 Todd Faircloth 4 8-05

-- Hank Weldon

1:15 p.m.

Almost 1 o'clock and it's time to join the mass exodus of Pool 4 and head toward check in at Pool 6.

We join about 15 other boats at the lock and the doors are closed. KVD says, "that's not a good sign. The doors were supposed to close at 1 p.m. and it's only 12:50."

About 30 seconds later the lock opens and the now growing armada of bass rigs form a line into the lock. The 25 or so anglers breathe a collective sigh of relief.

One lock down, one more to go.

VanDam has a solid 5 bass limit that he hopes to get weighed in alive and on time.

-- Eric Pinter

1:11 p.m.

We've picked up Ryan Said in a backwater with James Stricklin nearby. Said has a small keeper, but has found plenty of 14-inch fish. The minimum for keepers here is 15 inches.

Said has found some shoreline grass that he's flipping a black/neon tube which he's caught "a pile of fish on" this week. His bite has been mostly early, so he needs a few lucky strokes to get back in this game. 

--David Hunter Jones

 

12:43 p.m.

We left Scott Rook with about 7 pounds. His flurry earlier accounted for most of that. He's now in a lull. But, our boat driver Gus Fisher said that right around noon the bite should pick up due to the moon phase we're in. The sun is straight overhead and there aren't many shadows.

We headed down the river a ways and passed Shaw Grigsby, who - according to BASSTrakk - has one little fish. We've picked up Russell Parrish who has the same.

It seems that the 2-hour-plus run down to the Pine Bluff area is paying off; those boys are sacking them up pretty good. But, as Rook has shown us, the Little Rock pool can be productive.
We're now idling next to Davy Hite, who has motor troubles. He hit a rock pile in a back water and his motor is only good in idle. He's got three fish and is headed back to the ramp. He expects to be back on the water by 2 p.m.
--David Hunter Jones

12:30 p.m.

We are well past the half-way point of Day One and things are starting to shake into view. The expected tougness of the river is obvious. Several fish are being caught.

But with only half the guys in the field with trackers on them, it's hard to get a good view of what the standings might look like. Obviously, unless something changes, Kevin VanDam will make big strides in the AOY standings.

He might also be in a good position to win this event. But we haven't heard much out of the guys who can win here and have won here before. Guys like Kevin Short, Rook, Mike McClelland and Billy McCaghren. We've seen them mentioned in the blog, but really have no idea what their weights ciould be. There are other scattered around that we expect to have an equal impact.

From what we can tell. The guys in Pool 4 and 8 will have to be heading back real soon. The others will start that way in an hour or so.

Lot's of things can happen and typically does happen in tournaments on this river. The last few hours are always key. It bears repeating. At this point, every fish, every ounce is important. We're pretty certain the field will be separated by ounces from place to place than pounds, like in so many events.

It's going to be a fun couple of hours.

--Steve Bowman

 

12:22 p.m.

Boats are beginning to head back toward the lock, some might get to Pool 5 a little early, others making sure they don't get locked out. We are taking that as our cue to head in.

For some, the gamble of running south two pools paid off, while for others, it did not. The day is far from over, however, and guys like Terry Scroggins and Steve Kennedy can add to their weight to keep their AOY hopes alive.

Watching Kevin VamDam today reminded me why you never want him less than 20 points behind you with two events to go. Everyone better look out.

-- Rob Russow

 

 

Place Angler Fish Total Pool
1 Keith Poche 5 13-00 4
2 Kevin VanDam 5 12-08 4
3 Takahiro Omori 4 9-08 5
4 Stephen Browning 5 9-05 5
5 Jared Lintner 5 9-04 7
6 Ish Monroe 4 9-02 7
7 Greg Hackney 4 8-06 6
8 Todd Faircloth 4 8-05 4
9 Davy Hite 4 7-13 6
10 Mark Davis 3 7-08 8
11 Aaron Martens 4 7-07 6
12 Rick Clunn 2 7-00 5
12 Gerald Swindle 3 7-00 4
14 Brent Chapman 4 6-12 5
15 Steve Kennedy 3 6-04 4

 

Total weight for each pool:

Pool 8 - 7-08

Pool 7 - 18-06

Pool 6 - 15-13

Pool 5 - 32-09

Pool 4 - 38-09

-- Hank Weldon

 

11:50 a.m.

We've left McCaghren looking for a kicker fish after getting a video of him talking about his morning.

Steve Kennedy is out toward the mouth, putting three of the top five in the AOY race right here in the Pine Bluff Harbor.

Kennedy has three keepers, one of which is "really, really close." Meaning, barely a keeper. His other two fish must be spots since they only have to be 12 inches while largemouth have to hit 15.

"I caught two keepers in the first 20 minutes and I've been fishing used water ever since," he said.

Kennedy said there were 50 or 60 boats in the first lock and they split out evenly between 5 and 4. He's got another 30 minutes in this pool and he'll have an hour back in the Little Rock pool.

-- Rob Russow

11:50 a.m.

A quick shout out to all the servicemen and women at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock! I understand there are quite a few Rook fans watching the blog today (his wrap promotes the Ranger Military Appreciation Program, sporting the Stars and Stripes). "Tell 'em I appreciate their support!" Rook just yelled. He is hoping the bass start supporting him as passionately, as they currently have lockjaw.

--James Hall

 

11:41 a.m.

Looking at BASSTrakk, it's interesting but not surprising that Denny Brauer sits atop the leaderboard of our 50 anglers with tracking units.

Brauer is a specialist in these kind of systems and we always figured he would be strong. During practice, though, we had our worries. Check out the photo below. That's Denny stuck on a sandbar in Pool 7.

It was taken by Greg Hackney and sent to me Tuesday, with these words: "I don't know what he was thinking. I watched him run aground with 6 inches of sand sticking out of the water. He was only running 20 miles per hour."

We suspected that Denny's eyesight must have tricked him a bit.

We asked Denny about it last night and his answer was simply "which time are you talking about?"

He actually got stuck more than once. Today, though, he seems to be rocking pretty good.

-- Steve Bowman

 

11:40 a.m.

As quickly as the bite turned on for Rook, the switch has now flipped the other way. No bites in 15 minutes. He is now fishing small chunk rock.

Makes you wonder if the fish are relating to the bigger boulders and rock slabs that occasionally speckle the river's edge. Rook is casting the crankbait exclusively now, where he was pitching a soft plastic on occasion earlier today.

-- James Hall

11:30 a.m.

There were some comments from the Naylors inquiring about Billy McCaghren, who is from just down the road in Arkansas and has experience on the river.

No sooner had I finished reading those comments, then McCaghren came running almost right up to us and begins fishing.

My camera boat driver, Bill Dennis, was surprised to see him fishing this far down the river. He said McCaghren has more experience up around Pool 7, but clearly he found something worth locking down twice for.

Almost immediately, McCaghren hooks up with a good fish. He plays it to the side of the boat, where it does a head shake and the size of the fish becomes more apparent. He needs this fish. Fortunately, it gives up at that point and McCaghren puts his hands around it. This 4-pound class fish does wonders for the young pro, who culls out a solid keeper. It appears he is working on a good bag.

Naylors, you will have something to cheer for at the weigh-in today.

-- Rob Russow

11:23 a.m.

Click here to watch video of KVD catch his 3.5-pounder.

-- Eric Pinter

11:20 a.m.

KVD is making a push for his seventh TTBAOY title, fourth in a row.

Place Angler Fish Total
1 Kevin VanDam 5 12-08
2 Keith Poche 5 11-08
3 Takahiro Omori 4 9-08
4 Jared Lintner 5 9-04
5 Ish Monroe 4 9-02
6 Davy Hite 4 7-13
7 Stephen Browning 4 7-13
8 Aaron Martens 4 7-07
9 Rick Clunn 2 7-00
10 Steve Kennedy 3 6-04

-- Hank Weldon

11:17 a.m.

VanDam is doing his thing, snatching fish left and right. Half the time they are short fish or white bass, but he has pieced together a limit.

After a few minutes without a bite, he hooks up with a much better fish. It jumps completely out of the water, letting me and the four other spectator boats know that this one is a bass.

A few short moments later and his best fish of the day is on board, close to a 3.5-pounder.

One of the spectators yells, "Game changer!" KVD points down the bank to where Terry Scroggins is fishing and says, "And the one I'm fishing against is right there."

VanDam knows how crucial the mental aspect of the sport is and relishes the opportunity to cast a dagger (even an early dagger). We are sliding down the bank now to see if it's affected Scroggins at all.

-- Rob Russow

11:13 a.m.

KVD fishes within sight and earshot of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster AOY points leader Terry Scroggins.

-- Eric Pinter

 

11:09 a.m.

It's interesting to see how well these guys have spread out up and down the river. Look at those images on down the blog to get an idea of what I'm taking about. Also realize that is only the top 50 in the AOY list. Another 50 boats are nestled among them.

We knew a lot of guys would head to Pine Bluff and we expected several to stay close. We also expected to see some of our top guys do well and others stumble.

KVD ain't stumbling today. He's actually in the lead of the those with BASSTrakk units with 12 pounds and change. Scroggins has a couple, Evers has a couple, Alton is stuck on zero and Kennedy has a couple. Basically those guys are going to have to pick up the pace or KVD will do what he's known for doing.

--Steve Bowman

 

11:05 a.m.

KVD boats a solid 3.5-pounder to the audience's delight. A fan in an observation boat yells "Game changer!" It just might be.

-- Eric Pinter

 

10:59 a.m.

Bites have been few and far between for Terry Scroggins. Then, out of nowhere, he hooks a double on a crankbait.

Unfortunately, they were both 10-inchers and had to be tossed back. Cool for me though, it's the first one of those I've seen.

The strange thing about that is normally doubles come when fish are really schooled up. In this case, Scroggins didn't get bit for over 10 minutes before or after those fish. Strange things going on here in Pine Bluff Harbor.

My boat driver, Bill Dennis, noticed an increase in baitfish activity as the afternoon has progressed. That could be a good sign for Scroggins, who needs the bite to pick up these last few hours. Boats have been running back and forth here in this crowded Harbor.

These guys are just taking turns on the same spots," Dennis said. "They are running back and forth and back and forth."

Scroggins is finally making a move himself.

-- Rob Russow

 

10:49 a.m.

We promised early on that these first two days of blog coverage (and really the rest of this season) would be more about the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year than about the current day or event. Here’s a look at the top 10 in the AOY standings and how they are faring so far today, according to BASSTrakk.

TTBAOY Standing Angler Fish Total
1 Terry Scroggins 2 3-12
2 Kevin VanDam 4 8-04
3 Alton Jones 0 0-00
4 Edwin Evers 1 3-00
5 Steve Kennedy 2 4-00
6 Davy Hite 4 7-13
7 Ott Defoe 2 3-08
8 Fred Roumbanis 1 2-00
9 Casey Ashley 1 1-00
10 Chris Lane 0 0-00

-- Kyle Carter

 

10:47 a.m.

Keeper No. 3 for Rook. Another 2-pounder in the livewell thanks to firetiger crank. I hate to disclose his exact position, but suffice it to say that he can idle to weigh-in from here.

-- James Hall

 

10:35 a.m.

Not even three hours from when Alton Jones swapped boats because of engine issues, we are watching the service crew launch his boat and take it for a test drive. The ramp they launched from is maybe 100 yards from where Rook has been whackin' 'em. Alton's boat seems to be running fine now, so he'll be good to go tomorrow. 

-- James Hall

 

10:32 a.m.

Rook placed keeper No. 2 in his livewell, probably going 1 1/2 pounds. He had to remove the crank from deep down the fish's throat, which has to have him excited. He is using a red treble on the front, which may or may not be helping. Regardless, his slow morning has picked up tremendously.

-- James Hall

 

10:28 a.m.

Fishing was slow for Scroggins on the ledges, so he picked up a spinning rod to some barges that were anchored along the shore. After moving along them for awhile without a bite, he picked up the trolling motor and ran further back into the harbor.

Another 10 minutes with a Shakey Head, Scroggins hooked up with his second keeper. He kicked his Marshal out of the passenger seat to land it and it measured the 15-inch minimum.

Overall, things have been pretty slow for Scroggins, and he has only about another 2 and a half hours to fish before he has to make the run back to Little Rock.

A few casts later, he did hook up with another fish, but it was short.

There is a nice breeze on the water that’s breaking up the surface, and a lot of anglers are still going with crankbaits to try to trigger reaction strikes. Scroggins did have one fish on a crankbait that hit right at the boat and he jerked it aboard, but it was short.

Those who gambled on running here to catch bigger fish quickly have not been as fruitful as anticipated,  especially Scroggins.

 -- Rob Russow

 

10:27 a.m.

Either the fish have turned on or Rook has figured something out. He has caught and released five fish in the past 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the last 5 bass have all been short. All of them have ate his little firetiger crank. Unlike the spots he was fishing earlier, the area he is focusing on now is main river, slab rock or big chunk rock banks.
-- James Hall

 

Where are they?

Pool 5

Pool 4 (Pine Bluff Harbor)

Pool 6 (Little Rock - This is where they launched)

Pool 7

Pool 8

 

 

10:08 a.m.

Rook is finally on the board! After jumping off a 4-pounder at the boat, he cranks up another largemouth on a firetiger square bill. His first keeper of the day weighs around 2 1/2 pounds. The fish was hanging on big chunk rock on the main river.
-- James Hall

 

10:05 a.m.

So what is the difference between the Arkansas River when Rook won here several years back and now? Grass. There used to be emergent grass growing out to 3 feet of water in many areas along the river's shoreline. Several years of extremely high water has killed most of it. There are still small patches of isolated grass patches -- most in about 2 feet of water -- but not enough to hold a winning stringer.
-- James Hall

 

10:05 a.m.

KVD found keeper number 4 at the top of the 10 o'clock hour.  The solid 2.75-pounder came just a few minutes after another solid 3-pound fish came unbuttoned halfway to the boat.

-- Eric Pinter

 

9:56 a.m.

Rook just hooked a nice fish, did the Iaconelli dance around the boat while playing it, and then realized it was a drum. Evidently, drum love to eat crankbaits.

--James Hall

 

9:55 a.m.

Gus Fisher, my boat driver who fishes this river often, believes the bite will improve around noon. He says when the sun is directly overhead the light better penetrates the muddy water and the fish can more easily find the bait. Plus,bright sunlight typically positions fish closer to cover and structure, making them easier to target. Rook is on the move again ... fishing at least his 12th spot of the morning.

--James Hall

 

9:42 a.m.

What makes Pine Bluff so unique is the Harbor, a 13-mile backwater system full of sandbar ledges as well as a smattering of shoreline rocks and reeds.

Right now, the anglers are on the ledges and they were firing first thing. We saw Greg Vinson and Matt Reed both dropping keepers into the well as we drove by. Pulling up on Terry Scroggins, he was just boating a short fish further back in the Harbor.
Since then, things have slowed down considerably. Most of these guys are cranking, looking for brush, according to Bill Dennis, my boat driver.
"A lot of locals put brush at the end of these sandbar drops," Dennis said.
For all I know, Dennis is one of those "locals."
After that short fish, things have really slowed down. Timmy Horton was nearby, but he moved. Scroggins is staying put, so he must have a lot of confidence in this spot.
-Rob Russow

 

9:35 a.m.

 

 

Place Angler Fish Total
1 Takahiro Omori 4 9-08
2 Aaron Martens 4 7-07
3 Jared Lintner 4 7-04
4 Matt Reed 3 6-04
5 Kevin VanDam 3 5-08
6 Ish Monroe 3 5-02
7 Bill Lowen 2 4-13
8 Davy Hite 2 4-05
9 Greg Vinson 2 4-04
10 Shaw Grisby 1 3-08

 

 

9:30 a.m.

Bill Lowen just adeed his third keeper. He now has three in the box.

-- Dave Mercer

 

9:20 a.m.

"The little one's ain't even bitin'!" yelled Rook. He's switched to a brighter colored crank ... this one is chartreuse with a bright orange belly. He is combing a jetty that is mostly underwater, just the tips of the rock are sticking above the water's surface. Now he's throwing blades again. He is the only angler in this area.

--James Hall

 

9:08 a.m.

Looks like around 30 boats came through the the lock to pool 4. Most of those boats went to Pine Bluff Harbor.
9.08 a.m. and it's time to get serious. All of these anglers are taking a calculated risk of getting locked out and not making it back to check in on time. However, many feel that by coming all the way to pool 4 that they'll have the best chance at quality fish.  In all, KVD and the rest of the field will have just under 4 hours to put together a solid bag of fish for the day. No pressure at all!
KVD has about 5.5 pounds in the box on three fish.  He hopes to fill out a solid limit and cull two of the keeper spots in the livewell before making the 2-hour trip back.

-- Eric Pinter, Marshal

 

9:02 a.m.

We are back on Rook. He's moved about 10 miles downriver from where he started this morning. He's still cranking main-river riprap. The bank is extremely steep. His casts are landing inches from the rock and the water is likely 3 feet where his bait is landing, plumetting to 20. He has not yet boated a keeper.
In case you are not familiar with the Arkansas River, here's a quick overview of what these guys are fishing. The main river averages around 400 yards wide. The water is the color of creamed coffee ... about 4 inches of visibility. When you get to the backs of feeder creeks it can get a little clearer. However, some of the backwater looks as though you could walk across it.If you put your nose to the current, you'd need to be on constant 1/4 power to maintain position.

--James Hall

 

9:01 a.m.

Turns out it was a good move coming to Pine Bluff. At least a quarter of the field has made the journey through two locks to get here. Some big names too including AOY leader Terry Scroggins and his closest competitor, Kevin VanDam.
Check out the BASSCam page for a cool video of everyone leaving the lock. It was like the shotgun starts of old, only now, everyone is running 250 horsepower outboards. What a zoo it was with anglers jockying for position.
A shout out is due Kenyon Hill. In the heat of competition an idle past the lock might turn into something nearing getting on pad, especially with prime fishing locations in the harbor on the line. Hill was the last one out and proceeded slowly down the lock wall until he reached the end and then took off, just like you are supposed to.
We are off and running in search of Scroggins and whoever else we may happen across. I don't expect they will be too hard to find.
Kevin Short said it couldn't be won here. Let's find out if he was right.
- Rob Russow

 

9:00 a.m.

Dave Mercer mentioned the heat. But then again he always does. As a Canadian, anything over 75 degrees is a heatwave.

This week, though, it actually has been scorching hot. Temperatures have been near the century mark and the heat index has been above 100. And it hit all at once.

That makes it tough on everyone, including the fish. Fish care penalties could factor into today's final. And the even those who are used to the heat could have their own issues.

The bright side, we are having a cool front coming this way, if you can cal it that. The temperatures will drop 4- or 5-degrees, to the mid 90s as we go along. Doesn't sound like much, but it's a start.

-- Steve Bowman

 

8:58 a.m.

Check out the hat on Bill Lowen's marshall. This seems to be the chosen head gear for Elite Series Marshal's this week to deal with the Arkansas heat.

--Dave Mercer

8:40 a.m.

At the top of ths page the BASSTrakk link is now available. We have units in the top 50 of the AOY standings. Currently, 18 angler have fish in the well. Of those KVD and Scroggins have on a piece. They are at the top of the AOY standings and are battling for points.

Again that list doesn't include all the anglers. We will have those tracked by the start of Saturday. But eth the emphasis on the AOY and the qualificatons for the upcoming All-Star Week, we wanted to track those guys the first two days. And we ony have 50 units, so they were the easy choice.

Many of these guys are battling for a Classic berth. Going in the top of the list all feel like they have a shot at walking away with the sport's most coveted title -- Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

The river will be a good test to see how those standings shake out.

These guys are not accustomed to battling it out on fisheries of this nature.

--Steve Bowman

 

8:35 a.m.

It feels like home to him. Bill Lowen can't believe how much this river feels like home to him. If it was not for the strange bed he slept in last night he would think he was home. It seems like the Arkansas River fish like him too because early today he already has 2 fish in the box both around 2 1/2 lbs.

--Dave Mercer

 

8:33 a.m.

Eric Pinter, our Marhsal with KVd, just reports that VanDam has his first keeper of the day while waiting for the second downriver lock.

 

8:30 a.m.

Tournament director Trip Weldon just arrived with Alton's back-up boat. He checked the livewells, kill switch and assisted in helping move gear to the new rig. The whole transfer took about 10 minutes. Alton has bolted. The tournament crew and Jimmy Sue, Alton's wife, are loading his boat and taking it to the service yard.

-- James Hall

 

8:18 a.m.

As Jones works his way to the ramp he hooks a nice fish on his custom painted crank. It's a drum. After unhooking it, his next cast yeilds another fish ... this time a bass! But it's short. Surely his luck has to change. Jimmy Sue, Alton's wife, has arrived at the ramp with his trailer. The back-up boat should be here shortly.

-- James Hall

 

8:14 a.m.

James Overstreet and Dave Mercer are in Pool 7, one pool up from the take off. They locked through with about 40 boats.

Some of the things Overstreet reports: Pete Ponds caught a keeper right at the lock; Edwin Evers caught a short fish and monster drum before getting in the lock; Clark Reehm lost two crankbaits before the lock opened.

Once in the upper pool, Jami Fralick said the water had dropped about 1-foot since yesterday. He had to change plans. In doing so, he lost a big fish right above the lock.

-- Steve Bowman

 

8:09 a,m.

I just saw Alton's worry about thick and gooey mud. Made me chuckle. This is the Arkansas River where the water is, well, thick and gooey. There are times when you can track a coon across it.

It won't be long until Jones is back on the water. The service crew is close to Murray Park. I just got off the phone with them giving them instructions on how to get there.

My guess is in the next 30 or so, Alton will be up and running.

-- Steve Bowman

 

8:07 a.m.

Carl Jocumsen, Alton's Marshall and an Austrailian native, is providing his back-up boat.

"I have to say, this is the first time I've ever borrowed a boat from an Australian!" It works out well for Alton since Jocumsen runs a Skeeter/Yamaha, as well. The replacement is being towed to the ramp here. Jones is worried about pulling his boat out of this ramp ... the mud is thick and gooey.

-- James Hall

 

8:03 a.m.

Flipping a tube to shoreline brush, Jones just broke off and stopped to retie. He is staying close to the ramp at Murray Park. I'm not sure if his back-up boat is going to launch here for him, or if tournament officials are driving it up the river to him. The ramp here makes it evident how high the water has been on this river. Mud reaches 8 feet up the launch. Jones still has yet to get a bite since we've been on him. Too bad this isn't a gar tourney ... we've seen several 4-footers surface nearby.

-- James Hall

 

7:58 a.m.

Something to celebrate already is the weather. After some record-setting heat in Little Rock for much of the practice time, temperatures cooled off this morning. A light breeze should make fishing much more comfortable than it would have been.
We've reached the main river, heading toward the dam, and it's clear the main river is muddier than the Harbor. I find that interesting because when we were running around the upper pools in practice, the main river was clearer than a lot of the creeks. The upper pools don't have backwaters anything like the Harbor, which has plenty of both shallow cover and deeper ledges to choose from.
-- Rob Russow

 

7:50 a.m.

The locks are opening and boats are starting to pop out of the upriver and downriver locks.

A quick update n BASSTrakk tells us that these are the catches we have so far from the top 50 in the AOY list. Again, that won't include half the field, like Rook and Kevin Short, who will likely do well in this event.

Matt Reed leads the field with three fish that weigh 6-4

Jared Lintner is second is with three fish at 5-8

Bill Lowen is third with one fish that weighs 2-5

Brent Chapman is fourth with 2-4

Aaron Martens is fifth with 2-0

We won't surmise what that will do with to the AOY standings just yet. We'll let things shake out a little more. But it does set up the question of how many guys will actually stay close and fish the Little Rock Pool. We know Rook is there and Alton Jones may have to.

As soon as we get our BASSTrakk eyes on and everyone is finished running we'll give you a look at that.

-- Steve Bowman

 

7:48 a.m.

We just caught up with Alton Jones. He is dead in the water ... either a powerhead lower or unit. He says if he's going to be stuck, Murray Park area on the south shore is a good area to be stuck.

His plans were to lock through to pool 7, the Maumelle area. There is another boat headed his way. He has no fish in the boat thus far and is alternating between flipping a creature bait and cranking a XCS 100 ... custom painted dark for this river.

-- James Hall

 

7:47 a.m.

We've launched in Pine Bluff Harbor and the first thing that strikes me is how clear the water is. There is at least a foot of visibility here, a big change from a week ago when Dennis brought some of his clients out.

"It was terrible, real murky and muddy," Dennis said. "And that dock was underwater."

The dock in question is now a good 2 feet out of the water, a testament to the changes going on out here each day. It's hard to tell how much it's come down overnight, but when the anglers get here in a bit, they might find these changes hard to adjust to with a short day of fishing.

We are still awaiting the anglers' arrival. They likely haven't even made it to the next lock quite yet. That's a lot of waiting.

-- Rob Russow

 

7:39 a.m.

Like Rook, Jones is cranking his shallow diver just inches off the bank, each cast parallel to the jetty. His custom painted bait resembles a grey craw and he is deflecting the lure off the rocks in less than a foot of water. His back-up boat still has not arrived.
-- James Hall

 

7:30 a.m.

The Diamond Drive is already starting to live up to its billing, at least the billing that said it would not only shape and form the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. But also create a bunch of excitement and heartache all rolled into one.

Right now a big portion of the field is sitting in a lock, some headed up stream from Pool 6 (Little Rock Pool) to Pool 7. Several others are headed downstream to Pool 5 and then on one more pool down to the legendary Pine Bluff Harbor.

While all that is taking place. Alton Jones, who was planning on locking up and has been at the top of the leaderboard in the AOY standings all season, is sitting idle. His powerhead went out. He's fishing, while waiting for a back-up boat to arrive, but that could turn into a big blow for him.

Things like this can work in your favor, though. More than once a breakdown has forced an angler to concentrate on what is in front of him and he's parlayed that into winning form. We'll see.

Secondly, just like any fishery can, the Arkansas River has served up some keepers for some of the guys. We watched Matt Reed catch two keepers within sight of the take-off before half the boats were even through check-out.

And you can bet, Scott Rook, who is fishing at home, already has a couple in the box.

The river, though, with the flows of current and muddy water should provide catches all day. That's the way this system works. You can have an early bite, but it's not as critical as in some clear-water fisheries.

Mostly today, we will be concentrating on the AOY race, watching and seeing how the top 50 in those standings fare. We won't have BassTrakk units in the boats of those outside the race today or tomorrow. So the standings you will see shortly on BassTrakk will be just how the top 50 in the AOY are doing.

Stay with us and we should see some exciting action all day long.

-- Steve Bowman

 

7:18 a.m.

My boat driver, Gus Fisher, just checked the river's flow. It is running 50,780 ... meaning really good current flow through the Little Rock pool. Normally this time of year, it flows in the 20,000 range. Rook is trying to take advantage of this strong current by hopping from one rocky jetty to the next. We just heard Alton Jone's Motor blew, so we are going to go check on him.
-- James Hall

 

7:17 a.m.

I'm driving down to Pine Bluff with my camera boat driver Bill Dennis. He just called the Murray Lock and Dam, which separates the Little Rock Pool from Pool 7. The flow is currently 43,000, which is a drop from even yesterday. That's good for fishing now, but there has to be some concern that they might cut that off for the weekend.

Yesterday, Kevin Short told me the flow was setting up for good fishing conditions, but he has seen them shut off the flow completely an mess the fishing up. For today, at least, things are looking right.

We are not too far from Pine Bluff now and we figure quite a few of the anglers will be making the long run down here. That will likely give them less than 4 hours to fish before heading back. Getting a key keeper on the way down or back could be a difference-maker.

-Rob Russow

 

7:15 a.m.

Rook hooked a nice fish on his square-bill crank, expertly plays it to the boat and swings in a 3-pounder ... unfortunately it is a drum. Now he's stows his trolling motor and moves up river.

-- James Hall 

 

7:12 a.m.

Local favorite Scott Rook ran west from the launch site to a rocky point to start his morning. After about four casts to the riprap, he hooked a nonkeeper on a square bill crankbait, chartreuse with black back. After combing the point without another strike, he has switched to a chartreuse/white spinnerbait and is fishing down the shoreline into backwaters of the river. It is interesting how he keeps his boat only a couple feet off the bank, presenting his bait parallel to the shoreline the entire length of the cast.

-- James Hall

 

Catching up with Eric Pinter, Marshal for Kevin VanDam

6:11 a.m.: Well today I get to live the dream...spending a full tournament day on the water with the master, KVD. I'll be sending in updates, pictures and video from the water all day. If something interesting happens, it'll be here. Take off is 30 minutes from now and KVD is making his final adjustments.

6:21 a.m.: KVD isn't just the best angler on the planet, apparently he is the best "hook changer outer" as well. Just before take off, Davy Hite hands KVD a crankbait and a pair of hooks saying, "He can change out the hooks faster than I can get my pliers out." KVD is happy to oblige.

6:46 a.m.: First monster of the day

 

7:17 a.m.

No this is not a mistake, and no you didn’t sleep through Thursday and Friday.

This is our special edition, Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year live blog, coming from Little Rock, Ark., on Day One of the Diamond Drive on the Arkansas River.

In fact, for the rest of the season, until we crown an AOY, there will be a live blog every tournament day.

We have this river covered from top to bottom, with five different teams in the 5 possible pools the anglers have to choose from.

We also have BASSTrakk units in the boats of the top-50 in the AOY standings, so while we won’t have a complete picture of how things are going on the water, we will have an idea of how the anglers in AOY and Classic contention are comparing to each other.

There are eight days of fishing left this season and the AOY title is still essentially up for grabs. We don’t plan on missing a second of the action, and if you stick it out with, you won’t either.

-- Kyle Carter

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