MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Playing off youthful memories of her days as a junior and senior at Muskogee High, B.A.S.S. pro Janet Parker rode her local knowledge of the Arkansas River to a 15-pound, 2-ounce limit on Day One of the Bass Pro Shops Central Open 2 on the Arkansas River.
Parker, of Little Elm, Texas, spent two years in Muskogee as a teenager, and although she didn’t fish this area of the river much, does have a lot of past knowledge of the waterway.
“I grew up in Gore, Okla., and went to Muskogee High my junior and senior year so I could graduate early,” said Parker. "My father works at nearby Fort James for Georgia Pacific. I didn’t fish the Arkansas River a lot because it was so tough — I always fished farm ponds.”
Parker has been fishing the B.A.S.S. circuit since 2005, but has been fishing since she was in diapers, a lifetime on the water she thanks her godmother for exposing her to. As a kid, Parker fished the Arkansas River in the Kerr Pool where the river meets Oklahoma's Illinois River. She’d spend the day fishing with friends for sand bass.
“I spent a week here prefishing and it was tough,” Parker said. “I’ve got a pattern in Kerr Pool and a pattern in the Afton Pool, but I just felt like going through the locks was going to eat into so much of my fishing time that I wouldn’t have enough time to catch a limit.”
Prior to arriving in Muskogee, Parker borrowed a jet drive aluminum boat from the Ranger Boats dealer Cowtown USA in Cuba, Mo., and has been able to utilize the shallow draft of the boat to get into some of the deeper pools that have shallow rocky entrances that the heavier fiberglass boats can’t get into.
“The real key here is getting access to fish that haven’t been beat up for the last two weeks,” Parker said. “There’s one part where I’m running in about 4 inches of water.
“I was getting eight to 15 bites a day in practice, but that was in a 12-hour day. I was putting the boat on the water when the sun was coming up and putting it back on the trailer when the sun was going down, and that’s just not enough bites for a tournament.”
Parker did most of her prefishing in 3 to 10 feet of water after locking through and running up to 70 miles one way. The pools she’s fishing now are a short ride upriver and don’t require her to lose valuable fishing time locking through and running to the more distant sections of the river where she did most of her prefishing.
“Once I get through the shallow stuff and into these back pools, I’m fishing in fairly deep water,” she said. “There’s a steep rocky bank and some wood.”
Parker is utilizing medium-depth crankbaits, jigs and soft plastics to get her bites, and focusing on fishing slow. As she motored through the checkpoint for Day Two of the Bass Pro Shops Central Open 2, Parker was already looking forward to a good day on the water and then dinner at her favorite restaurant from her high school days.
“I love coming back here because I get to go to all my favorite restaurants like My Place Barbeque in Hamlin, which is where I’d go with all my friends to eat lunch when I was a kid,” Parker said. “Hopefully, my day is like yesterday, and I get a limit of nice fish, then I can relax and have dinner with my friends.”
With another warm day expected, the consensus was that fishing was going to be tough. Weigh-in for Day Two of the Bass Pro Shops Central Open 2 starts at 2:45 p.m. CT at the Three Forks Marina in Muskogee. Day One leader Tommy Biffle, who had a five fish bag limit weighing 18 pounds, 12 ounces, is also fishing a jet drive boat, so it should be interesting to see if the access these shallow-draft boats provide will give the leaders enough of an edge to stay on top.