LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- An enormous barge – a football field in length and 50 yards wide – nudged into the lock between Pools 6 and 7 of the Arkansas River around 1 p.m. on Day 2 of the Elite Series Diamond Drive.
The feat of securing this beast, filling the lock with water, and then sending it up river takes almost two hours. The 31 Elite Series anglers on the upriver side of this floating roadblock had no idea what they would face when they arrived at the lock at 2 p.m., when the doors were supposed to be open awaiting their arrival.
“I arrived at 1:45 and the doors were shut,” said Bradley Roy, who was one of six anglers fishing Pool 7 from the first flight. (First flight anglers were to check in at 3 p.m., second flight anglers were to check in at 3:15.)
Other first flight anglers stranded on the wrong side of the barge were David Walker, Mark Davis, Jamie Fralick, Brian Snowden and Boyd Duckett.
Time seemed to fly as the helpless anglers sat idly by, watching the giant iron platform laden with coal containers sit between them and a ticking clock at North River Landing, 10 miles downriver.
“They finally got that barge out at 2:55, but I knew it was too late,” Roy exclaimed.
Once the alarm sounded giving anglers the go-ahead to move into the lock, the operators worked very quickly to get the gates closed and the water levels dropped so the anglers could make weigh-in.
“It’s been averaging 14 to 15 minutes to lock through. Those guys got us in there, dropped the water and got us out in 4 minutes!” Greg Hackney said.
Despite the lock operator’s best efforts, the gates were not opened soon enough for the first flight anglers.
“It is a sick feeling to sit there, completely helpless, knowing that you are going to be punished for something that you have absolutely no control over,” Walker explained. “I lost my weight today because of my boat number, no other reason.”
The six first-flight anglers were logged in 13 minutes late. According to B.A.S.S. rules, anglers receive a 1-pound-per-minute-late penalty. None of the late anglers had more than 13 pounds, so their entire catch was lost (Roy, Walker, Duckett, Snowden, Davis and Fralick). Once an angler is 15 minutes late to check in, they are disqualified.
“Even though I knew I wasn’t going to get credit for my catch, I was still wanting to check in before I was disqualified because I needed the last-place points,” Roy said.
He zeroed on Day 1, and had he not weighed in a fish he would have received zero points for the entire tourney.
Those anglers in the second flight made check-in by a minute and a half.
“I was pretty freakin’ nervous,” said Kelly Jordon, one of many second flight guys waiting for those gates to open.
“It was crazy pulling out of there, everybody knew that every second counted,” Jordon said.
In trying to leave the lock, Alton Jones’ trolling motor accidentally locked with Jordon’s rear light, and then his Power Pole, damaging both, Jordon said
After today’s disastrous lock incident, those anglers locking through to other Pools will have to think twice about that decision.
“I always knew it was a possibility that I could get stuck, but I just never imagined it would actually happen,” Roy said.