RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — The Elite Series heads to Lake Dardanelle, May 15-18. This marks the third stop for the Elite Series at Lake Dardanelle and the first since 2009. It’s time to look at previous tournament data from Dardanelle as we set our Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing teams.
Mark Menendez worked a smaller aluminum boat through a culvert to win the event back in 2009. (Side note: I wish Mark was able to defend his Lake Dardanelle title this year, but I am also glad to see all the support from Skeet Reese, Dave Mercer and all the other Elite anglers helping support Mark and his family after his wife died earlier this year.)
Anglers will not be able to reach that area this year because they have to use the same boat they started the season with. The bigger fiberglass boats will not fit through that same culvert. There are still several big areas that anglers can focus on at Lake Dardanelle that could be the winning areas. The main river can be a place to catch a big sack in the summer, but with the cold winter, the bass have not moved out that far yet. Illinois Bayou by the launch site and Spadra Creek at the north end of Lake Dardanelle should be the two biggest players in the tournament.
Remember the percentages listed here are likely to change before the tournament starts. Keep that in mind when deciding on your Fantasy Fishing team.
Kevin VanDam is having a “slow” season sitting 14th in Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) standings. This sounds like a copy from any event, but this lake blends well into the way VanDam likes to fish. With four major B.A.S.S. events on Lake Dardanelle, VanDam has finished no worse than 10th (eighth in 2004, 10th in 2005, third in 2007, and second in 2009). VanDam was the runner-up to Mark Menendez in the 2009 event on Lake Dardanelle. KVD is the second-most owned Fantasy Fishing angler at 13.4 percent, but that is still pretty low considering his past history at this lake. I hope this is the event KVD wins and makes a strong charge up the AOY leaderboard.
Greg Hackney may be from Louisiana, but he has fished a lot of tournaments in Arkansas. Lake Dardanelle offers a lot of areas to fish the way Hackney likes to fish. Hackney has fished three B.A.S.S. events at Lake Dardanelle, making a check at each event, and he took home a Top 12 at two of those events. He is only owned by 1.4 percent of Fantasy Fishing players, so he really is a steal for the bucket.
There are very few anglers on the Elite Series that have as much experience on the Arkansas River as Scott Rook. Rook has more experience farther down the river around Little Rock or Pine Bluff, but do not be afraid to take Rook on your Fantasy Fishing team. He is having one of his best seasons in a while on the Elite Series, sitting in 10th in AOY. Rook is owned by 1.9 percent of players, so there is plenty to be gained over other players by taking him. Having a few of VanDam’s lucky cookies in his box does not hurt.
I left Mark Davis off not because I expect him to have his first bad tournament, but more for his 44.5 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership. With this being a postspawn event on a lake not far from his home, Lake Dardanelle could easily host Davis to his fifth Top 12 finish out of five events this season.
Brent Chapman is sitting right around the cut line for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, currently at 27th in AOY. Interestingly enough, 27th is Chapman’s worst finish in four B.A.S.S. events on Lake Dardanelle. Chapman is the fifth-most-owned angler for the bucket at 5.0 percent. I am hopeful Chapman is the highest points earner for the bucket, but I expect him to at least beat several of the other anglers who have higher ownership percentages.
Classic champ Randy Howell is a camping buddy of Brent Chapman’s. These two have a chance to be battling each other Sunday on Lake Dardanelle. Howell has made a check in three B.A.S.S. events on Lake Dardanelle, including a win in 2004. The one event Howell did not make a check at Lake Dardanelle was 2007, when only the Top 25 earned a check, and Howell finished 28th. Howell is the favorite for the bucket at 24.8 percent, so if you need a safe pick, Howell should be your choice.
Matt Herren has only fished one B.A.S.S. event on Lake Dardanelle, but he made the Top 12 cut in that event. He is having a solid season with three Top 50 finishes in the four events so far. At 1.8 percent ownership, he is a real steal. Look for Herren to be right in the hunt for his first Top 12 finish of the season.