LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – One positive anglers can take away from practice for the Diamond Drive on the Arkansas River is that fishing isn’t nearly as tough as it was in 2006, the last time B.A.S.S. visited Little Rock.
According to Kevin Short, Mayflower, Ark., resident and lifelong Arkansas River rat, current has made all the difference in the world.
“Thanks to the current, the fish are a lot easier to pinpoint and a lot more aggressive,” Short said. “In ’06, it was hard, a struggle to get a bite, any bite. It’s not that way now. Now, it’s a struggle to get the right bites.”
The current comes from May rains that flooded many of the surrounding states. Only now are levels and clarity finally returning to normal. The visibility in many places is perfect for river fishing and the current is on a slow fall, positioning the fish in predictable places.
One negative from the high waters has been the lack of cover, especially the grass that is normally growing up and down the river.
“Even the water willow – some pools have it on the southern end, but the water jumped up, so there is a lot of cover missing from the upper ends of all the pools,” Short said. “As much as anything, the high water moved them – pushed them off where they would normally be positioned. They are constantly moving, even now, depending on what the flow is doing.”
Despite having five available pools to fish (anglers can lock twice in either direction), the 99-boat field will likely be crowded up throughout the system. Short insisted there are no secrets on this section of river, but the key will be to stay dialed in on where the bass move each day.
“In a way, everyone is fishing the same stuff,” Short said. “But one of the quirks of the river is you could have people fishing the same stuff as you, but if they aren’t keyed in on where the fish are, they won’t get bit.
“One dyke could have one rock that has fish on it. One point might have a spot the current is hitting just right. If you can get keyed on that, you can go to the next one and the next one and the next one and catch fish. If you miss that, you might not get a bite all day.”
Short was hesitant to guess at a weight it would take to win the event. Scott Rook won the Major here in 2006 with 34 pounds, 9 ounces over four days, but two of those were on the hole course where the anglers couldn’t lock. Almost certainly, the weights will be better than that.
“I think the weights can be pretty consistent, depending on what the flow does,” Short said. “Right now, it’s tapering off each day, so there should be a fairly consistent bite. I’ve seen where the forecast is like that though and then they just shut it off. If that happens, there weights will be all over the board.”
Each of the pools open to the field this week, 4 through 8, offers something a little different to the anglers. Expect Pools 5 and 4, which is the Pine Bluff pool, to be the most popular. The dangers of locking that far are well documented from loss of fishing time to risks of getting locked out.
For the group making the long run to Pine Bluff, less than 4 hours of fishing time await them before they have to turn around and make the trip back.
“The first two days, I expect to see some good sacks from Pine Bluff,” Short said. “I would be shocked if someone makes the top-12 cut from there though. The problem you have is tournaments launching from there Saturday and Sunday and they will have a two hour head start.
“That’s probably going to be the safest bite, because it is the most familiar to these guys. I just don’t think that’s the winning deal.”
Diamond Drive action begins first thing in the morning, with the Live Blog now running all four competition days and covering nearly all fishable miles of the river from north of the take-off down to Pine Bluff. Also, be sure to check out BASSTrakk, which will focus on the top 50 anglers in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
With less than 200 points separating the top 15, it will be an exciting few weeks as anglers vie for AOY honors as well as a berth in the Classic and Toyota All-Star Week. Coverage begins with the take-off at 7:30 a.m. ET from the launch in North Little Rock, Ark and continues through the weigh-in at 4:30 p.m. ET on Bassmaster.com.