2014 Bassmaster Elite at Lake Dardanelle Lake Dardanelle - Russellville, AR, May 15 - 18, 2014

The thriller on the river

Arkansas River at Lake Dardanelle left some emotional wrecks

Gerald Swindle left Lake Dardanelle thinking, "I was destined to win."Gerald Swindle left Lake Dardanelle thinking, "I was destined to win."
The weather during the tournament had been as crazy as Sunday's finish. When the tournament began, Hackney noticed the water temperature where he was fishing had dropped 13 degrees from Tuesday's practice session.

"That doesn't happen around here in May," said Hackney, an experienced Arkansas River angler who lived in Star City, Ark., until he was 27 years old. "It reduced the strike zone. You could throw it within 5 feet of them (when the water was warmer), now you've got to him them on the head."

Hackney, with a flippin' stick in hand, was doing just that – hitting them in the head – on Thursday when he weighed 21-13. Even though he took the lead on Friday with 18-1, it was the beginning of a steady downward trend.

Hackney didn't burn a lot of gas running around Lake Dardanelle. But he burned a lot more than Christie. Hackney had key areas in Illinois Bayou, Mill Creek and just off the main river channel.

"I had four or five areas I was fishing, and I was kind of micro-managing them because they weren't replenishing," said Hackney, who daily totals told that tale as well.

Jason Christie thought he blown his chance to win before the final day. Jason Christie thought he blown his chance to win before the final day.
Christie had one area primarily, between two bridges on Illinois Bayou.

"I didn't burn 20 gallons of gas all week," he said.

Christie got some help from the weather when a big thunderstorm dumped rain over the watershed Thursday night. Dirty water and heavy current were Christie's keys to success.

"After the first day, the water was getting pretty clear," Christie said. "Then we got that rain, and it dirtied up again. I think the combination of the dirtier water and the choked down current (between the bridges) was key. When you go from the channel to where it opens up, fish just tend to be there. They want to have flats to roam and feed on."

Hackney was mostly flipping a jig – either a 1/2-ounce Strike King Structure jig, or a 1/2-ounce Strike King Hack Attack flipping jig – but he caught a few key fish on a Strike King square-bill crankbait (chartreuse with a black back) as well.

"One deal I had was fishing rock with no cover," Hackney said. "I used that Structure jig because it comes through rocks so well. And I flipped the mats that were real shallow (with the Hack Attack jig), mats in maybe a foot of water.

"I think the dirty water was what was holding these fish in there – big, postspawn fish."