Little Rock, Ark. — Scott Rook was supposed to win this one. He's the local hot-hand on the Arkansas River. He broke the hometown jinx, but it wasn't easy.
"I was really confident going in and knew the fishing was going to be tough. I had several main river patterns that I though I could catch some fish with. Normally this time of the year the topwater bait is the big bite. I can go out there and get behind those sand bar drops and find the shad. The fish are more on sand at this time of year instead of rocks and wood. This is the toughest year I've ever seen on the river, and I really wasn't getting my topwater bite and really didn't have anything going.
"I fished in Pool 7 during practice and caught a couple of keepers of some underwater dikes, and had somewhat of a pattern working but wasn't real strong.
"Tuesday morning I came and fished the upper end of the Little Rock Pool and the lower end of the Little Rock Pool and really struggled. I didn't catch any keepers at all. At about noon I pulled out and went to a lake in the neighborhood that I live that is connected to the river. I've got some brush piles out in it and I take my nephew out there and he catches some 2-pounders out of it. Another guy who lives in there claims he catches 3- to 5-pounders in it all the time.
"So I went up there fished around and in 40 minutes had six or seven bites. I hooked one of them and it was a 2 ½-pounder, and then I pulled a couple more up and they were short fish. I got another one that maybe felt like it was a good fish, and right then I decided that if I didn't get anything else going I was going to come back there the first day. I thought if I could get me two or three keepers out of there I could maybe pick up a couple more off those underwater dikes on the main river.
"It's a 30-minute run from the lock to the lake because there are a lot of stumps, logs and cypress trees. I pulled in there the first morning and I hadn't even got in the pond yet, just in the creek, and I caught a keeper. As soon as I got in the pond there were little clumps of coontail grass growing on the banks and I caught a 3-pounder in that. I said, 'alright, I'm here 10 minutes and I've got two keepers.'
"I went about another 10 minutes and caught another keeper, so I've got three in the first 30 minutes of fishing. I'm thinking now that I'm not going to go back to the river, I'm just going to stay in here and see if I can get a few more bites. I lost one. Then the sun came out and it got tough. Around 11 o'clock or so I caught my fourth keeper. I milled around some more in the lake and with about 15 minutes to go I caught my fifth and final keeper.
"That gave me 12 or 13 pounds so I'm figuring I need one fish to make the cut. Day Two, I go back in the lake and fished and fished and fished without anything. I caught all of my fish on the first day with an 8-inch worm. I fished that worm round and round in there the second day and couldn't get anything. I changed to a Berkley Bungee Hog and immediately caught a fish. It was 11 o'clock and I finally had my first keeper. Then about five casts later I caught another one. That's what I ended up catching my three fish on in there during the second day.
"I made the cut so I figured I'm not going to be doing a lot of flipping and pitching shallow like that because the water was clear. I rigged up all these baits and try to make them deep. I ran around and fished a lot of my old holes and stuff the first four hours of the tournament, the first three holes, and didn't catch a keeper.
"The fourth hole I went in to Fourche Creek and started catching non-keepers and then caught one decent keeper. I came out of the river and applied what I had learned from some of those grass beds in the creek to the main river. The first fish I catch is like a 3-10, so I said, 'now I'm just going to start running this pattern.' So instead of fishing old holes, which is the hometown jinx, I've got something going on now. So I start jumping jetties and catch another keeper, so that was my three keepers for Day Three. These were all caught in the second half of the day.
"So today I go out and had a game plan to do what worked for me on Saturday. I wasn't going to try and find the fish deep like I had before, I was going to go after the more shallow fish.
"I started in Hole 1 and didn't get any bites. They had the water pulled down which is not good for flipping grass. My knowledge of the river let me know the further I went down the river the more stable the water level was going to be.
"I got into Hole 2 and caught a couple non-keepers, and then I lost a keeper. It was in some grass and that was the first keeper bite I had and lost it. I wasn't 50 yards from that spot and caught a keeper. I kind of had it going on then because I was catching a lot of 14 ¾-inch fish that were just shy. I had three or four of those, but it kept my confidence going because I was catching them out of the grass.
"After Hole 3 it was time to go to Hole 4 so I went back in the creek. I went back to a drainage pipe on a big concrete structure that comes off the airport where I had caught one keeper there yesterday. I pulled in there and got another keeper.
"The water level is down and normally when they drop it like that the fish get off the bank and get on something out there a little bit deeper. I started hitting all the laying logs in the middle of the creek and I ended up catching my best fish off one of those. I ran out of time by that point and I've got three keepers.
"I come out of there and start running my pattern on the jetties again, and the water is down even more than it was. Plus, I'm going back up the pool every hole and it's just getting down further and further. I decided for happy hour I was going back to the creek.
"I run back to the creek and I pull up and am going to fish some bridge pilings. There are three or four bridges in there that have concrete pilings in four or five foot of water. When I pull up to them I started catching them immediately. Somebody was locking through the lower dam and they had the current running. It will go out and then come back in so I had them feeding a little bit. I was whacking a lot of short fish, but then I ended up catching my fourth keeper. I had five keeper bites and landed four of them.
"It's so hard to win in your home town like this. Everybody you know is expecting you to win. 'Rook makes it to the cut and it's done,' that's a lot of pressure. It's unbelievable. This is my first year with Alltel and I've done my best, but have had not one of my best seasons. Without them I couldn't be doing this right now, what I love to do and it means a lot to be able to bring this home to them."