LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Scott Rook gave the term "home waters" a whole new meaning in the process of qualifying second among the top 12 pro anglers who advanced to the semifinals of the Bassmaster Legends tournament presented by Goodyear on the Arkansas River.
"I can see my house from where I was fishing," said Rook.
The 45-year-old Little Rock resident was considered one of the favorites coming into this tournament because he knows this part of the Arkansas River so well.
"I've fished Tuesday night tournaments down here every other week since like 1990," Rook said.
But in running 30 minutes off the main river up Little Maumelle Creek to a small neighborhood lake, Rook took "home waters" to a unique meaning. It's a place where he has taken his nephews fishing many times. His wife, Kathy, walked along the bank the last two days to observe how her husband was faring in this tournament, which pays $250,000 to the winner.
"I've gone down there and fished off the bank with my nephews," Rook said. "We catch 'em. There's always somebody catching a three- or four-pounder down there. Fishing with crickets and catching a three-pounder. So I knew there were a lot of fish in there."
Rook was in second place Thursday with a five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 13 ounces. He knew he probably needed only one more fish Friday to make the cut from 55 anglers to the top 12. But at 11 o'clock he didn't have a fish in the boat. Rook said he was definitely getting nervous at that point. But the 30-minute run up the creek includes some idle time when he's negotiating his boat through cypress knees, so there wasn't any turning back.
"About 11 o'clock I made a change," Rook said. "I went from a worm to a Baby Brushhog. Immediately I caught a keeper. Four or five casts later, I caught another keeper. I ended up catching the three keepers I had (Friday). I ran out of there at 12:30."
And it was with the weight of the world lifted off his shoulders that Rook made the half-hour journey back to the main river. With three bass in the boat, Rook knew he'd made the cut to the top 12, and that's all he could ask for in a year which has been, in his own words, less than stellar.
"It's my hometown, number one," said Rook. "My biggest sponsor, Alltel, has its corporate headquarters right on the main river. This is my first year with them, so yeah, I felt a lot of pressure. I'm trying to keep my sponsorship deal. This was real good."
Rook's neighborhood lake hasn't been one of those places he's frequented in the many local tournaments he's fished on the Arkansas River. But, as Rook mentioned, someone is always catching a good-size bass there. In fact, one neighbor caught a six-pounder there a couple of years ago.
"I took my nephews down there a couple of months ago," Rook said. "They caught two 15-inchers. That's what got me interested in the place."
With the fishing so tough on the Arkansas River this week, even someone as experienced on these waters as Rook needed a secret weapon. His little neighborhood lake was definitely a secret.
"It's connected to the main river and everything, but it's not on the GPS (maps)," Rook said. "I think that's what saved me. Alton Jones even flew over the entire creek Sunday. I asked him if he saw that little lake and he said no."
During practice, Rook realized it was the place where he'd start fishing when the tournament began.
"I went in there Tuesday at noon just to see if I could get some bites," Rook said. "I had six or seven bites. I thought I might be able to catch three keepers in there, then find two more somewhere else. That was my game plan.
"(Thursday) in 15 or 20 minutes I had three keepers. I was like, wow, I'm going to hang out in here. Then I caught one close to five pounds, and I was amazed.
"Right before I had to leave, I caught my fifth one. I thought, well, there's a few more in there. I pounded it pretty hard (Friday) to get what I had."
Rook weighed-in 6-8 Friday to give him his two-day total of 19-5.
The neighborhood lake won't be a factor Saturday when the tournament switches to a "hole course" on the main river at Little Rock. But Rook isn't exactly leaving home waters when he abandons the neighborhood lake.
"I know that section of the river probably better than all these guys combined," Rook said. "This is where I fish. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything because all these guys are good fishermen."