Mt. Ida’s Mark Davis began guiding at Lake Ouachita while attending high school in nearby Hot Springs. Upon graduation, he moved to this pristine 40,000-acre lake and has resided there ever since. Named one of the cleanest lakes in America, Ouachita has a natural, undeveloped shoreline that spans 975 miles.
“I quit guiding when I won the Bassmaster Classic in 1995,” Davis says. “I still fish Ouachita between tournaments to stay sharp.”
Davis favors Big and Little Blakely creeks on the lower end of Ouachita in springtime. The water is clearer there and submerged vegetation, mainly hydrilla, is more prominent and grows to depths of 15 to 20 feet.
“When the water temperature is in the low 50s, I look for the healthiest, greenest grass I can find along the northern shorelines,” Davis says.
Davis crushes the bass by twitching a Strike King KVD Slash Bait jerkbait over the grass. Clipping the top of the grass with a 3/4-ounce lipless rattling crankbait in a red crawfish pattern is another deadly tactic.
As Ouachita warms, the bass rise in the water column to soak in the sun. Davis picks them off with a 7-inch straight-tail worm rigged wacky style on a 2/0 straight-shank worm hook. A 6-foot, 10-inch Lew’s medium action spinning rod and 8-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon line allow Davis to cast the light worm with precision.
“Sunning bass are spooky,” Davis says. “You have to make long, accurate casts to cover.”
The cover is typically grass, windfalls and timber, which could be standing in water as deep as 25 feet. Davis lets the wacky worm sink next to the cover for five to eight seconds on a slack line. Then he tightens the line to see if a bass has inhaled the worm. If not, he shakes the worm and lets it sink a few more feet before reeling it in.
“That wacky worm catches bass for me right through the spawn and when bass are guarding their fry,” Davis adds.
The topwater bite is hot at Ouachita from late May until about the third week in June, Davis points out. He concentrates on the midlake area north and south of Buckville. The bass suspend over points that are 20 to 30 feet long and drop sharply into depths of 100 feet or more.
“That’s when I go to work with a big dog-walking stickbait,” Davis says.
When the topwater bite dies, Davis grabs his flippin’ stick and arms it with 50-pound braided line. He knots the line to a plum 10-inch worm with a 3/4-ounce tungsten bullet weight or a 1 1/8-ounce green pumpkin jig dressed with a Strike King Rodent.
“I pitch those baits into the outside edges of the hydrilla,” Davis says. “If the bait hits bottom without a bite, I shake it a few times and reel in.”