Stephen Browning grew up fishing near home on the Arkansas River. He moved to Hot Springs the first chance he got because so many of the bass pros he was reading about lived in that area.
“I felt there had to be some kind of magic there,” Browning says.
As much as Browning enjoys fishing the reservoirs around Hot Springs, he dotes on 29,000-acre Millwood Lake in Arkansas’ southwest corner. Giant largemouth of 10 pounds and more reside in Millwood’s sloughs and oxbows.
“It’s a cool place,” Browning says. “There are gators there that could eat a horse.”
Browning calls Millwood a “stump-rich environment.” Countless cypress trees line the lake’s shallow sloughs. Many of the trees have broken off at the waterline. Their stumps are bass magnets, but they have also been the demise of many lower units, Browning warns.
Come springtime, Browning starts out in Bagley Slough on the western side of the lake. Its stumpy perimeter drops from roughly 3 feet into 6 to 8 feet of water. Browning triggers hard strikes by banging an orange/brown LiveTarget 60S Crawfish square bill crankbait over the knees of the cypress trees with a St. Croix Mojo Glass cranking rod and 16-pound Gamma Fluorocarbon.
A black-blue-purple 3/8-ounce flipping jig also puts Browning in touch with Millwood’s heavyweights. He tips the jig with a plastic chunk and pitches it to the stumps with a flippin’ rod and 20-pound fluorocarbon.
“You can hit 10 different targets before you need to move the boat,” Browning says.
When the bass are aggressive and willing to chase, Browning seines stumpy dropoffs with a 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait sporting a chartreuse-and-white skirt and gold-and-silver willowleaf blades.
As the bass get serious about spawning, they migrate to the shallow end of a slough or up onto a flat near the lip of a slough. Most of the beds are adjacent to stumps. You normally can’t see the spawning bass in the fertile water. The challenge is to find which of the many stumps hold a bass and where that bass is in relation to the stump.
Browning picks apart the maze by casting, flipping and pitching a 6-inch Texas rigged green pumpkin Z-Man LizardZ with a 1/4-ounce bullet weight. He hops it around stumps and swims it over scattered patches of hydrilla and peppergrass.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Millwood produces the next state record largemouth,” Browning says.