River, floods and AOY, oh my

A quick look at the upcoming Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Arkansas River at Little Rock creates more questions than it does answers.

There is simply no other tournament in recent memory that has so much hinging on it, while also having so many unpredictable scenarios. Despite the gray beard and the cranky disposition, I am not so old I’ve started forgetting things, yet.

I know for a fact I am much younger than Barone.

I can say with a clear memory the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race has never been closer than it is right now.

Take the top 15 or so anglers in the AOY standings, throw in the fickle nature of bass, the craziest weather patterns of the decade (I’d say century, but then again I’m not that old), add in the slips and slides of tournament standings, an unpredictable river system, shake up all that in a dice cup and roll it. The first angler out of the cup wins the title.

That would be a dicey way of getting a champion. Even KVD doesn’t seem so invincible in the face of all that could, and probably will, go on the next few weeks.

While a lot of attention is being placed on the top three to five in the AOY standings (they are less than 20 points apart), truth is it’s so unpredictable it boggles the mind.

The top 15 are separated by less than 200 points, not much to make up or lose in two events. Two top 10 finishes for the 15th-place angler and two 35th or worse finishes for the rest of those guys, and the whole standings are turned upside down.

It can happen on the Arkansas River, a body of water that is simply the most unpredictable fishery these anglers have faced in some time, what with its varying currents of water flow and water levels created by Mother Nature and the Corps of Engineers.

If it has one redeeming quality; it may be the easiest fishery to pattern for anglers of this caliber. The only problem is the pattern to catching fish can change daily, even hourly, depending on what Mother Nature and the Corps of Engineers decides to do daily or even hourly with the current.

Currently (pun intended), the river is flooded and flowing at a rate that B.A.S.S. tournament officials would not be able to hold the event (somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 cubic feet per second). But that flood of rain, brought about by the slug of water produced by the storms that hit Joplin, Mo., will quickly subside. The river should be in good shape to fish in a few days (somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000 cfs).

Still, every day Elite anglers wake up wondering if they will be fishing the Arkansas River at Little Rock, or if the latest blast of storms has sent a surge of water that will force a move like last year, when the Elites were taken off the same river in Oklahoma at the last minute. It could easily happen.

The river could be in good shape on the first day of practice with sunny skies all around. And one big storm in Oklahoma on that same day or any after could send a rise of water that would force a move. It’s kind of like wondering if the wind will blow on Lake Erie.

With that backdrop, predicting weather patterns would be easier than predicting an AOY champion. Statistics don’t mean a thing. Jim Cantore might have handle on it, but no one else would come close.

The only thing that will matter is the fish you catch and the ounces you gain. I say “ounces” because that will be how close any event on the Arkansas River will be, especially in terms of gaining needed points to move up the standings.

As the event approaches, we are left uncertain it will take place on a fishery that changes consistently, where water flow or current is the great equalizer in a field more accustomed to fishing structure and open water lakes. And all this while the AOY standings are tighter than they’ve ever been.

It’s almost like those great Bassmaster Classics of old, complete with a mystery lake and anything can happen. I am old enough to remember those.

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