Fog delay

Fog has delayed start of the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship fish-off. The six remaining anglers in the field were due to launch at 6:45 a.m .CST from the 101 Boat Dock in Mountain Home, Ark. but poor visibility pushed the start back. 


With air temperatures in the teens and water temperatures in the 50's you can imagine the fog that is greeting the 6 individuals competing in the Classic Fish Off. Everyone has launched, but will all be waiting for a bit. Takeoff was expected at 6:45 so we are delayed 15 mins already, but tournament director Jon Stewart is heading out by water to check how the main lake looks. The anticipation builds for the 6 anglers

Top 5 coldest tournament day?

Amongst our database of fishing info may be cold temperature statistics, but if not that is fine as well. Anglers often have weather stories from tournaments that stick out in their mind and today is no exception. Day 1 of the Team Championship Classic Fish Off may go down as one of the Top 5 coldest tournament days ever as competitors and stars head to the ramp in 12 degree weather.

The first thing I thought of was the 2015 Geico Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell when it dropped to 9 degrees at one point. The 6 anglers will definitely earn the final Classic spot today and Friday.

A late day cull

A late Day 2 cull for Greg Bent and Brian Gottfried with Upstate Anglers in New York.

What's happening on Norfork

The sun is shining brightly over Norfork Lake in the northernmost stretch of central Arkansas, but that’s about the only thing keeping the frigid conditions bearable for anglers competing in the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship.

The high temperature in nearby Mountain Home, Ark., is expected to be 36 degrees today, and that’s at 4 p.m. – only an hour before the sun sets. The mercury stayed below freezing most of the morning and is expected to climb to about 32 degrees Fahrenheit for only a four-hour stretch beginning at 1 p.m. today.

That’s likely making today’s bite sluggish for the 300-plus anglers in the team championship, said Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologist Jeremy Risley. He often works on this chain of mountain impoundments in the northern part of the state (he braved the icy weather on Bull Shoals today for a habitat project), and he grew up in Mountain Home. In fact, Risley once worked part-time as a guide on Norfork Lake.

So what’s happening out there?

“The bite slows down anywhere after a cold front like the one we had on Monday night and Tuesday morning,” Risley said. “The bass were biting pretty good the week before, but it always takes a while for things to get back to normal after a front like that. The second day (after) is always the hardest.”

Today is that second day, which means there could be some frustrated (and frosty) anglers at the 101 Boat Dock for today’s weigh-in, scheduled to begin at 2:45 p.m. CST.

But there’s hope, Risley said, especially for the three teams (six anglers) who will compete in the second part of this event – a two-day tournament in which each angler will fish individually for a shot in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods next March.

“As the weather starts to warm up a little bit, the bass should start biting,” he said. “The way these lakes work, it takes the fish some time to get acclimated to the cold. They probably fed a lot leading up to the front and don’t need to eat right now. But they will soon, so they should catch fish tomorrow and over the weekend.”

Risley said a football jig in about 30-35 feet of water is the bait/depth of choice for extreme weather on Norfork Lake. He said some locals may have already made the switch to spoons in search of the biggest bass this 22,000-acre mountain impoundment has to offer.

A solid limit

Ryan Butler and Dustin Lippe are making a charge with a solid limit early and lots of room to cull.

Day 1 issues, no problem

The first place team of David and Sean Mulkey had their fair share of problems on Day 1 of the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship, but their patience paid dividends with more than 15 pounds on Norfork Lake. The father/son team had mechanical issues and were basically dead in the water. The wind pushed them towards a bluff bank, and they begin to just fish down that bank. Little did they know they would be leading the tournament off that area, a spot they vaguely knew, but patience paid off. 

They are from Missouri so a friend came to their aid and gave them a boat to use on Day 2 of competition. Immediately after takeoff that motor had a malfunction, and they can only idle today. I found them roughly 30 minutes ago, and they had only been fishing for a brief time. They don't have a keeper yet, but they have caught a short fish in the little time they have fished. Maybe this is another sign that they're supposed to be patient and fish this area thoroughly once again, but otherwise their lead may be in jeopardy with their lack of mobility. 

Three in the livewell

Fish no. 3 for Greg Bent and Brian Gottfried of Upstate Anglers in New York.