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.