How many fish were caught at Dardanelle?

During the GoPro Bassmaster Elite at Dardanelle presented by Econo Lodge the fishing was tough due to high water and muddy conditions. But the Elite pros still caught plenty of fish. Here's a look at the total number five fish limits each day, the fish totals, and cumulative weight. The average bass caught during the June 2-5 tournament was 2 pounds, 5 ounces.

Totals:
Day#Anglers#Limits#Fish Weight
110980 487 1,213-10
210965 451 1,080-13
35143 242 621-14
412 6 51 133-03
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194 1,231 3,049-08

The breakwall

Hours before the weigh-in, families are spending their Monday afternoon fishing along the break wall. The young angler on the right reports one fish caught via spinnerbait in the last hour.

Winning on the last cast

In following Brandon Palaniuk on the final day at Sam Rayburn, I got a new perspective on how close to the bell an Elite Series angler will play this game. Palaniuk caught what would ultimately be the winning fish, a 5-11, at 2:36 p.m., facing a 3 p.m. check-in time. Then he made another cast, caught another bass that didn't help him.

I thought for sure he was done then. It was only about two miles to the check-in dock, but the wind had raised some big-ass whitecaps between where he was and where he needed to be at 3:00. There's a 1-pound penalty for every minute of tardiness. And it was 2:50. So Palaniuk made another cast.

Of course, Palaniuk didn't know he was in first place, when he finally, finally took off for check-in. We followed at considerably less speed. When we arrived, there was Palaniuk making yet another cast or two in the final minute of his day. I asked Palaniuk yesterday about playing it so close to the penalty line.

"I feel like every cast you make gives you an opportunity," he said. "You never know, even if it's a place around the ramp that I've never fished. You never know when you'll catch one that will help. I've always been a guy that pushes it until the very end."

Then he added this: "I've won way more tournaments on my last cast than I have on my first cast." Palaniuk explained that going back to his local tournament days, he's probably won seven or eight tournaments on his final cast of the day.

Whether it's Palaniuk, who's fishing on Day 4 again this week, or someone else, this tournament could come down to the last cast, at the last minute.

Davis vs. Kennedy

The bane of BASSTrakk happens when a tournament comes down to the wire. The unofficial scoring app shows Mark Davis and Steve Kennedy locked in a dead tie with 60 pounds, 12 ounces.

Davis is feeling the dark cloud of his self-proclaimed nemesis known as Lake Dardanelle follow him around again. He is restless, talking out loud about what he needs to do, which is catch a 5-pounder. Davis is moving around more than usual, rotating between the quarry and deeper areas.

Meanwhile, Kennedy is staying put and for good reason. He just put inside the livewell a largemouth weighing at least 5 pounds (likely more).

Could that be the winning bass?

If so it brings to an end a long drought for Kennedy. His last win came in 2011 at the Elite Series event held on West Point Lake, the Georgia impoundment where he learned to fish competitively with his father, Van.

We've got another barnburner

The last Elite Series event, at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, was as down-to-the-wire a finish as you're likely to see. Facing a 3 p.m. check-in time, Brent Ehrler took the lead with a 5-pound, 11-ounce bass at 2:30, then Brandon Palaniuk responded with a 5-11 of his own at 2:36, which proved to be the tournament clincher.

However, we're headed for a tight one again today, and this race has many more contenders. In fact, even at the noon hour, no one in the top 12 is out of it. Yes, there are some guys struggling, but anglers can get well quick here, like Mike Iaconelli did yesterday afternoon.

Matt Lee was in 12th place starting the day, but he was only 6 pounds, 2 ounces behind leader Mark Davis. That's hardly an insurmountable deficit, and 10 other guys started with less weight to make up.

Davis hasn't put any major pressure on the other contenders with his 12-0 limit so far today. He's said from the start that he believes 16 pounds-a-day will win this tournament. So 64-0 is a number to keep in mind. Davis still needs 3 1/2 pounds to reach it.

As tough and inconsistent at Lake Dardanelle has been, it has still produced big bags of 19-3, 19-4 and 18-14 the last three days. Another bag like that or bigger is well within the possibility at this fishery. That's all to say this tournament is still wide open.

Kennedy on a fun roll

I’ve followed the tournaments now for 40 years and in recent years have really enjoyed watching Steve Kennedy. The reason? He always has fun even in the heat of the competition. You can see it. On any given hookup, no matter the consequences, he will likely light up with a smile and a chuckle. If there is anyone who loves this job of cast-for-cash angling it’s Kennedy.

He’s having a lot of fun this week on Lake Dardanelle, doing what he does best. That is catching bass in shallow water. He is doing that with a rotation of shallow water lures. Here is the lineup.

His rotation includes a 3/4-ounce D&L Tackle Advantage Jig, white or green pumpkin, with a matching 2-inch Zoom Super Chunk. Kennedy is fishing that lure swim-jig style. For flipping individual cover he picks up a 3.5-inch Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver rigged with a 3/4-ounce tungsten weight. For big bass early he uses a 2.5-inch Spro Dean Rojas Bronzeye Frog 65, Natural Green.

Kennedy needs a high finish, despite the fun. After Day 3 he ranked 52nd in the Toyota Angler of the Year standings.

Davis fishing to close the deal

Mark Davis has said since Day 1 that he needs 16 pounds each day to win this tournament. That includes today. He just switched to a totally new tactic.

Davis is fishing along a line of vegetation using a Strike King flipping bait. The object, obviously, is picking off a single quality bass.

“I’m fishing for a five-pounder to win the tournament,” he said.

That is a wise strategy at this point in the game. BASSTrakk shows Davis with 60-8 and Kevin VanDam with 59-3.

Big change for Davis

Mark Davis has been working moving baits all day, beginning with the first spot that's been so productive for him this week. The sun broke out and he got a few bites, culled once or twice, and now there's more rain moving in. And things have slowed.

He's relocated to he main river north of Shoal Bay and is flipping the reeds, something he's not done much of this week.

He has a narrowing lead according to BASStrakk, but he's certainly not comfortable with where he's at. But one big fish could seal the deal on this thing.

Davis still has plenty of time, and he's been making all the right decisions this week. I'm sure this fits into his game plan and should produce.

Lee: "Reminded me of myself"

"I met Tylor after Dardanelle weigh-in. He didn't want to watch weigh-in; he wanted to fish. Reminded me of myself, so I gave him my rod, reel, and jig that I caught my fish on today. His mother emailed me this picture of this big one he caught after everyone left. Made my day!"

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