Junk fishing to the extreme

Todd Faircloth felt the frustration of so many other Elite Series pros during his two days on Lake Dardanelle. He finished Day 2 considerably less frustrated than he was after Day 1, but equally puzzled by the way this Arkansas River lake fished this week.

Faircloth, who entered this tournament 4th in the AOY race, was 97th after Day 1 with 4 keepers weighing 5-13. He literally turned around those numbers on Day 2, catching a 13-5 limit that vaulted him to 66th place.

"I just went fishing, fishing water I hadn't even practiced in," Faircloth said. "I caught one on a vibrating jig, and I'm like, okay. I pushed that for awhile and never got another bite. I picked up a squarebill (crankbait), threw it on some rocks, caught a keeper, pushed that for awhile and never got another bite. I picked up a flipping bait, pitched some grass and caught a keeper. I did that for an hour-and-a-half and never got another bite.

"As a competitive angler, you want to pattern fish. You want to be able to duplicate a bite. And I know some of these guys are doing that here. But for me it was junk fishing to the extreme. I caught five keepers all day, and I caught them on four different baits."

So Faircloth's "junk fishing to the extreme" pattern was as follows: Catch one, put that rod down, go do something else, somewhere else.

Water wishes

The fortunate 51 that are fishing today might benefit from the isolated thunderstorms triggering flash flood warnings on Day 2. At least that is the hope of some of the top leaders.

"Hopefully the water will come up and trigger the bite," said Kevin VanDam to me this morning.

"Water level is a big key and staying current with where it's at is my priority," added Dean Rojas.

"I really want it for my afternoon bite," chimed in Mark Davis.

Davis is using a lipped lure in the afternoon, making precise casts and retrieving the lure so it tracks directly into a piece of current. That makes the fish hold tight to the cover. Find the cover, make a cast, catch a bass.

VanDam is running a lot of water and using multiple baits to key in on the presence of shad in shallow water. More water brings current, and that stimulates the food chain all around, from shad to bass. So it's no wonder he wants more water.

Same thing with Rojas. It's no secret anymore, nor a surprise, that he's fishing frog. More activity is good for applying his reaction lure.

They also just got their wishes. Heavy rainfall has started at the weigh-in site.

Kennedy's big one

Steve Kennedy lands a 3-pounder on Day 3 on Lake Dardanelle.

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BassCam: Browning makes a prediction

Stephen Browning in the LIVE studio, makes a prediction.

Dardanelle continues to rise

There's definitely a rising water pattern in effect on Lake Dardanelle this morning. It's been on a steady rise of 2/100ths of a foot per hour since 6 a.m., and is now .26 higher than it was yesterday at 2 p.m., according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reading at Dardanelle Lock & Dam.

While that doesn't sound like much - about 3 inches since yesterday afternoon - it translates into a big factor in the shallow backwater areas of the Arkansas River, especially considering there was a falling water trend in the previous 24 hours.

Rojas' frog tip

We just learned a valuable fishing tip from Dean Rojas on Bassmaster LIVE.

The textbook technique for fishing a topwater frog is casting out the lure, snapping the rod tip and imparting the lifelike swimming action of the real thing. Long casts are the norm, to cover a large surface area of frog-like habitat.

Rojas is doing different. Years ago he discovered on this very Arkansas River the frog produces well using a flipping and pitching technique. He does that when bass are buried beneath thick grass beds along a shoreline.

Mechanics of the technique are pitching the frog onto the surface of the vegetation and simply giving it a shake.

“You can flip a soft plastic lure into the same area but the frog is less likely to get hung up,” he explained.

And most of all, pressured bass like those on Lake Dardanelle get fooled by an obscure technique.

Rojas, famous for his frog design innovations, designed the frog he’s using now. That is a Spro Dean Rojas Bronzeye Frog 65.

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Lane, the limit machine

It’s a challenge to catch a 5-bass limit every day of a given tournament in the Bassmaster Elite Series. What’s even more challenging is keeping such a streak alive over consecutive event days. The list of anglers, and their streaks, is nothing short of impressive. Check out the list of anglers with consecutive limits by competition day. Leading is Kevin VanDam (57) from 2008-09. Bobby Lane (2008-09) and Bradley Roy (2015-17) both have 47 consecutive limits by competition day. Lane is a limit machine. The Florida pro is at 46 and counting with a streak dating back to 2015. Lane also stands to tie his own record. Skeet Reese has 42 limits from 2007-08. Four other anglers have also done 40 or 41.

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Davis' double punch tactic

Mark Davis says Lake Dardanelle is his nemesis, dating back to a botched AOY title earlier in his career. He might change his mind after what is panning out on the upper end of the lake.

Davis is fishing a textbook backwater area containing everything needed for a consistent day of fishing. Plentiful baitfish. Lots of current. Stained water, not too clear or muddy. He also is alone.

Consistency is the key word. We’ve already seen how difficult keeping a consistent streak is this week.

Davis is fishing two different areas and one of those is with a lure that has made him famous over the years. Yesterday he made a key discovery after catching 19 pounds from the area. Above all else, the reason for the fortunate find is confidence that a consistent population of fish inhabit the area.

“Sometimes we try to make it happen and you just can’t,” he told me. “Sometimes you have to slow down, let the fish come to you.”

Davis, by his easy going personality, never gets in a hurry no matter the task. Keeping a slow tempo has paid off for him before. It’s doing that here, too. Lure presentation is another key when he switches to his other spot.

“When the fish aren’t in a feeding mode there is a certain angle, a one-cast angle, that I must make with the crankbait,” he said. “It’s a one-cast deal where the bait must track directly over the piece of cover that iIm fishing at the time.”

Davis knows a thing or two abut how to make that happen. Boat position, a precise cast and the right retrieve are key.

“It takes time to figure out those mechanics when the presentation must be so precise,” he added.