Hamilton’s narrow miss

Skylar Hamilton encountered an unavoidable situation often faced during summertime tournaments.

He got caught in a pop-up thunderstorm. Call what happened divine intervention, coincidence, or both.

The rain intensified and forced Hamilton to shut down his boat in the middle of the river.

“It was coming down so hard that I had to stop to wipe the water out of my sunglasses,” he said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to see.”

 When the boat came to a stop, Hamilton looked up to see the bright spotlights of a commercial barge. He was only 10 feet away and nearing a head-on collision.

 “I was able to throttle the engine and get out of the way, just in time.”

 Hamilton believes the situation would have turned out much worse had he not stopped to clean his glasses.

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Davis’ nemesis

Compare the scoreboard between yesterday and Day 2 and nearly one-half of the names are new. That is a prediction that is coming true at Lake Dardanelle. The reason?

“This lake, personality wise, has a mind all it’s own,” said Mark Davis, who is one of the new names in the Top 12. “It’s not known for being reliable or consistent.”

The Arkansan from nearby Mount Ida fished local tournaments here long before his B.A.S.S. career began in 1986. Then, and now, Dardanelle is at the bottom of his list of favored tournament sites.

“Dardanelle has always been my nemesis,” he admitted. “It’s a good lake but the fish are not virgins when it comes to seeing lures.”

 Davis said the bass have a high IQ when it comes to fishing pressure. They are accustomed to seeing repetition in lures, tactics. Community holes are popular and so are tournaments.

 “Back in the day it was typical for me to have a great practice and bad tournament,” he said. “Just like a lot of guys are finding out here, its good today and bad the next.”

 Davis knows all too well. He hopes to erase some of the dislike for Dardanelle on Day 3.

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Weigh in time

Fishing fans gather to watch who'll make the cut and move on the Day 3 of the GoPro Bassmaster Elite at Dardenelle presented by Econo Lodge. 

Photo by Bassmaster Marshal John Davis

Swindle plays til the whistle

Gerald Swindle simply ran out of time at Lake Dardanelle in 2014 when he finished second by four ounces to winner Jason Christie. He was catching bass - good ones - on almost every cast in the last 30 minutes on the final day. He's seen that late bite be a major factor previously on the Arkansas River - in 2011 at Little Rock.

"I caught two big ones at the end of the day when Denny (Brauer) won and I finished third," Swindle recalled Friday.

So he was fully focused in the final hour yesterday when he caught a 5-11 and a 4-pounder at Lake Dardanelle. Those two fish accounted for more than half his weight in a 16-11 bag that put him in 11th place. You know Swindle will "play 'til the whistle blows" today, as the football expression goes.

"When it got to 2 o'clock, I said, stay settled because there's something about this lake and this river system," he recalled. "They seem to bite late every time. So I do know the history of this river. It's kind of a vote of confidence. It makes you stay focused and see what happens."

Swindle needs another late flurry. BASSTrakk currently shows him with four fish weighing 6-4 today.

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Storm rolling in

A nasty looking storm cloud rolling in at the end of the day. As the conditions have changed the pros are breaking out rain gear,

Photos by Bassmaster Marshall Rodney Gray and Delana Meiers

DeFoe: "Listen to Grandpa"

Yesterday Ott DeFoe reminded me of one of the simple fundamentals we learn about fishing, especially when it gets passed down. 

“Rule number one taught to me by my grandpa was never leave fish behind.”

The question came up when posing it to DeFoe about junk fishing. There is much of that going on this week. 

What DeFoe meant was the common shortfall of fishing too fast when junk fishing. Potentially passing over fish is the result. Using the tactic means using multiple outfits, sometimes a dozen, in a rotation. Changing lures and speeding up the process until you find the best choice is an easy temptation.

Being thorough is how DeFoe overcomes the temptation to fish too fast.

Lake Dardanelle is recovering from a flood of clay-enriched, muddy water coming downstream from Oklahoma. A recent period of heavy rain caused it all. The water went up, is coming down, and the main river channel remains muddy, while the creeks are clearing up. 

Bass don’t like too much mud and current. Hence, the perfect storm for a junk fishing tournament. Junk fishing might just become even trendier here as the weather continues to change. 

DeFoe likes to keep a multiple-lure rotation in play instead of emptying the tacklebox. He’s doing that now and the selection of baits and tactics are keeping him within range of the Top 12.  

Storms coming

The latest radar summary shows pop-up storms brewing in the area. Movement is from the south at 5 mph. The storms dissipate not long after forming. What that means for Lake Dardanelle is cloud cover. Depending on how long it hangs around that could influence the patterns and presentations of the anglers.

Caption this

We asked our Instagram fans to caption this photo of Jason Christie from Day 1 of the GoPro Bassmaster Elite at Dardanelle presented by Econo Lodge. The Elite angler won our last event on this lake, but he weighed in 10 pounds, 6 ounces to land in 65th on Day 1.
Here are some of our favorite captions from our Instagram fans.
Please add your caption in the comments below!

ali.christie"I wonder if I'll be able to make it to my daughters all state game tomorrow"

sjcorpstI think there's way too many snakes for top water.

nick_bot_15When the bites so tough even the marshals are confused

trevor_topkenMarshal: U thinking what I'm thinking? Jason: Yup. Lunchtime

frsabanWatch this.. off the tree, off the rock, perfect cast.. using only one hand

collin_bodeDid you put the plug in

kale.07Jason: I wonder if KVD is caught any big ones guy: I wonder if they have sandwiches after

sagecon8Trying to act interested in someone's "it got away" story like..

basslaxterThe thinker cast

bubba_crosby"And then I bit the hook, just like this, and ripped it out of my hand"

jenntilghman....if only the fish would bite like these buffalo gnats and mayflies!

henryravensYou said last cast...

tmaagHow do I turn HOtt Defoe into Cold Defoe??

useless.picsI'm hung, don't look at, think about it real hard and maybe it will come loose by itself

terrywatsonfishingI wonder if that tastes like yoohoo.

rosswagerDid i put on my lucky underwear?..... i bet he has lucky underwear !

forestkirchnerHow many mayflies can you fit in your mouth

dstory28It was deep enough when we came back here!!??!!

jeffholmes18Jason, you said a booger race would be fun....and they ain't gonna be nobody around to see it.

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"Now we're cookin' with gas"

After a decent Day 1 on Lake Dardanelle, Matt Lee headed out in search of a bag that would secure his spot in the Top 50, allowing him to fish on Day 3. Not only did Matt find the fish he was looking for, but he's on some good ones! With a loud snap Matt set the hook on a 4-pound largemouth, turning the crank on his reel over only twice before boat flipping the fish. "Now we're cookin' with gas!!"

Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Tad Huff 

Clean water pushing out of creeks

According to my boat driver this week, Jerry Williams--a name you should know from the days of the Bassmaster Top 100s and 150s--when clean water begins pushing from the creeks into the main river channel, the bite generally really picks up.

It's happening right now, and there is a very distinct mud line at the mouth of nearly every creek where the cleaner water is pushing further out into the main lake.

Jerry also mentioned that the main lake, while still muddy, has improved dramatically since last week. He said the field of pro anglers should have a strong afternoon as the improving water conditions should position the fish in more predictable areas.

If the Dardanelle area manages to avoid heavy rainfall in the coming days, the semi-final round and Championship Monday should be very exciting.

Time will tell.