RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — As predicted, the fishing was better on Lake Dardanelle than was evident at Thursday's weigh-in on the opening day of the Bassmaster Legends presented by Ramada Worldwide.
Terry Scroggins said at the launch Thursday morning, "I'm going to get 40 or 50 bites today. I'm going to catch a lot of fish, and, hopefully, I have five good ones at the end of the day."
It was amazing how many anglers said Thursday afternoon that they caught 50 bass during the first day of competition. All of them had, as proof, a scarred up thumb from catching and releasing fish.
"I would say I caught 50-plus," said Jared Lintner, who weighed only four bass, one short of the daily limit, that totaled 8 pounds, 11 ounces.
The largemouth bass 15-inch minimum length limit regulation on the Arkansas River almost drove Lintner and some other pros crazy.
"I went through a stretch where I caught 13 in a row and every one of them measured between 14 1/2 and 14 7/8ths," said Lintner, who is in 34th place. "I was calling my shots. I said there's going to be one right there, and there's going to be one right there.
"I just couldn't get a big one today. I'll get them tomorrow."
Lintner caught his fish on a 10-inch plastic worm. He did throw the 15-inch worm that he mentioned at Thursday's take off, but with no positive results.
"I pulled that out, and actually caught the smallest fish of the day on it," Lintner said.
Scott Rook, who lives in nearby Little Rock, 90 miles down the Arkansas River from Russellville, stands in 15th place with 12-13 after Day One. Rook won this event when it was held in Little Rock last year.
"I probably caught 50 fish today," Rook said. "I had 15 keepers, but I caught a lot of short fish."
Kevin VanDam also estimated his first-day total catch at 50 bass. It included his first triple — three bass on one cast — all hooked on a Strike King Sexy Shad crankbait, which has two treble hooks. That's the same lure VanDam primarily relied on when he won the Sooner Run at Grand Lake in June.
"There's a lot of fish biting," said VanDam, who is seventh with 15-15. "It's just hard to go out there and get those quality bites right now.
"I probably had three doubles today, plus the first triple I've ever caught in my life. When you get into the areas where fish are, they're biting. That's what they do in the summer. They'll get on a drop, and they'll just be sitting there stacked up, feeding on shad."
VanDam's triple didn't figure into the five-fish limit he brought to the weigh-in stand at Lake Dardanelle State Park.
"They weren't even keepers," VanDam said. "They were all probably 14- to 14 3/4-inch fish."
It should be pointed out that no one was complaining about the 15-inch minimum length limit. Arkansas Game & Fish Commission fisheries biologists put that regulation in place based on a wide variety of data collected from Lake Dardanelle. The complaints were over the fact that so many of the bass caught Thursday were too close to the 15-inch mark to simply release without taking a measurement first.
Dave Wolak realized at the end of the day he would have had more fishing time if he hadn't used so much of it measuring fish. That comment was made mostly in sarcasm. But Wolak said of the 20 fish he caught Thursday, "probably 10 were between 14 1/2 and 15 inches."
Wolak had only four keepers. He's in 28th place with 10-8.
Gary Klein was another member of the "50 fish club" Thursday. He had nine keepers in the bunch and weighed a limit totaling 11-15 that has him in 19th place.
Dean Rojas didn't quite make the 50 mark, but he was happier than some who did.
"This is a fabulous fishery," said Rojas, who is in ninth place with 14-8. "I probably caught about 45 today, probably 15 keepers, easy. I can't wait until tomorrow."
Rojas said he threw his signature Spro Frog topwater lure all day long.
"It's the only bait to throw," he said. "For here and to catch the size you need, it's great."
But Timmy Horton topped everyone with his story of hitting the century mark in one hole.
"I'm not exaggerating," Horton said. "I caught 100 fish off one spot. They were mostly 12 inches, but I kept catching 'em and catching 'em.
"It's not a current spot. It's actually the mouth of a bay. It's in a slack water area. There's some mussel shells there and a lot of shad.
"It was pretty neat, pretty neat."
Horton had to go to some other places on the lake to catch some bigger fish. He finished the day in fourth place with 16-5. There were some good-size bass in the "hundred hole," but he had to work to get to them.
All of his fish there came on either a Carolina-rigged Yum lizard or a Fat Free Shad crankbait.
"The most frustrating thing is, you literally have to get the little ones off of it, and then you can start catching some of the better ones," Horton said. "You've got to catch 'em, catch 'em, catch 'em. I started throwing a Carolina rig instead of a crankbait because I could get them off quicker.
"You could catch 'em just as good on a Fat Free (Shad). It was every throw, but on some of (the crankbait fish) it was a little harder to unhook them. That Carolina rig, with just one hook, it was easier to get 'em off."
When asked to show the thumb and index finger he uses to unhook fish, Horton held up two hands that looked like they'd been in a cat fight.
"They're history," he said, smiling through the pain.