Arkansas River in good shape for Central Open finale

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — The Arkansas River is shaping up nicely for local angler Chris Jones to repeat last year's performance when he won the Central Open here.
The river conditions for the 2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open presented by Allstate finale Sept. 11-13 are similar to last September’s tournament, which was held a week later. “There is a little bit more water flowing this year than there was last year,” Jones said. “There has been cooler weather, so they haven’t been generating quite as much and have been holding water back. There is a little bit of current still in the river, which is uncommon for this time of the year.
“The current could be a deciding factor, especially if you know what areas have current and when the current kicks on,” Jones said.
The Bokoshe, Okla., angler has observed the water clarity on the river is in better shape this year. “It is a little cleaner with a little bit more grass and vegetation than there has been in previous years,” he said. “It is shaping up to be a good tournament.”
The water temperature is usually in the 90-degree range this time of the year, but it has ranged in mid- to upper 80s because of this summer’s cooler weather. “We have been hitting the 100-degree mark lately, so the water temperature will be going up,” Jones said. “Last year I think we had 100-degree weather seven to 10 days in a row right before the tournament.
“The weather has been really crazy around here,” Jones said. “It has been really different. The water willows along the bank are usually burnt up by this time of the year and have turned yellow and lost oxygen, but now they are still green — kind of like everybody’s lawns this year.”
Central Open anglers can target grass along with wood and rocks for this event. “It is up in the air on all of them,” Jones said. “The weather will predict what the fish are going to be on.” He suggests typical river lures and tactics such as square bill crankbaits, spinnerbaits, flipping jigs, swimming jigs and topwater frogs will work best during the Open.
The local angler expects both the main river and backwaters to be productive throughout the Open. “It hasn’t gotten as hot this year, so there are fish in both areas,” Jones said. “It is just a matter of having an area or areas to yourself and having enough fish to go around for those three days.
“Managing the fish will be the most important part of this tournament,” Jones said. “It is like a relay race in that you have to scatter your fish out. You just can’t go in and catch a 20-pound bag and not have any fish for the next day. You can’t go into an area and weed out a bunch of fish to have a good sack.”
Jones has noticed the fishing has been good on the river this summer, taking 16 to 20 pounds to win one-day tournaments nearly every weekend. With the river in better shape and larger fish being caught lately, Jones thinks it might take more weight to make the Top 12 cut this year. “If you can catch 11 to 11 1/2 pounds a day, both days, and finish with 22 to 24 pounds, you will be fishing the final day,” he said. Jones expects the winning catch will be in the 40- to 45-pound range.