'Chocolate milk' and buffalo gnats challenging Elites at Dardanelle

Florida pro Bobby Lane returned to the boat ramp with a fat lip after a long first day of practice for the GoPro Bassmaster Elite at Dardanelle presented by EconoLodge.

“Do not go out there without a Buff for your face and plenty of inspect repellent. I’m telling ya’ – you’d better cover yourself!” exclaimed Lane.

Lane’s swollen lower lip was the result of two different bites from hungry female buffalo gnats that gnawed on him while he tried to find clean and productive backwater on a mostly muddy, chocolate milk-looking, main river channel at Dardanelle.

Later in the evening, right at 8 p.m., Kevin VanDam was the next-to-last guy to load his boat at a popular ramp after a 14-hour practice day. And he too was quick to warn about buffalo gnats as he pulled his Tundra to the top of the boat ramp.

“Oh dude, they’re brutal. They fly into your ears, your nose, and behind your sunglasses,” says VanDam of the very tiny insects with cutter mouth parts prevalent in early summer around rivers and streams like the Arkansas.

Speaking of the river, conditions aren’t near as bad as many feared they might be a week ago, when considerations were being made by B.A.S.S. for a postponement, or a move to a less flooded location, but VanDam says clean water is certainly at a premium.

“I’d say 50 to 75 percent of the main river channel is blown out and fairly unfishable, so it’s squeezing everybody into the backwaters that are pretty clean and healthy looking for the most part,” says VanDam.

“There are guys trying to catch ‘em out a little deeper, and of course plenty are fishing shallow, but either way it’s a grind,” says Lane.

The 15 Quantum rods and reels VanDam had visible in his boat at sunset on the first day of practice proved the search for Dardanelle’s keeper-sized bass is indeed a drudgery involving a wide variety of lures.

“I actually put a couple rods away already,” grinned the Michigan pro, as he reached for his can of Repel and took one last swat at the gnats before jumping in his Tundra, and calling it a day.