DeGray Lake will be crowded

BISMARCK, Ark. — DeGray Lake isn't a large impoundment at full pool – 13,400 acres. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lake, located about an hour from Little Rock, is 10 feet low now. With over 150 boats on it for the next two days, it will fish awfully small for the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship.

"I think there will be 100 boats on 1,000 acres of water," said one angler.

The full field will compete Wednesday and Thursday to determine the team title. This event will eventually decide a Bassmaster Classic entry on Saturday.

Jimmy Mason of Rogersville, Ala., and Lance Walker of Counce, Tenn., qualified for this tournament through the Alabama BASS Trail. Neither had seen DeGray Lake until Monday's first practice day.

"It's fishing typical for a clear lake this time of year," said Mason. "The fish are scattered from shallow to deep. It's going to be a challenging tournament. But those can be the easiest to win."

Mason and Walker, who have fished together off and on for the past six years, are counting on their tournament experience to guide them to success. Mason fished the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2007.

"It's just a mental deal, when people are not getting bites they get discouraged," Mason said. "If you can just keep yourself pumped up throughout a tough tournament, you've got a chance.

"Some guys will put themselves out of it before practice is over if they're not getting bites."

Both men agreed they'd be happy with 10 to 12 pounds a day on DeGray Lake, where there is a 16-inch minimum length limit on largemouth bass and a 12-inch minimum on spots and smallmouth.

"It's all about letting one or two fish lead you to a pattern," Walker said. "We didn't have a bite until 12:30 on Monday, but we ended up having a decent day."

The weather is predicted to be perfect this week: highs in the 50s with no rain and plenty of sunshine.

The crowd of boats will be up the Caddo River, the main stream that forms this lake, which is probably about 11,000 acres at its present level.

Twenty-two states and 38 team trails are represented in the field. Take off Wednesday is set for 7 a.m. The weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. CST at DeGray Lake State Park.