The 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series brings BASS back to an old friend in Arkansas' Lake Dardanelle for the March 26-29 Diamond Drive out of Russellville. The last BASS tournament held there was a 2007 Bassmaster Major won by Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., not long after his 2007 Bassmaster Classic victory. Duckett's four-day total weight for the event was 55 pounds, 9 ounces.
Fishing fans can catch all of the on-the-water action from the Diamond Drive on The Bassmasters, which airs Saturday, April 4, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The daily weigh-ins for this and all other regular-season Elite events and two postseason events will be live on ESPN360.com, ESPN's broadband sports network, while a wealth of unique content will also be available at Bassmaster.com.
The Diamond Drive includes a top prize of $100,000 and awards valuable points in the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title race. Fans are encouraged to attend daily launches (7:15 a.m. CT) and weigh-ins (4 p.m.) Thursday through Sunday at Lake Dardanelle State Park, 100 State Park Drive, Russellville. Before Day Three competition Saturday, the field will be cut to the top 50 anglers. Only the top 12 will go on to compete in Sunday's final day.
Part of the Arkansas River Valley, the 34,300-acre Lake Dardanelle has been host to five BASS events. Duckett's August 2007 victory came together on the final day of competition, after he struggled to find the bite in deeper water on Day Three. He switched to a heavy jig — a 1 ½-ounce Tru Tungsten flipped to shallow grass mats. He also used a 3/16-ounce Tru Tungsten jig with a 7-inch, electric blue Berkley Power Worm.
Two years later, second-year Elite Series pro Clark Reehm of Russellville, Ark., says anglers should expect an entirely different fishery.
"Most of the grass is dead, it hasn't grown yet," Reehm said. "And the water temp is 52 to 54 degrees. There are very few limits being weighed in at local tournaments."
He added that the pros who have been to Dardanelle in the past might rely on 40 to 50 fish caught a day, but the bounty won't be that plentiful in the Diamond Drive.
"Granted this is the Elites, but if the fish aren't there, they aren't there. Even the short fish — usually you catch 20-50 short fish, and it doesn't seem like people are catching even that many."
Reehm, who has five top-10 finishes in BASS competition, anticipates a lot of action on spinnerbaits or jigs, noting that the trick will be to get keepers to bite. He predicts an overall weight of 70-75 pounds to win the tournament.
"About 17-18 pounds a day," he said. "A lot of guys will come in without limits. Usually this time of year there are about 90 limits, but this time there might be 40-50 limits, just judging from local tournaments that have happened lately."
Reehm said that, given the time of the year, most of the pros will be shallow and the lake will fish small.
"It's a river system, so the fish are shallow anyway, except in the summer," he said. "There might be a river bite, but for the most part guys will be in backwater bays. It's probably going to be won on water that's real difficult to get into."
Reehm lives about six minutes from the boat ramp at Dardanelle, though he said he has no local advantage on the lake. In fact, he predicted that Kevin Short and Billy McCaghren, two Elite pros from Mayflower who have fished Dardanelle all their lives, will be the ones to beat in the Diamond Drive.
Sunday's activities include the live taping of Hooked Up, hosted by ESPN Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders. The show, which will air live at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN360.com, will preview Sunday's final weigh-in.
Other activities Saturday and Sunday at the Diamond Drive, including Dog Training & Retriever Demonstrations Brought To You By Sport Dog, will begin at 1 p.m. CT at Lake Dardanelle State Park. Fans are invited to join the "Ask the Experts" session with the Elite pros during Bassmaster University, set for Saturday, March 28, at 3 p.m. CT.
All events at the Diamond Drive are free and open to the public.
Local sponsors of the Diamond Drive is the Sate of Arkansas and Russellville A&P Commission.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Marine.