March 8, 2008 by David A. Brown
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. - After weighing four-fish bags during both qualifying days, Harrison, Ark., pro Robbie Dodson finally filled out a limit catch to win the Stren Series Central Division event on Norfork Lake.
Having led the pro field for two days, Dodson fished a Tim Hughes custom-painted Rogue and a 3-inch Lucky Strike perch-colored grub. His 10-pound, 5-ounce stringer gave him a total of 28-9. For his efforts, Dodson won $25,000 and a Ranger boat package.
"It started off really good," he said. "I went to my first bank and caught a keeper, went to the second bank and caught a keeper, went to the third bank and caught a keeper. I fished two more banks before I caught my next keeper, but at least I started off with three good fish."
He said making a slight adjustment in positioning proved prudent: "I had been fishing the bushes earlier in the week, but with the sun out today, I thought the fish might be a little more aggressive and suspended. So I tried to fish a little farther from the bank. I basically fished the same route I'd been fishing this week, but instead of flipping the bushes, I just pulled out and started fishing little channel swings."
Fishing between Henderson Point and the Norfolk Dam, Dodson caught his fish in 10 to 15 feet of water. Boating keeper No. 4 gave him a short-lived confidence boost.
"When I got four, I thought I've probably got (the win)," Dodson said. "But then I thought, `Man, I've had a lot of bites, but if I'm having that many, I'm sure someone else is too.' I caught my last keeper with 10 minutes to go, so if I hadn't had that fish, I wouldn't have won."
Havens handles hefty smallmouth for second
Hometown favorite Preston Havens of Mountain Home, Ark., caught four fish weighing 13-6 - the day's biggest stringer. Moving up from fourth place on day two, he totaled 26 pounds, 11 ounces and took home $7,462.
His catch included a whopping 5-pound, 8-ounce smallmouth that hit a firetiger Wigglewort in the back of Pigeon Creek. The feisty fish struck early and took Havens on a hectic dance around the boat.
"That fish hit right off the bat, first thing this morning," he said. "I was throwing a crankbait and ka-bing - I thought it was a carp. He ran through the prop and around the motor. I ran 90 mph across the boat."
After jamming the rod in the water, Havens was able to retrieve the monster.
Havens' other three keepers ate a jig with a green-pumpkin crawdad. He fished the bushes early and then moved out to a mud ledge with a rock pile later in the morning. Helpful, he said, was the power generation of the Norfork Dam.
"They've been running the generators, and with the (rain) runoff, we've been getting a lot of current," Havens said. "Anytime you get current, it's a fisherman's dream. All you do is position your bait the right way and let a fish come up to it."
Fox warms up to third
Entering Saturday's final round in second place, Springdale, Ark., pro Travis Fox caught four fish weighing 9-14 and slipped to third. His tournament total of 24-9 won $6,716.
Throwing a jerkbait, jig and spinnerbait, Fox fared well by locating an area of higher water temperature. "I just found a spot with warm water in it, plus the presence of baitfish played a key role. It's amazing the difference 3 to 4 degrees can make."
Fox said he was concerned that he may have fished out his primary spot on day two: "I think I hurt them too bad yesterday. I probably caught 30 fish within a 100-yard stretch between me and my co-angler. Today I caught four there - plus two very nice crappie."
Endicott slows down, takes fourth
Wes Endicott of Joplin, Mo., improved from a ninth-place position on day two to fourth in the final round. Four fish weighing 11-4 gave him a 22-13 total and earned $5,970.
After a tough start, Endicott followed some good advice: "I had a terrible practice. I went two days without a bite. Then I got a tip from a friend, and I adjusted by slowing way down. I could get bit now and then, but it seemed like I'd go three or four hours."
Targeting ledge rocks with gravel in the backs of coves, Endicott threw Mann's Stingray grubs on a 3/16-ounce ball-head jig. He also fished a swimming minnow on an 1/8-ounce jighead.
Ruff rallies to fifth
Rising three spots to fifth place, Steve Ruff of Wentzville, Mo., threw a Smithwick Rogue and caught a limit weighing 10-1 for a 21-12 total worth $5,224.
A slow start had him scratching his head, but once Ruff located the right spot, the action was fast and furious.
"At 10 a.m. I didn't have a fish and my co-angler was wondering what I was doing. My first two spots just didn't pan out, but I said, `I have one more spot that we need to go try.'
"We pulled in there, and on my first cast I caught a fish. While my co-angler was getting the net for me, his bait got bit. We caught 18 fish in 15 minutes and had nine keepers. We were having a ball."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 pro leaders at the Stren Series Central event at Lake Norfork:
6th: Jeremy Lawyer of Sarcoxie, Mo., 18-2
7th: Greg Ryan of Nixa, Mo., 17-3
8th: Tim Fleetwood or Forsyth, Mo., 15-6
9th: Mike Foree of Osage Beach, Mo., 15-0
10th: Tom Murphy of Richland, Mo., 14-6