UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Hartwell

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Dardanelle

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Dardanelle
Brandon Lee

Spawning season at Lake Dardanelle begins in late March and early April, but weather is always a loose wire for fishing this time of year in Arkansas.

It can shock you, and so it did for the 203 anglers and co-anglers in the Costa FLW Series Central Division opener presented by T-H Marine. Anglers saw springtime's entire suite of weather conditions in three days, and if the tournament had continued one more day, they would have seen yet another set of conditions.

The first day was cool and cloudy, with a strong northwest wind. Day two was cool, calm and clear. Day three was warm and clear, with a sharp east wind. Fishing conditions changed daily, taking previous day's hot spots out of play and putting others into play.

Nine of the top 10 anglers in this tournament rode that bull for a full 8-count and caught fish consistently. Some milked the same spots for three days, and others moved around. Brandon Lee was the only rider to be thrown on the last day by failing to catch a keeper.

 

1. Houchin leads it wire-to-wire

Although it's a river impoundment on a navigation system, Lake Dardanelle is full of sloughs, pockets, bays and backwaters. These places offer the best fishing on the river.

Quincy Houchin's place was more important than a pattern. With 203 boats carrying 406 anglers, Houchin knew he needed to find a place that other anglers wouldn't attempt to reach in order to minimize competition. He found it on the north side of the main stem of the river in a backwater tucked behind an island and a rocky jetty. It has a variety of wood cover in 2- to 3-foot depths and 8- to 9-foot depths. It also has rocks.

Its most important feature is the big sandbar that stretches across the opening, virtually cutting it off from the river. Houchin was the only angler that attempted to jump the bar.

He says he caught 12 of his 15 keepers flipping shallow and deep wood with a green pumpkin/red flake Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver and a Real Deal Tungsten weight.

He caught two keepers on a black moss-colored Lucky Craft 2.5 square-bill crankbait and one keeper on a natural green-colored SPRO Bronzeye Frog. His rods were a 7-foot, 3-inch Denali flipping stick and a 7-3 Denali cranking rod. He used 25-pound-test Seaguar line with the flipping stick and 17-pound-test Seaguar on the crankbait rig.

Houchin prevailed despite steadily losing weight over three days. A stiff east wind cut his pattern in half by taking his deep cover out of play. He says the steady downward weight-loss trend forced him to consider moving, but he stayed put and won the $50,000 prize with 45 pounds, 4 ounces in three days.

 

Tom Silber

2. Tom Silber cranks square-bills for second

Though he lives in Hampshire, Tenn., Tom Silber is a former resident of the Russellville area and an experienced Lake Dardanelle angler. He knows that the lake is a prototypical junk-fishing lake that suits a lot of styles, but it is tailor-made for a square-bill crankbait. It has a variety of cover and structure in close proximity, and a square-bill can put them all in play with one cast.

Silber says he used a chartreuse/black SPRO Little John square-bill on assorted wood cover, such as stumps, laydowns and blowdowns, and also around rock. He also used a chartreuse/white Mann's 3/4-ounce Classic Spinnerbait with No. 7 and No. 3 Indiana blades and a 6-inch white Mister Twister trailer, and a black/blue 1/2-ounce Lunker Lure Rattleback Jig.

It was an effective approach that enabled him to leap from 26th place on day one to third on day two to second on day three with a 44-9 total weight.

 

Joey Cifuentes

3. Joey Cifuentes fishes a rocky road

Bridge abutments and riprap roadbeds and railbeds are always popular fishing spots on Lake Dardanelle, and Joey Cifuentes rode them to third place with a combination of subtle and aggressive tactics that produced 43-13.

Cifuentes spent the first two days targeting prespawn fish with a 1/8-ounce War Eagle shaky head and a green pumpkin Zoom Trick Worm. He concentrated on rocks at pinch points around bridge areas and ambushed fish coming into sheltered waters.

Cifuentes says he caught fish with a square-bill early in the first two days, but they were small keepers. He culled them with bigger fish on the shaky head.

The script flipped on the third day, when big fish were more receptive to the fast-moving square-bill. He found an area near a bridge where shad were spawning and bass were feeding aggressively.

Wind – not current – was the big factor in that spot, Cifuentes says. The east wind blew directly on the spot, concentrating shad and roiling the surface.

“Within an hour I culled nearly everything I had,” Cifuentes says. “My co-angler and I stayed there in one spot and threw crankbaits over and over. We made 100 casts or more. We showed up at the right place at the right time, and I caught my entire limit with the square-bill."

The square-bill of record was a citrus shad Strike king 1.5 combined with a 7-foot Denali Lithium Series cranking rod with a medium action and a Lew's baitcaster with 12-pound-test line.

His shaky-head rig consisted of a 7-foot Denali N2 Series medium-heavy spinning rod, a Shimano Stradic and a 12-pound-test fluorocarbon leader to braid.

“With that lighter shaky head I could go behind people that were power fishing and flipping and catch fish they didn't catch. There's not a lot of action in that worm. It falls slow. That kind of sealed the deal for me.”

 

Josh Ray

4. Josh Ray frogs for fourth

Though best known for its rock and wood cover, Lake Dardanelle has large amounts of aquatic vegetation in its backwaters that are famous for producing big limits with swim jigs and surface plastics.

Josh Ray used this strategy to great effect over backwater lily pads with a natural green SPRO frog with a G. Loomis GLX rod and Vicious No-Fade Braid. It produced almost every fish that he weighed, totaling 43-8.

Fish responded to the frog, Ray says, but the bite was inconsistent.

“I lost a lot of fish, too,” he says. “One day they seemed to choke on it. Other times they seemed to nip at it.”

Ray says he also caught some small fish on a black/blue homemade swim jig with an electric blue Zoom Z-Craw.

 

Zach King

5. Zach King blasts ’em in the backwater

Like Quincy Houchin, Zach King's pattern was more a place than a technique. He found several backwater areas that were largely cut off from the main river. Reaching them required jumping obstacles such as beaver dams. Once there, he caught all of his fish – 42-1 total – by dead-sticking a 5-inch watermelon/red YUM Dinger on a 5/0 Gamakatsu hook.

“That's typical for spring,” King says. “I was pitching holes.”

The weather change undercut him on the last day, though.

“It was hard to feel bites Saturday because of the east wind,” King says.

 

Evan Barnes

6. Evan Barnes sees red

Hot Springs, Ark., native Evan Barnes lives an hour away from Lake Dardanelle, so he's up to speed on the lake's junk-fishing reputation.

Not surprisingly, he cashed in with a versatile fishing approach pinned to a River2Sea spinnerbait in lemonade twist color with tandem Colorado blades, including a red “kicker” blade, which was the vital component.

“Dardanelle is notorious for the red kicker blade. Everybody knows that,” Barnes says. “I caught 30 to 40 fish in a row on day three. I was feathering it through rocks. I'd pop it a little bit, and one would get it.”

Barnes also caught a few fish on a River2Sea Biggie square-bill crankbait in the “I Know It” color and a 3/8-ounce Jig-Sooie finesse jig in Arkansas craw. His total weight was 40-8.

 

Garrett Paquette

7. Garrett Paquette cranks bridges

An aggressive presentation with a subtle twist allowed Garrett Paquette to capitalize in highly pressured areas to catch 39-1.

Paquette says he did “most of his damage” on shad pattern Strike King and Lucky Craft 1.5 and 2.5 square-bills.

“It's a good finesse profile on pressured fish,” Paquette says. “I kept rotating baits on bridge corners over and over all day to give them a different look.”

 

8. Shannon Pierce locks through

Getting away from competition was Shannon Pierce's goal, but he took it to extremes by locking down and running almost all the way to Morrilton, Ark. That's about a 25-mile run one way, and it entails many perils, like getting locked out of Lake Dardanelle by barges. It worked for two days as Pierce caught enough in a combined five hours of fishing to make the top 10.

In the sidewaters near Morrilton he found an abundance of fish in varied wood and rock structure. He caught all of his keepers with a blue heron-colored 1/2-ounce War Eagle Screamin' Eagle Spinnerbait with tandem willow-leaf blades, and a silver/black No. 5 Rapala Shad Rap.

The strategy failed him on day three. His pattern depended on stable or falling water, which he encountered the first two days. On day three, the water came up and scattered fish away from structure where they had concentrated the first two days. Pierce’s total weight was 38-15.

 

Cole Floyd

9. Cole Floyd runs upriver

Cole Floyd tried to escape fishing pressure by running upstream almost to Ozark Lock & Dam. That area has a surprising amount of fishable cover in the form of wing dams and revetments. There are also some interesting hydraulics that occur in the sidewaters that have been cut off from the main river by rock dams. These form almost separate streams with shoals that create major eddies that drop into deep water.

The backwaters have a lot of wood cover, though not nearly as much as exists between Spadra and Piney creeks. The area can't support as much fishing pressure, so fewer anglers go there, and that's where Floyd hoped to catch lightning in a bottle.

“I got a lot of bites, but I couldn’t get a big bite,” Floyd says. “I covered a lot of water and flipped shallow. I keyed in on gator grass, flipped up on the banks, flipped wood.”

Floyd fished shallow, but deep water nearby was key, he says.

“I was sitting in about 5 to 6 feet flipping up about 10 feet off the bank. It was real close quarters.”

Floyd fished quickly and covered a lot of water. He did not fish anything twice the first day, but on days two and three he picked an area apart when he got a bite.

He employed two baits in this strategy. His main bait was an Okeechobee craw-colored Berkley Havoc Pit Boss with a 1/2-ounce weight. His backup was a 1/2-ounce sexy shad Mann's spinnerbait with tandem Indiana blades. He also used Hammer Rods. Floyd totaled 38-15.

 

Brandon Lee

10. Brandon Lee bets all or nothing on bedding bass

Brandon Lee covered a lot of water searching for spawning fish. The strategy put him within 3 ounces of the lead on day one, but his weight fell drastically on day two and zeroed out in the finale.

He found a sweet spot on day one in the lower lake where females moved onto beds late in the day, and he anchored a 19-9 bag with a 5-14 kicker.

On day two he fished way upstream near Spadra, but blue skies and lack of wind knocked big fish out of the equation. His weight fell to 11-11.

He tried the same area on day three, but the east wind muddied the water. He did not catch a keeper in the Ranger Hole, in Mud Creek or Black Point. He finished with 31-4.

Lee's primary pattern was to work submerged grass and the edges of mats off the shoreline with a 5-inch watermelon/red Yamamoto Senko with a 5/16-ounce tungsten weight or a 6-inch junebug Zoom Lizard with a 1/4-ounce tungsten weight. He also threw a green pumpkin Missile Baits D Bomb. He used 4/0 worm hooks.

Tags: lake-dardanelle  flw-series  top-10-patterns  marshall-ford  post-tournament  2017-03-30-lake-dardanelle 

Kritsberg Hits Jackpot With Strickland Mega-Bag

Kritsberg Hits Jackpot With Strickland Mega-Bag

Warren “Butch” Kritsberg has only lived in Florida for a few years, and he’s still learning a lot about fishing the Harris Chain of Lakes. Fortunately, he now has a lot of new intel about where and how to catch giants after riding along with Laramy Strickland on the second tournament day of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event, which was presented by Bad Boy Mowers. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from the Harris Chain

Top 10 Patterns from the Harris Chain

Each day of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event presented by Bad Boy Mowers on the Harris Chain of Lakes was markedly different from the day prior. Most of the field struggled a bit, and the final 30 anglers were left scrambling to figure out how to find and catch fish in the post-frontal conditions that are often so detrimental for Florida largemouths.  READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from the Harris Chain

Top 10 Baits from the Harris Chain

At Florida’s Harris Chain, in late winter, it’s a good bet the same handful of baits are going to produce more than any others, from Lake Harris down to Apopka. During the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event on the Harris Chain, presented by Bad Boy Mowers, it was Texas rigs with black and blue plastics, jerkbaits, Carolina rigs and a few other moving baits that most often got the call.  READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from the St. Johns

Top 10 Patterns from the St. Johns

The Toyota Series Southern Division opener on the St. Johns River potentially missed some stellar fishing opportunities. Despite being the time of year when big green fish start to move up to the banks en masse to spawn, changing weather conditions and multiple cold fronts kept fish coming and going all week, opening small windows on which pros and co-anglers needed to capitalize. READ MORE »

Sharp Blasts 40 Pounds to Win on Rayburn

Sharp Blasts 40 Pounds to Win on Rayburn

Winning a tournament is always pretty cool, but winning the way Anthony Sharp did in the second Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine event in the Cowboy Division presented by A.R.E. is next-level. Weighing 40 pounds, 6 ounces of Sam Rayburn bass, the Village Mills, Texas, angler beat second place by more than 21 pounds. For the win, which was his first with FLW, Sharp took home a total of $7,000.  READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from the St. Johns

Top 10 Baits from the St. Johns

The St. Johns River was in a bit of a funk for the Toyota Series Southern Division opener. Instead of a full-on spawning slugfest, a couple cold fronts and quickly changing wind and water conditions kept fish moving in and out. The anglers chasing them had to stay on their toes. Plenty of pros did find quality fish, though, and they did so with a lot of familiar baits when it comes to late-winter fishing in Florida. Right now, it’s all about the black and blue plastics on the St. Johns. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Toledo Bend

Top 10 Patterns from Toledo Bend

The general consensus before the first Toyota Series Southwestern Division stop on Toledo Bend was that local knowledge could go a long way being the Sabine River impoundment was a little fickle. That was spot on. Aside from winner Cody Huff, the rest of the top 10 was an all-star cast of locals.   READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Toledo Bend

Top 10 Baits from Toledo Bend

Fishing offshore was the way to go for the majority of the top pros and because of that a Carolina rig, football jig and deep-diving crankbait were the main players for most of the field. Getting the win, Cody Huff relied on a jigging spoon and his graphs to hunt down suspended fish, proving that heavy metal never goes out of style for bass. READ MORE »

Toyota Announces Sponsorship of FLW and MLF

Toyota Announces Sponsorship of FLW and MLF

PLANO, Texas (January 29, 2020) – Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) announced today a formal sponsorship of Major League Fishing (MLF), professional bass fishing’s newest premier tournament organization, and home to Team Toyota professional anglers Mike Iaconelli, Terry Scroggins, Kevin VanDam, and Jacob Wheeler. The partnership includes Fishing... READ MORE »

Wooten Wins Marshal Contest on Rayburn

Wooten Wins Marshal Contest on Rayburn

You’re never too old to try something new. Just ask Ron Wooten. Wooten, who’s 71 years old and retired from the offshore oil construction industry, heard about the FLW Marshal program from a couple friends who had previously marshaled FLW events. They recommended it, he took their advice, and now he has an extra $2,500 to show for it. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Sam Rayburn

Top 10 Baits from Sam Rayburn

Even when the bite is tough, Sam Rayburn is a power-fishing lake through and through. Sure, a spinning rod showed up here and there throughout the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit opener, but it was Carolina rigs, lipless crankbaits and vibrating jigs that dominated in the hands of the top 10 pros. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Sam Rayburn

Top 10 Patterns from Sam Rayburn

Sam Rayburn is one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country, but it sure didn’t show its full potential during the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season opener. Cold fronts, high winds, fluctuating water temps and transitioning fish had the fishing jumbled. The patterns the top 10 pros employed throughout the week followed suit. READ MORE »

2020 Lake Dardanelle Preview

2020 Lake Dardanelle Preview

Situated between the Ozark National Forest to the north and the Ouachita National Forest to the south, Lake Dardanelle in Northwest Arkansas is a roughly 34,000-acre impoundment on the Arkansas River that offers a multitude of unique and varied opportunities to catch quality bass. READ MORE »

FLW Series Championship Returns to Lake Cumberland in 2020

FLW Series Championship Returns to Lake Cumberland in 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: BURNSIDE, Ky. – FLW (Fishing League Worldwide), in conjunction with the Somerset Tourist & Convention Commission and the Burnside Tourism Commission, announced today that the 2020 FLW Series Championship will be held at Lake Cumberland in Burnside and... READ MORE »

FLW Series Tournament Registration Off To An Impressive Start

FLW Series Tournament Registration Off To An Impressive Start

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: BENTON, Ky. - FLW (Fishing League Worldwide) announced today that entries into the FLW Series have increased over last year, and nearly one-third of those competitors are new to the Series. In the first 43 days of tournament registration, the number of entrants into... READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Cumberland

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Cumberland

Smallmouths dominated at the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland. Oklahoma’s Andrew Upshaw led the way with brown bass caught on a jig and a Ned rig on bluff bank transitions in the reservoir’s lower end. Behind him, only a couple of pros hedged their bets on targeting largemouths. The rest fished for smallies and considered green bass to be bonus fish and spotted bass to be limit fillers on the tough days. READ MORE »

Lake Cumberland Top 10 Baits

Lake Cumberland Top 10 Baits

In classic Southern smallmouth fashion, crankbaits and jigs dominated the top 10 at Lake Cumberland during the 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship. The only exceptions were a few finesse baits and the tackle used by two pros who targeted largemouths. Here’s what worked. READ MORE »

Oklahoma's Upshaw Wins Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland

Oklahoma's Upshaw Wins Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland

BURNSIDE, Ky. – Strike King pro Andrew Upshaw of Tulsa, Oklahoma, brought a five-bass limit to the stage weighing 12 pounds, 15 ounces, Saturday to claim the title of 2019 FLW Series Champion at the Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland. Upshaw, with a three-day total of 15 bass for 42 pounds, 15 ounces, won by a 1-pound, 10-ounce margin over second... READ MORE »

Upshaw Leads at Day Two of Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland

Upshaw Leads at Day Two of Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland

BURNSIDE, Ky. – Strike King pro Andrew Upshaw of Tulsa, Oklahoma, crossed the stage Friday with a five-bass limit weighing 15 pounds, 1 ounce, for a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 30 pounds even, to lead after Day Two of the Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland. Upshaw now holds a 1-pound, 13-ounce lead over pro Rob Burns of Plano, Texas, who weighed... READ MORE »

Zimbabwe Angler Cousens Leads Day One of Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland

Zimbabwe Angler Cousens Leads Day One of Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland

BURNSIDE, Ky. – A tournament field of 193 boats – each featuring a pro and a co-angler – began their three-day competition for a top cash award of $100,000 at the Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland, in Burnside, Kentucky, Thursday. The no-entry fee bass-fishing championship, hosted by the Somerset Tourist & Convention Commission and the Burnside... READ MORE »