UPCOMING EVENT: FLW Pro Circuit - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

2020 Lake Dardanelle Preview

2020 Lake Dardanelle Preview

Lake Dardanelle

Russellville, Ark.

May 14-17, 2020

Hosted by Russellville Advertising and Promotions

 

About the fishery

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.

Dardanelle isn’t a traditional Arkansas reservoir in that a good portion of the lake fishes much like a river system. The upper end of the reservoir is extremely riverine in nature with ample backwaters, sloughs, vegetation and current. The lower end does offer some deeper water with offshore fishing opportunities. There’s plenty of manmade cover in the form of docks and riprap banks, plus flooded strip pits that offer unique habitat for bass.

With about 315 miles of shoreline, Dardanelle is definitely large enough to allow a full FLW Pro Circuit field to spread out and provide each angler with a little something they enjoy fishing, from pads, cattails and mats to standing timber and laydowns, riprap and isolated rock. In other words, variety is the spice of life on Dardanelle.

 

Last time

The last two Tour-level events FLW has hosted on Dardanelle were in 2007 and 2009. Those events were won by Matt Herren (62-10 over four days) and Vic Vatalaro (39-4 over four days), respectively.

Dardanelle also pops up regularly on FLW Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Arkie Division schedules. The FLW Series visited Dardanelle in 2015, 2016 and 2017 with one Pro Circuit angler – Evan Barnes – finishing top 10 twice in those events (fifth in 2016 and sixth in 2017).

For many FLW Pro Circuit pros, Dardanelle will be a new experience for a major tournament setting, if not a new experience altogether.

 

Evan Barnes

What to expect this time

Having experienced an exceptionally mild winter to this point, it’s hard to say exactly what to expect when the Pro Circuit visits Dardanelle in May, but Spencer Shuffield, who calls Arkansas home and has a ton of experience on the lake, has some ideas.

“We haven’t had a winter here yet this year at all,” the Pro Circuit pro said in mid-January. “It’s been amazing how warm it’s been.

“I won a tournament up there with 23 and some change three years ago, Feb. 25, and I caught every one of them sight-fishing. They could go on beds as early as that.”

At what point the fish begin spawning will come down to how mild (or otherwise) the winter ends up being, which will likely be the determining factor in how well pros catch them in mid-May. If winter holds off altogether and the spawn begins early, Shuffield believes we could see some mega-bags hit the weigh-in stage.

“It’s been taking 18 to 21 pounds to win all the tournaments,” he adds. “Dardanelle is full of big fish. There were two or three tournaments last year it took 26 to 28 to win. It’s plumb full of big ones.”

During the FLW Series event on Dardanelle in 2017 (which took place at the end of March), Quincy Houchin won the three-day event with 45 pounds, 4 ounces, and his 19-12 bag on day one was the largest of the tournament.

Last season in Phoenix Bass Fishing League competition, the March 23 event saw a one-day winning weight of 21-3 from Kelly Keith (the only 20-plus-pound stringer). When the Arkie Division returned for the September Super Tournament, it took a two-day weight of 35-9 to win.

Still, springtime fishing on Dardanelle can be exceptional at certain times, especially a few weeks after the spawn ends whe fish have had time to set up on some offshore structure and recover from spawning activities.

 

Cole Floyd

Baits and techniques

Junk-fishing is probably going to be the name of the game on Dardanelle in May, although specific patterns will develop depending on conditions. Because Dardanelle is such a diverse fishery, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see each of the top 10 pros doing something a little different on Championship Sunday.

“You’re going to see guys catching them frogging, flipping, and with crankbaits and football heads offshore,” Shuffield says of popular techniques in mid-May. “You can catch a 6-pounder in a foot of water there just as quick as you can in 5 to 8 foot of water.”

In the more riverine sections of the lake (like the upper end), myriad baits will be factors, especially tubes, which are a local favorite on the impoundment. Square-bill crankbaits are another favorite for covering shallow water on Dardanelle, especially in the spring.

“I know a lot of guys up there that fish a black neon or green pumpkin tube when the water is pretty clear,” he adds. “I had a guy with me one day who was flipping a tube behind me and was catching two to my one.”

At the lower end, which fishes more like a traditional reservoir, expect pros to be targeting postspawn fish moving out to offshore structure in preparation for hot summer weather. According to Shuffield, there’s a pretty even split from one end of the lake to the other that time of year.

“It’s about 50/50 on Dardanelle,” he says. “Half the tournaments are won down on the Illinois Bayou, Dardanelle Bay, Delaware Bay area, and then the other 50 percent are won up around Spadra, Horsehead or even up above there. It could be a little bit of both. A guy might catch them two days up and two days down.”

During the 2017 FLW Series event that Houchin won wire-to-wire, the top 10 pros did everything from flipping cover (how Houchin caught most of his keepers) to cranking square-bills (second-place finisher Tom Silber’s go-to) to slinging spinnerbaits, working shaky heads, throwing frogs around grass and everything in between. If there’s a technique pros prefer, they’ll likely have abundant opportunities to employ it during this event, just about anywhere on the lake.

 

Brandon Lee

3 critical factors

Several months away from this event, it’s hard to pinpoint which specific factors are going to be most important come tournament time, but here’s what pros will be keeping an eye on in the weeks and months leading up to the Pro Circuit’s sixth stop:

1. Springtime weather – Spawning patterns are so dependent on water temperature, which is in turn affected by air temperature and the amount of rain a fishery receives. Last spring was wet and cold across most of the country, which pushed back the spawn in a lot of fisheries. Prolonged warm weather conditions this spring could mean an early spawn, making this a summer transition tournament.

2. Water clarity – Dardanelle can be surprisingly clear for a fishery with such river-like conditions, thanks in part to the amount of vegetation in the reservoir. Water clarity can change in a hurry, though, especially if it rains prior to the event.

3. Vegetation growth – While Dardanelle is a diverse fishery, shallow grass is almost always going to be a big player, especially in late spring when it’s had some time to flourish. Again, springtime weather conditions will be a factor here, but provided northwest Arkansas avoids the extremes, there should be plenty of healthy grass to target come tournament time. Shuffield says there isn’t a lot of offshore hydrilla to be found, but reeds, mats, water willows and lily pads up shallow are abundant.

 

Spencer Shuffield

Pros to watch

Shuffield is one of the favorites to win on Dardanelle given his history on the fishery. He’s a local hammer with tons of Arkansas fishing experience, and he turned in a top 10 as a co-angler when the FLW Tour visited Dardanelle in 2007.

With Evan Barnes’ history on Dardanelle (like Shuffield, he hails from nearby Hot Springs, Ark.), he’ll certainly be a pro with the experience to make some noise in this event. Dardanelle also sets up especially well for John Cox, who excels at junk-fishing in shallow water. The only disadvantage for Cox – who usually finds shallow backwaters no one else can get to – is that the entire field is going to have plenty of sloughs, backwaters and otherwise shallow water at its disposal.

Arkansas natives Larry Nixon, Greg Bohannan, Joey Cifuentes, Dylan Hays and Billy McCaghren (among others) also have plenty of experience on Dardanelle. With so much water to cover, it may come down to prior experience on the fishery to get the job done.

Tags: justin-onslow  pre-tournament  2020-05-14-lake-dardanelle 

2020 Cherokee Lake Preview

2020 Cherokee Lake Preview

Built in the 1940s by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Cherokee Lake is nestled in the hills of east Tennessee. The Holston River impoundment lies roughly between Norris Lake to the northwest and Douglas Lake to the southeast. The clear waters of Cherokee can fluctuate about 30 feet between winter pool and spring flooding, which sounds like a lot, but isn’t out of the ordinary for the average east Tennessee reservoir. So, depending on the water level, Cherokee has about 400 miles of shoreline and 28,780 surface acres. READ MORE »

2020 Harris Chain Preview

2020 Harris Chain Preview

One of the most fun places FLW visits, the Harris Chain is a collection of lakes in central Florida that includes Lake Harris, Lake Apopka, Lake Griffin, Lake Eustis, Lake Dora, Lake Carlton, Horseshoe Lake, Little Lake Harris, Lake Denham and Lake Beauclair. In all, the pros have the run of 10 lakes, plus the myriad residential canals, rivers and backwaters that spread out off of them. READ MORE »

2020 Lake Hartwell Preview

2020 Lake Hartwell Preview

Built on the Savannah, Tugaloo and Seneca rivers on the border of South Carolina and Georgia, Lake Hartwell is a fairly typical example of a Southeastern spotted bass and largemouth fishery. Though there are shad and bream, the primary forage is blueback herring. Hartwell has very little vegetation outside of flooded dog fennel, and the primary cover types are docks, rock, shoreline wood, brush and cane piles. READ MORE »

2020 Detroit River Preview

2020 Detroit River Preview

Though the Pro Circuit finale takes off from the Detroit River, that’s hardly the only place the pros will be fishing. Takeoff is near the southern mouth of the river, giving pros easy access to the west end of Lake Erie. At the other end of the river is Lake St. Clair, which has been home to some of the most epic smallmouth beatdowns on record in recent years. 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 »

2020 Lake Martin Preview

2020 Lake Martin Preview

Lake Martin was created back in 1926 when the Martin Dam was completed on the Tallapoosa River. At the time, the 44,000-acre reservoir was the largest man-made body of water in the world, though it obviously no longer holds that distinction. READ MORE »

Bulldog Division Kicks off at Lake Lanier

Bulldog Division Kicks off at Lake Lanier

Perhaps the hottest spotted bass lake in the East, Lanier should be rocking for the Bulldog Division opener. With lots of plump wintertime spotted bass coming to the scale, along with some largemouths, it would be no surprise to see a winning weight in excess of 20 pounds.   READ MORE »

Big Prespawn Potential at Toledo Bend

Big Prespawn Potential at Toledo Bend

Toledo Bend is a legendary reservoir that straddles the border between Texas and Louisiana. It spans some 65 miles along the impounded Sabine River, which runs north to south, and sprawls across about 185,000 acres at full pool. Though Toledo Bend has a number of major tributaries along its length, the bulk of the reservoir is its straight, wide-open main-lake span. READ MORE »

Choo Choo Division Kicks off at Lake Guntersville

Choo Choo Division Kicks off at Lake Guntersville

According to pro Casey Martin, who once won a BFL on Guntersville with a whopping 40 pounds, 11 ounces, it’s not unreasonable to expect a mid- or upper 20s bag to win this time. READ MORE »

2020 Sam Rayburn Preview

2020 Sam Rayburn Preview

Sam Rayburn has a reputation as a phenomenal bass fishery and a giant in the tournament world. At more than 114,000 acres, it’s the largest reservoir contained entirely within the borders of the Lone Star State. READ MORE »

Gator Division Kicking off at St. Johns River

Gator Division Kicking off at St. Johns River

The Phoenix Bass Fishing League’s popular Gator Division, which is presented by A.R.E., kicks off its 2020 season on Saturday, Jan. 11 at the St. Johns River near Palatka, Fla. READ MORE »

At 19, Lane Olson Isn’t Intimidated

At 19, Lane Olson Isn’t Intimidated

It’s not uncommon for a 19-year-old to pack up and move away from home to pursue independence and a career of his or her choosing. Of course, in many cases, that career is still several years away, on the other side of classes and tests and internships. READ MORE »

Cumberland Practice with Bryan New

Cumberland Practice with Bryan New

Bryan New has steadily been making a case to be considered one of the brightest rising stars of the sport. Five top 10s in T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) and Costa FLW Series events this year proves it, as does his inclusion in the Costa FLW Series Championship field. New gives an inside look at how he’s been tackling the puzzle that is the FLW Series Championship on what might prove to be an unusually stingy fishery. READ MORE »

Olson Scouts Cumberland

Olson Scouts Cumberland

At just 19 years old, Lane Olson is fishing in the Costa FLW Series Championship. Were he from Alabama or Texas or any number of other southern states known for their bass fishing, that wouldn’t be too surprising. But Olson is schlepping all the way to Kentucky from Oregon, where he finished second in the Western Division Angler of the Year standings, missing out on the top spot by just one point. READ MORE »

Roaming Cumberland with Davidson

Roaming Cumberland with Davidson

Davidson, a West Virginia native, qualified for the Costa FLW Series Championship out of the Northern Division and has fished the T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) Mountain Division quite a bit. He’s spent a lot of time on Cumberland and nearby Dale Hollow in the cooler months. As such, he’s one of a handful that pundits are definitely keeping an eye on heading into the championship, and he was kind enough to let me tag along for part of the second practice day on the Kentucky reservoir. READ MORE »

2019 Costa FLW Series Championship Roster

2019 Costa FLW Series Championship Roster

The 2019 Costa FLW Series Championship brings together anglers from all over the world to compete for a top prize worth $100,000 on the pro side and $35,000 on the co-angler side. Qualifying from the T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) All-American, the International Division and five standard FLW Series divisions, a total of 193 pros and 193 co-anglers will descend on Lake Cumberland for a fall showdown to wrap up the fishing season. READ MORE »

The Layout of Lake Cumberland

The Layout of Lake Cumberland

The ninth largest reservoir in the U.S., Lake Cumberland is a perfect stage for the Costa FLW Series Championship. Home to all three bass species and over 1000 miles of shoreline, the lake can swallow up a big field with relative ease, and with the fall bite starting to pick up in earnest and the water level lower than usual, the fishing should be pretty good. READ MORE »

Previewing the Costa Championship

Previewing the Costa Championship

When 200 pros (and 200 co-anglers) descend on the southern Kentucky reservoir for the Costa FLW Series Championship, they’ll be facing conditions that might look nothing like what they’ll see as the official practice period opens this weekend. Forecasts call for ample rain over the weekend, and lake levels are likely to fluctuate as a result. READ MORE »

Ebare Eyes Strong Finish

Ebare Eyes Strong Finish

Ebare loves to fish. A lot. And he’s fished in 20 FLW events so far in 2019. His 21st will be the Costa FLW Series Championship at Lake Cumberland at the end of October, at which he hopes to earn his first win in FLW competition. READ MORE »

Floyd Cashes in on Guntersville

Floyd Cashes in on Guntersville

Last weekend, Floyd added to his already lengthy list of accomplishments with a T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) Regional victory on Lake Guntersville – the tournament was presented by Mercury – with a 44-pound, 15-ounce three-day total, and it all came down to consistency and some really good decision-making. READ MORE »