2011 Elite Series - Diamond Drive
In August 2006, Scott Rook — an Elite pro from Little Rock — won the Bassmaster Legends on the river out of his hometown. Rook is always strong on rivers and especially dangerous in his backyard. He'll head a list of Arkansas pros that will be favored to keep the trophy in the Natural State when the Elites arrive in June.
AOY standings after the Diamond Drive - 1 event remaining
AOY race down to KVD, Evers
Although we might be making a big deal about 12 points lost today in the AOY race for Kevin, KVD will be driving away from Little Rock a happy man.
“I came here wanting to gain the lead in the AOY race or at least put myself in a position to have a shot at the title,’’ VanDam said. “I did that. What more could you ask for?”
I don’t know, maybe another 12 or 20 points?
Regardless, the Diamond Drive is over and the expected impact to the AOY points’ race played out as expected. The tournament turned tough, and the two guys who have a knack for turning tough into money finished within the top 20, setting up a showdown for next week.
Everything they will have to deal is likely to be more consistent.
The Arkansas River was setting up, after weeks of flooding to be a lights-out affair, but the floodwaters dropped too rapidly and the best conditions occurred during practice, never during the tournament.
“I can promise you if the water flow had stayed where the (U.S. Army) Corps (of Engineers) forecast said it would be, no one would even have heard of Pine Bluff in this event,’’ local angler Kevin Short said.
Short, along with Scott Rook, both masters on the system, performed well below the expectations. And somehow all their experience was thrown out the window by a river that was being sucked dry instead of falling. Their points’ race and hopes for a Classic bid are out the window unless they win next week.
Their backs are against the wall, just like about 65 or more of the Elite anglers who will start tomorrow’s practice with hopes of something happening in their favor. They will either need to catch a few, catch a lot or downright win.
In the middle of all that you have KVD and Evers hoping to best each other, while the rest of us are wondering just how important those 12 points really could be.
Kevin's thoughts before day 4
KVD day 3 report
Day 3 report with KVD
> Day 3: 2, 4-09 (12, 30-04)
Kevin VanDam's day got off to a poor start and never really improved. He suffered flats on both of his trailer tires on the way to the launch and had to drive about 3 miles on the rims.
Once he got on the water, he experienced one of those rare days when he couldn't pull anything together.
"We lost the hour of fishing time and that makes it a little harder, but other than that, I'm not really sure (what the problem was)," he said. "I don't know if it was that the pressure got to the fish or they moved or what.
"I had one good one that I lost and I caught a few shorts, but not as many as I had been."
At least his trailer issue has been resolved.
"I just have to say thanks to David White, the Nitro service guy. When I got back in there were two new tires on it."
> Day 3 stats – 50 anglers, 13 limits, 9 fours, 12 threes, 10 twos, 5 ones, 1 zero.
> After missing four straight cuts, BassFan Big Stick Brent Chapman pulled himself back into Bassmaster Classic contention with his 14th-place finish. To read his competition wrapup, click here.
> Sun., June 12 - Mostly Sunny - 93°/75°
- Wind: From the S/SW at 11 mph
“I won’t be joining the Jonathon VanDam fan club anytime soon.”
– Denny Brauer
“No, I’m not playing it safe tomorrow, I’m playing to win.”
“The Arkansas River’s been very good to me over the years.”
– Rick Clunn
“I’m kinda playing hopscotch down there where I’m fishing.”
– Greg Vinson
“I get to go burn another $150 worth of gas tomorrow, but will be proud to do it.”
– Matt Reed
“Angler of the Year’s not over.”
– Edwin Evers
“I went and looked at a lot of water I probably shouldn’t have.”
– Gary Klein
“It’s always good to work on Saturdays.”
– Kevin Short
“The Arkansas River’s hard on everybody…It doesn’t care where you come from.”
– Kevin Short
Diamond Drive day 1 report
thoughts from KVD
"This tournament is shaping up to be a power fishing tournament which plays to my strengths.
Although the river was under flood conditions a week ago, it is stabilizing now. Fishing has improved as the week has progressed, and I went into yesterday’s first round with confidence since I tend to do well under tough fishing conditions.
In practice, I ran from one end of the river to the other, covering a lot of territory and assessing numerous options. Even though I trailered my boat to different ramps, I still burned $300 of boat gas during practice and will probably spend $150 each day of competition.
Most anglers will do the same, and I don’t expect many to stay in the Little Rock pool. Locking through the dams adds to the complexity of this fishery, since you lose a lot of time in the locks.
Another wild card here is water conditions; they can change hourly.
A foot difference in water level – up or down – can make a huge difference in what the fish do. When the dams are generating on most rivers, the water comes up. Here, it often goes down. To compound the problem, it can be different from one pool to the next.
So, you have to keep a watchful eye on the water level and adjust accordingly.
These fish move around a lot, too. They never go far, but they rarely sit on one spot for very long. That makes it challenging to put together consistent catches for four days.
I also expect the river to fish small with a lot of anglers pounding the same areas. I plan to fish different places each day and will be making a lot of long runs.
I will be fishing on instincts and will go out each day with an open mind. If I run into an area and see three or four other fishermen, I’m going to keep moving.
That’s why I am spending more time than usual getting my tackle ready the night before each competition day. I will have multiple rods rigged with the same baits so that I spend more time casting and less time tying or re-rigging baits. Every second will count.
During practice, I tried to locate several places that held fish and focused on the less obvious patterns. It can be a gamble, but that’s how you win tournaments and Angler of the Year titles."
KVD Diamond Drive day 2 report
Day 2 morning blog
A fifth fish eluded Edwin Evers on Thursday, and that tore him up some, but he’s not about to give up on his AOY hopes.
“It was rough out there, but I’m not out of it,” he said. “It can definitely be lost, but it can’t be won.”
As KVD jumped into the AOY lead, Evers followed by climbing to second as Scroggins and Jones faltered. He realizes it’s only one day though, and the points will jumble around some more.
Evers stands in 30th with 8-7, and a limit might have gotten him into the teens.
“I’ve just got to get some good bites,” he said. “I need about 10-12 pounds to be in good shape.”
Making the top 50 is in his sights now, then he hopes to pull off a repeat of the St. Johns River, where he moved up each day then finished with a victory.
Catching fish on the Arkansas River isn’t the issue, he said, it’s finding the right ones, like the lunker the propelled him in the Power-Pole Citrus Slam.
“Yeah, that’s the trick here, finding them,” he said.
After that initial flurry, Poche couldn't buy another bite. He made a few passes on his hot stretch of riprap before pulling the trolling motor up and moving down the river, away from the Harbor.
Back farther in we found Kevin VanDam working a ledge out in the middle of the Harbor. According to spectators, VanDam had already put another bass in the boat, one he played for a considerable amount of time. He does have a cameraman in the boat with him, so maybe he was playing to the camera, but it's doubtful. VanDam is all business and he's well on his way to duplicating yesterday's success.
In my mind, today might be the most important to the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. If Kevin VanDam can put together another dominant day on the Arkansas River, he won't be denied at Wheeler. If he has just an average day, that will open the door for the guys who did poorly yesterday. But if he leaves Little Rock with a big enough lead, and today will be a big factor in that, he will be hard to stop.
I'm ready for these anglers to be here now, to see what changes they will need to make. Likely, they will be coming through the lock around 8:40, if it is anything like yesterday.
The wind has really picked up and is a real saving grace for these anglers. Imagine if they had to fish under slick calm conditions. The wind breaks up the surface of the water and really helps the crankbait bite a lot of these guys are counting on.
AOY standings after day 1
Diamond Drive day 1 afternoon updates
Kevin makes a quick stop just short of the lock from Pool 5 to Pool 6. He hopes to pick up a kicker fish to up his weight of about 12.5 pounds.
His makes a final stop at a jetty before checking in for the day. He notes that the water is about 18 inches higher in Pool 6 since we left this morning.
-- Eric Pinter
If we were just going to marry up the AOY top 50 catches, then it looks like Kevin VanDam is making a healthy statement. He will no doubt be in the top 12 or so after today.
Then again, he has to keep up that pace for at least two more days. Going into this event, the prevailing wisdom was it would be hard to concentrate on one place for four consecutive days.
VanDam is in Pine Bluff. That’s two locks one-way. He’s definitely tempting fate to do be able to do that every day without a barge or something else messing him up. But if does it, then Jones, Scroggins, Evers and Kennedy need to get on the stick or KVD will be well on his way to yet another AOY title.
While I not only have supreme confidence in VanDam (He’s actually on my fantasy fishing team, duh) I do wonder if that trip is possible. On this river, where I have spent more days than I care to count sitting in a lock during a weigh-in, it’s a gamble.
I’m struck by the similarities of this and the previous Classic. VanDam told me before the start of that event that it would not be won at Venice. He hadn’t practiced yet, but he felt the trip was too long and too hard to get through every day.
It’s not quite as long from Little Rock to Pine Bluff, but the locks add that extra pucker factor.
Typical Arkansas River fishing on top of that makes it hard to guess even with what looks like a KVD lead in the AOY after today. These fish are notorious for being there one day and gone the next. He has to go back tomorrow, since he caught a hefty sack today. But if it goes like it does for so many of us who fish here, the fish could be on vacation tomorrow.
Then again, we’re talking about KVD. No fish dare go on vacation around him.
While I’m looking forward to the start of the weigh in, I’m really looking forward to seeing the AOY points after today.
-- Steve Bowman
KVD, riding back from throwing the first pitch at the Triple A Arkansas Travelers game last night, said he was approaching the Diamond Drive to win.
He’s displaying a put-his-foot-down-on-throats mentality today by locking down twice to Pine Bluff, a risk-reward move. He said there’s no playing it safe on the Arkansas River.
When asked if the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, in which he currently sits tied for second, would come down to the final minutes of next week’s event on Wheeler Lake, he said no.
“I think this event, because of how challenging the fishery is and all the things that can wrong, it will pretty much be decided here. It should shake out this week.”
If things hold as shown on BASSTrakk, that statement could prove rather prophetic. The unofficial results show KVD third with none of the other AOY contenders close.
“I’m going for the win. It’s the only way to fish," he said. "The rest, the AOY, will take care of itself.”
-- Mike Suchan
Almost 1 o'clock and it's time to join the mass exodus of Pool 4 and head toward check in at Pool 6.
We join about 15 other boats at the lock and the doors are closed. KVD says, "that's not a good sign. The doors were supposed to close at 1 p.m. and it's only 12:50."
About 30 seconds later the lock opens and the now growing armada of bass rigs form a line into the lock. The 25 or so anglers breathe a collective sigh of relief.
One lock down, one more to go.
VanDam has a solid 5 bass limit that he hopes to get weighed in alive and on time.
Boats are beginning to head back toward the lock, some might get to Pool 5 a little early, others making sure they don't get locked out. We are taking that as our cue to head in.
For some, the gamble of running south two pools paid off, while for others, it did not. The day is far from over, however, and guys like Terry Scroggins and Steve Kennedy can add to their weight to keep their AOY hopes alive.
Watching Kevin VamDam today reminded me why you never want him less than 20 points behind you with two events to go. Everyone better look out.
2011 Diamond Drive day 1 report
Diamond Drive day 1 - morning updates
KVD boats a solid 3.5-pounder to the audience's delight. A fan in an observation boat yells "Game changer!" It just might be.
KVD found keeper number 4 at the top of the 10 o'clock hour. The solid 2.75-pounder came just a few minutes after another solid 3-pound fish came unbuttoned halfway to the boat.
Looks like around 30 boats came through the the lock to pool 4. Most of those boats went to Pine Bluff Harbor.
9.08 a.m. and it's time to get serious. All of these anglers are taking a calculated risk of getting locked out and not making it back to check in on time. However, many feel that by coming all the way to pool 4 that they'll have the best chance at quality fish. In all, KVD and the rest of the field will have just under 4 hours to put together a solid bag of fish for the day. No pressure at all!
KVD has about 5.5 pounds in the box on three fish. He hopes to fill out a solid limit and cull two of the keeper spots in the livewell before making the 2-hour trip back.
At the top of ths page the BASSTrakk link is now available. We have units in the top 50 of the AOY standings. Currently, 18 angler have fish in the well. Of those KVD and Scroggins have on a piece. They are at the top of the AOY standings and are battling for points.
Again that list doesn't include all the anglers. We will have those tracked by the start of Saturday. But eth the emphasis on the AOY and the qualificatons for the upcoming All-Star Week, we wanted to track those guys the first two days. And we ony have 50 units, so they were the easy choice.
Many of these guys are battling for a Classic berth. Going in the top of the list all feel like they have a shot at walking away with the sport's most coveted title -- Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
The river will be a good test to see how those standings shake out.
These guys are not accustomed to battling it out on fisheries of this nature.
KVD's marshall shares a pic of a keeper
8:30am: Eric Pinter, our Marhsal with KVd, just reports that VanDam has his first keeper of the day while waiting for the second downriver lock.
KVD throws out the first pitch
Check out photos as KVD throws out the first pitch at a local AAA baseball game.
Denny Brauer - 52-2
1. 14-10, 2. 19-7, 3. 10-12, 4. 7-5
Aaron Martens - 45-1
1. 10-8, 2. 10-14, 3. 13-0, 4. 10-11
Gerald Swindle - 40-8
1. 8-4, 2. 12-7, 3. 12-1, 4. 7-12
Ish Monroe - 36-9
1. 14-8, 2. 6-7, 3. 8-11, 4. 6-15
John Murray - 34-11
1. 11-7, 2. 11-12, 3. 11-8
Jonathon VanDam - 33-15
1. 0-0, 2. 15-0, 3. 18-5
Matt Reed - 33-8
1. 7-6, 2. 9-1, 3. 12-12, 4. 4-5
Timmy Horton - 32-10
1. 4-9, 2. 9-3, 3. 14-2, 4. 4-12
Billy McCaghren - 30-7
1. 13-3, 2. 11-4, 3. 6-0
Kevin VanDam - 30-4
1. 12-12, 2. 12-15, 3. 4-9
Greg Vinson - 29-15
1. 10-6, 2. 10-15, 3. 8-10
Jason Quinn - 28-2
1. 7-9, 2. 11-9, 3. 9-0