2014 Bassmaster Elite at Lake Dardanelle
Another plus for the Elite pros is that the minimum length limit for bass at Dardanelle was lowered from 15 to 14 inches in January 2013. The change was prompted by the results of an eight-year study of the Arkansas River fishery by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
If the winter and spring are cool, the bass during the Elite tournament will be mainly in a postspawn phase, Leone asserts. With warmer weather, the bass will be well into their summer feeding patterns.
Heavy rainfall could be a fly in the soup. It would muddy the water and create a swift current that would hamper fishing on the main river portions of the lake.
Elite Series pro Kevin “Pink” Short of nearby Mayflower, Ark., has seen Lake Dardanelle’s good, bad and ugly. He has fished the lake since boyhood and has pocketed a boatload of cash competing in tournaments here.
Top 50 cut formula in shambles
Another indication of the knuckleball that Lake Dardanelle often pitches to bass fishermen can be found in the two-day standings. The formula for estimating the Top 50 cut weight after Day 1 is to double the weight of 50th place and add or subtract two pounds. When the Elite Series began, it was usually subtract two pounds. But lately it's been add two pounds.
As Kevin VanDam noted earlier this season, "These guys are getting better at getting dialed-in after the first day."
Lake Dardanelle took us back to the old formula and beyond. Fifth place on Day 1 was 14-14, which doubled equals 29-12. Casey Ashley took 50th place with a total of 26-2, minus 3-10, which is an unusual occurrence on the Elite Series.
Day 2 on Dardanelle
KVD with a big keeper on day 2, Dardanelle:
Day 2 Dardanelle - KVD with another keeper:
Day 1 weight in
KVD day 1 report:
Kevin VanDam was looking for some game-changers, hurriedly casting for an afternoon rally. He's got a limit but not happy with the bulk.
"I caught a lot of fish just not much size," he said, before adding his foot switch is sticking. And he's off.
KVD on Dardanelle: "I like this place"
Kevin VanDam sat alone on the front deck of his boat in a less-than-glamorous hotel parking lot making final tackle preparations for Lake Dardanelle with a Waffle House sign as the only bright spot among a ceiling of grey clouds overhead.
There’s nothing gloomy about VanDam’s attitude though. “I like this place,” he volunteered with a warm upbeat delivery as cold rain tried to spit on a scattering of Quantum rods and reels spread about his boat.
“It’s real diverse, Dardanelle has something for everybody,” says VanDam. “It’s got a lot of different types of habitat, featuring tons of shallow water situations, all the way to deep cranking, and river current too.”
VanDam should have good vibes about this section of the Arkansas River; after all, he finished in 2nd Place here in late March of 2009.
“That tournament in 2009 was all about the spawn,” remembers VanDam. “Most of the fish I caught then were spawning real shallow around big stumps, this week they’re in more of an early summer pattern.”
Weather played a major role in the 2009 event here. Fog delayed anglers several hours on Day One, and Day Three was completely cancelled because of dangerously high winds.
This week, it’s rain, coupled with potentially record low temps for mid-May, that caused anglers to shiver miserably during practice, and carry wool-like Carhartt caps into Day One of competition as sunrise temps hover around 40-degrees.
Still, VanDam feels good. “No matter what the weather is here, whether it’s cold and rainy, or slick calm and sunny, you can always find a pattern that’ll work here.”
So far, VanDam says the rains haven’t muddied the bite.
The biggest challenge he and the rest of this Elite Series field face is keeping up with drastically fluctuating water levels. “They dropped the bottom out of it during Tuesday’s practice, and let it come way back up on Wednesday, it seems like it goes up and down as much as two feet from one day to the next.”
Mark Menendez won with 55-pounds in the weather shortened 3-day event here in 2009, that’s 18 pounds per day – and VanDam thinks it will be every bit that strong this time around.
No matter the weather, no matter the water levels, one thing’s for sure – VanDam likes this place – and that’s the first step to a winning weight – with desire spotlighted best by the glow of a Waffle House sign high in the cold cloudy air above.
Greg Hackney - 56-8
Rick Clunn - 55-11
Keith Combs - 54-3
Jason Christie - 53-1
Cliff Crochet - 52-5
Gerald Swindle - 51-14
John Crews - 51-0
Takahiro Omori - 49-9
Chris Zaldain - 49-4
Skeet Reese - 48-12
Michael Iaconelli - 48-10
Paul Elias - 48-9
Kevin VanDam - 24-3
1. 11-1, 2. 13-2
History & Notes;
Day 1: Andy Montgomery - 6-5
Day 3: David Walker - 5-15