By: Larry W. Walthall

Member: FOWA

This week on the Arkansas River is the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza Tournament hosted by Arkansas Hospitality Association. There is a lot of water out there. The river is high and in some areas it will be flowing. Anglers come from all over the state. The yearly tournament spans more than 300 miles of eligible fishing waters on the Arkansas River inside the states borders. The event is divided into five pools. The five weigh-in sites were: Pool 1 – Clear Creek Park, Fort Smith; Pool 2 – Dardanelle State Park/Russellville side; Pool 3 – North Little Rock/Verizon Ramp; Pool 4 – Regional Park/ Pine Bluff; and Pool 5 – Pendleton Bridge/east of Dumas.

Small craft advisories would be lifted just before fishing starting times 6 AM on June 23rd. Anglers had to face Tropical Storm Cindy, which came through portions of Arkansas early on Friday morning. Winds had many anglers in the back of coves, under bridges and off the main river. Wind does have the tendency to push the baitfish back into the slues that lead into the river.

So what were all these anglers fishing for and how? BIG BASS Fishing days would be June 23, 24 and 25th. You can sign up for one day, two days or all three day. Fish are weighted in by the hour. Largest bass each hour wins and they also pay for 2nd and 3rd place. Anglers learn to listen to the radio and see what has been weighed in each hour. Radio Stations included KTCS 99.9, KCJC 102.3, KSSN 96FM, The WOLF105.1, COUNTRY 97.3 and COUNTRY 106.9. If you think that your fish weighs more, you need to get to the check in point. The overall heaviest bass for all three days for each of the 4 pools will win $10,000 and the largest bass overall will collect a check for $50,000. There is also a $1,000 Willow Leaf Award, given to the parent/child or grandparent/grandchild duo with the largest fish.

Four anglers took home $10,000 checks for weighing the largest fish in their pool. The final $10,000 pool winners are:

Pool 1/Fort Smith — Brandon Rudolph, 5.76 lbs.

Pool 2/Lake Dardanelle — Erik Adland, 6.23 lbs.

Pool 3/North Little Rock — Justin “Buck” Buchanan, 6.62 lbs.

Pool 4/Pine Bluff — Steve Henderson, 6.05 lbs

There are also youth divisions:

Youth 6-8 Grade Winners are:

1st —Luke Hackney, 4.43 lbs

2nd—Haley Rodgers, 3.95 lbs

3rd— Matthew Higby, 3.1 lbs

Youth 9-12 Grade Winners are:

1st —Brandon Ward, 5.53 lbs

2nd—Daniel Shopher, 4.5 lbs

3rd— Scout Echols, 4.45 lbs

So who won the big money: A 37-year old Dumas police officer Ricky Cantrell in the opening hours of day one caught and held the lead through the end of three fishing days. Ricky Cantrell’s 6.76-pound bass weighed the most, and the father-to-be from Dumas, Arkansas was hoisting a $50,000 check. The 11-year Dumas Police Department veteran fished all three days. Cantrell said “I’ve got a baby due in three weeks, I’m pretty excited about that, but this is crazy. I didn’t even imagine winning when I signed up. Winning is a pretty big thing. I just tried to come out here and just go fishing and win some hourly money.” Cantrell says he plans to donate part of his winnings to his church. The rest, likely will go towards raising his new baby girl, who will join a growing family of two daughters and a son.

The winning fish came early, though the nervous Cantrell had to sweat out hourly weigh-ins all weekend; the winning lure was a 3/8 oz. crappie colored Jig Sooie swim jig.

So did Charleston have anyone fishing in the Big Bass Bonanza? I talked to Kevin Lynch and he said it was tough out there. He had caught a nice 2-pound plus Saturday and was listening to the radio to figure out what time to weigh his fish in. It was a lot of fun but did not win any money. Paul Little caught a 4.75 bass at on Sunday to take 9 AM 1st place for that hour.

REPEAT REPEAT: Make sure you take plenty of water, put on some sunscreen and use a hat for shade. Be real careful this time of year for snakes, especially if you are doing some bank fishing.

We would like to see some pictures so if you have a picture that you would like to share, you can email it to, call (479) 252-6351, and let them know you have a picture to submit or drop by 38 Town Square, Greenwood, AR. 72936 to drop it off.

Always Be Safe and enjoy OUTDOORS ARKANSAS