ARKANSAS WILD BASS MASTER PROS
GET LURED IN TO THE LIFE OF THESE ARKANSAS BASS PROS FEATURING
TURKEY HUNT KRAPPIE KING VISITS ARKANSAS NIGHTTIME STRIPER FISHING
SPRING 2015 arKANSASwild.com
2 | Arkansas Wild 存 SPRING 2015
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 3
CONTENTS SPRING 2015 WWW.ARKANSASWILD.COM 存 FAcebook.com/ArkansasWild
BASSMASTER PROS 18
UP TIGHT IN PLAIN SIGHT
46 THE FAB FIVE
08 BIG BOY TOYS 10 WILD THINGS 12 GAME & FLAME 16 FIN & FEATHER 50 OUT & ABOUT 4 | Arkansas Wild 存 SPRING 2015
ARKANSAS WILD WWW.ARKANSASWILD.COM | FACEBOOK.COM/ARKANSASWILD REBEKAH HARDIN Publisher email@example.com MANDY KEENER Creative Director firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORIAL DENA WOERNER Editor email@example.com KEVIN WALTERMIRE Art Director firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING ELIZABETH HAMAN Advertising Sales Director email@example.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES SALEE BLACK firstname.lastname@example.org JEFF DELONEY email@example.com BONNY GREGORY firstname.lastname@example.org CARRIE SUBLETT email@example.com LESA THOMAS firstname.lastname@example.org PRODUCTION WELDON WILSON Production Manager/Controller ROLAND R. GLADDEN Advertising Traffic Manager ERIN HOLLAND Advertising Coordinator GRAPHIC DESIGNERS BRYAN MOATS MIKE SPAIN SOCIAL MEDIA LAUREN BUCHER email@example.com OFFICE STAFF ROBERT CURFMAN IT Director LINDA PHILLIPS Billing/Collections KELLY LYLES Office Manager SUSIE SHELTON Circulation Director 201 E. MARKHAM ST., SUITE 200 LITTLE ROCK, AR 72201 501-375-2985 All Contents © 2015 Arkansas Wild
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FROM THE EDITOR
An Arkansas spring makes me want to do something; catch something; climb something; live something. Senses that have hibernated all winter awaken to the telltale signs of spring: The smell of a spring rain. Almost overnight, the fuchsia blooms of the Redbud adorn bare branches along the highway – followed by the white and pink expression of the Dogwood. The first snake surprises you on the trail. The chaos of fish feeding on the surface shatters mirror like surfaces. The hypnotic sounds of rushing water and the melody of returning songbirds serve as further springtime trumpets. And then there’s the feel of heavier, humidified air rolling back across the state, replacing every inch of crisp, dry, winter air. It feels like the south again. The Arkansas Wild team searched for stories that exemplify an Arkansas Spring. This issue features the writing talents from a blend of both authors who call Arkansas home and scribes from across America that share an appreciation of our homeland. Our feature story by acclaimed angling author, David Brown provides a glimpse into the making of a professional bass angler. Five Arkansans vie for the title of “king” in the professional fishing world as they travel to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic in Greenville, SC and employ what they’ve learned on the rivers and lakes of Arkansas. We introduce Michael Roberts, editor of Food & Farm magazine, as our new Game and Flame contributor, as he tempts foodies with a trout benedict recipe. Hunting expert and nationally syndicated contributor Mark Strand will have you creeping under darkness to your turkey blind, while admired fishing writer Jim Edlund embraces insomnia and encourages anglers to stay up all night fishing striped bass on Lake Norfork. And field herpetologist, Calvin Vick debunks mistruths about a snake that some Arkansans fear 24/7/365. We travel with a Canadian film crew in quest of Arkansas’s fabled hubcap crappies. Turn the page and you’ll be hiking across the Ozark Highlands Trail and visiting other can’t-miss Arkansas destinations. Arkansas Spring is a celebration of everything outdoors from hunting, fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking and in general, embracing spring’s sensory overload. We think you’ll be feeling it, too – not to mention seeing, tasting, smelling and hearing it… Our next special issue, Bike Arkansas, debuts in late in April, and will keep you pedaling through the four seasons.
Dena Woerner, Editor firstname.lastname@example.org @denajill
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CONTRIBUTORS DAVID BROWN blends creative storytelling and solid journalistic skills to deliver compelling written content across multiple media platforms. David’s work has appeared in regional and national publications, print and Internet, throughout the U.S., as well as Canada and Eastern Europe. In addition to his new Surf Fishing book, Sportsman’s Best: Surf Fishing, David has contributed photography to several Sportsman’s Best titles.
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MICHAEL ROBERTS is the editor of Arkansas Food and Farm magazine, Arkansas Made magazine, and the Eat Arkansas food blog. His personal blog is the award-winning food blog Arkansas Foodies.
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Author CALVIN VICK divides his time “field herping” between his home in Cambridge, MN and southern basecamp near Little Rock. A member of the Minnesota Herpetological Society, he studies snakes, lizards, frogs and salamanders from around the world, but has taken particular interest in the reptiles and amphibians found in the Natural State.
ON THE COVER: Bassmaster Pros Scott Rook, Kevin Short, and Stephen Browning. Photographed by Jason Masters at Maumelle River.
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BIG BOY TOYS
THE EYES HAVE IT BY DENA WOERNER
GOPRO HERO4 SILVER PRO-QUALITY CAPTURE WITH TOUCH-DISPLAY The updated user interface of the GoPro Hero4 Silver offers improved discoverability and access to key camera controls, and 50-percent faster wifi combined with Bluetooth technology delivers enhanced GoPro App performance and improved power management. Night photo and night lapse allow you to capture stunning images of ultra low-light scenes with customizable exposure settings of up to 30 seconds, and Protune mode for custom color, sharpness, ISO limit and exposure controls for both photo and video capture. The GoPro Hero4 Silver is waterproof to 131 feet, and features a touch display. High resolution, high frame rate, exceptionally smooth slow-motion video playback and cinema-quality capture round out this camera. MSRP $499 www.gopro.com
AQUA-VU: MICRO 5 PLUS DVR UNDERWATER VIEWING SYSTEM The 3.5-inch LCD screen displays colorful underwater scenery with sharp resolution and dazzling brightness. The 3X digital zoom lets you examine fish and cover up close, while the infrared lighting system illuminates deep and dark water. The Aqua-Vu: Micro 5 is powered by a tiny yet potent rechargeable lithium-ion battery that operates for up to seven hours. The waterproof case is rated IP67, and includes a sunshield screen protector. Other features include a DVR with an 8GB internal SD card, a USB port for video out and a 100-foot cable. MSRP: $599 www.aquavu.com
BROWNING STRIKE FORCE GAME CAMERA With 10 megapixels, a lightning fast, 0.67-second trigger speed and a 100-foot plus flash range, Browning’s Strike Force is the smallest highperformance trail camera in the industry. At 5”x 4”x 2.5”, the compact camera shoots HD videos up to two-minutes long with sound, has a time-lapse camera mode, and is programmable to shoot up to eight multi-shot images and up to six rapid-fire images. The camera’s long battery life means you’ll get up to 10,000 pictures on 6 AA batteries, and the SD card slot will accommodate up to 32GB. The camera also includes a 12-volt external power jack, TV out and USB port. Browning Buck Watch Timelapse viewer software also included. MSRP: $179 www.browningtrailcameras.com 8 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
MOULTRIE: PANORAMIC 150 GAME CAMERA The Panoramic 150 is a specialty game camera for capturing high quality, super-wide digital images of deer and other wild game on your land or hunting camp. With up to a 70-foot night range, this 8 megapixel infrared panoramic game camera has three motion sensors to cover a super wide, 150-degree detection angle. The Silent-Slide lens rotates to take photos or videos whenever motion is detected without spooking game, while the Illumi-Night sensor provides bright, clear nighttime images. The camera has five operational modes: infrared triggered-game camera, time-lapse plot camera—plot camera by day, motion detect camera at night—HD video day and night. The SD memory card slot accommodates up to 32GB. The camera is also password protected. MSRP: $259 www.moultriefeeders.com
WASP 9902 GIDEON TRAIL AND UNDERWATER VIEWING SYSTEM The WASP 9902 Gideon records high-def video at 1080p60, 1080p30, 960p60, and 720p120, and has an auto-looping function so that video records over itself—perfect for continuous video recording. The camera includes a wireless wrist remote, which connects to the camera up to 15 feet away, while built-in wifi connects the camera to your smartphone for live viewing, remote control and instant sharing online. Up to 16 megapixels. Camera (when installed in waterproof casing) and remote are waterproof to 196 feet. Several accessories are included with this camera. MRSP: $319 www.waspcam.com
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 9
Knowledge is power when it comes to one of Arkansas’s most infamous venomous snakes. AS A YOUNG HERPETOLOGIST, I notice that one of the most commonly misunderstood Arkansas snakes is the cottonmouth—sometimes referred to as a water moccasin. True, cottonmouths have potent venom, which is a pretty big strike against them. It makes sense why people would have a healthy fear of cottonmouths, but it does not make sense why some people hate them. After all, it’s not the snake’s fault they’re venomous. The myths that surround cottonmouths are primary contributors to the fear of the snakes. Cottonmouth snakes are not out to get you; they would prefer to hide while you walk by so they can get on with their lives. One common myth is that cottonmouths chase people. Those who work with cottonmouths definitely find this to be false. It’s easy to see why someone might think they are being chased because the snake happens to flee in their direction. But the truth is, they are trying to get away. In my many experiences in the field, cottonmouths have never tried to chase me. Instead, they flee or go into a defensive posture (coiled, head back and ready to strike). Don’t let their body language make you think they are evil. When startled, you might scream, gasp or jump back. When a snake is startled, they flee if they can get away. If they can’t, they move into their defensive posture. In fact, cottonmouths are pretty reluctant to strike at times because venom is time-consuming for the snake to make. It can take weeks for the snake to produce replacement venom, leaving the snake vulnerable. Another myth, and probably the most common, is that cottonmouths breed in balls or live in nests. In fact, very few species of snakes breed in balls. Breeding in balls occurs when a bunch of males compete for a female. Common garter snakes engage in this breeding ritual. While cottonmouths do compete for females by sometimes wrapping around each other until one finally gives up, they dont compare to garter snakes, where thousands of males compete for females. With cottonmouths, after breeding takes place, the two snakes go their separate ways. The babies are born live in an embryonic sac, not an egg. This usually occurs during August and September. Cottonmouths are venomous right from birth. Once born, baby cot10 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
Cottonmouth snake in defensive posture.
tonmouths are on their own. In a few years they will be adults and ready to breed. The last myth is very important as it involves your personal safety. Cottonmouths can strike underwater. They have to be able to bite underwater to eat fish, frogs and aquatic or semiaquatic creatures. Just because a cottonmouth has gone into the water does not mean that the snake cannot bite you. On a related note, there is a group of Arkansas snakes that are negatively impacted by the killing of cottonmouths: water snakes. Water snakes are often misidentified as cottonmouths. Water snakes look very similar to cottonmouths, and this is on purpose in hopes that a predator will be frightened away thinking it is venomous. Water snakes, although non-venomous, can act aggressively and even strike when threatened. Arkansas’s native water snakes include diamondback water snakes, northern water snakes and broad-banded water snakes. Cottonmouth snakes hold a very important place in our ecosystem. Like all native animals, they should be treated the same as any other wonderful creature in the state of Arkansas. Cottonmouths keep mice populations in check and provide food for birds. I hope this will change your mind about cottonmouth snakes and maybe the next time you encounter one, you will reach for your phone, call your local wildlife center to have it removed or just leave it alone. Sometimes, the people who try to kill them are the ones that end up getting bitten. Until next time, conservation through education friends.
BY CALVIN VICK
Juvenile diamondback water snake.
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GAME & FLAME
Chef and hunter Jonathan Wilkins raises the bar on brunch. BY MICHAEL ROBERTS • PHOTOS BY SARA BLANCETT REEVES “MAN, I GOT SKUNKED TODAY,” Jonathan Wilkins says with a laugh. Wilkins has just come in to check on the early lunch shift at the newly opened Arkansas Fresh Bakery Cafe in Bryant, but he’s still dressed in camouflage from a morning duck hunt on the Saline River. Despite not putting any birds in the water, Wilkins is upbeat, and for good reason: The dining room is buzzing with compliments about the menu of high-end sandwiches and breakfast items that he designed, and the kitchen staff has begun to gel into a brigade to be proud of. Before Wilkins teamed up with baker and chocolatier Ashton Woodward to open the Arkansas Fresh Cafe, he made his name as the chef at Little Rock’s White Water Tavern, turning a space known more for whiskey drinks, cheap beer and loud music into a food destination. White Water meant long hours for its chef, and when Wilkins found himself sleeping at the bar some weekends, he knew that burnout was on its way. “When I left White Water, I just stayed in the woods for about six months,” he says. It was time spent doing more than just reflecting: Wilkins estimates that around 85 percent of the protein he eats in any given year comes from what he can hunt, fish or trap. “It’s really the best deal ever—for the cost of a hunting license, the entire state can become your grocery store,” he says before heading back into the kitchen to make sure things are still going smoothly. Wilkins’ top proteins are venison and squirrel, but he’s also a fan of trout fishing in the cold waters of the White River. He expresses some dismay at friends who claim that there aren’t many ways to make trout or squirrel taste good, and further disappointment that people who do eat them only ever seem to put them in the fryer. “These are good, quality sources of protein,” he says. “And if I’m going to eat them, they’re going to taste good.” If the Wilkinsdesigned menu at Arkansas Fresh Bakery Cafe is any indication, he knows how to do that. Continued on page 14 12 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
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Smoked Trout Eggs Benedict
This recipe calls for using 2-3 “keeper size” rainbow trout. For me, that’s not huge. I’ve never caught a big trout. A few smallishsized trout make a nice meal for two people. Check the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission regulations book and make sure you are following the laws for the piece of water you are fishing. Regulations change a lot depending on location and species of trout. Gut trout and wash inside and out with cold water. Some salt helps to scrub the slime off. You can leave the head on or cut it off.
SMOKED TROUT BRINE 1/2 gallon water 3/4 cup kosher salt 1/2 cup brown sugar
Get the water hot enough to dissolve the salt and sugar, then allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Submerge trout in the brine and refrigerate for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. After an hour or two, remove fish from brine and rinse with cold water. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and allow to sit on a rack in the fridge for a few hours. Smoke the trout at 200 degrees until the meat flakes off of the skin and the bone easily. Allow fish to cool, then flake all the meat into a bowl and hold for later.
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EVERYONE CAN HELP!
Invasive Species are not wanted in Arkansas. SMOKED TROUT CROQUETTE (BASE OF BENEDICT)
They can destroy the woods we have come to enjoy. So when you are out in the forest, be on the lookout for these invasive species. Please report any suspected findings.
flaked meat from 2-3 smoked trout diced green onion 1 large egg (beaten) lemon zest bread crumbs (Ritz crackers make good ones for this recipe) flour (a tablespoon or two) dash of Dijon mustard salt and pepper Mash it all together. If you like more of a certain ingredient, toss it in. If it’s too crumbly, add another egg; too wet, add a little more flour or bread crumb. You’re essentially making meatloaf patties. Form the patties three-quarters of an inch thick and 3-4 inches across. Cook the patties in a hot pan with enough olive oil to coat the bottom. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes per side.
Emerald Ash Borer
Asian Longhorned Beetle
DILL SOUR CREAM AND POACHED EGG
1 tablespoon of fresh dill black pepper (to taste) 1 cup sour cream poached egg 1/2 gallon water splash of white vinegar
Mix dill and pepper into sour cream. Set aside. Bring the water to a simmer, add the vinegar, wait 30-45 more seconds, then carefully crack the egg into the water. Softpoach the egg. You’re counting on the yolk to serve as a sauce, so don’t overdo it. Make a base of wilted greens and place the croquette on top. The poached egg goes on top of the croquette. Add the sour cream on top of that. Grate a bit of hard salami on top for garnish or a few crumbles of crispy bacon.
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FIN & FEATHER
Mountain Home’s Bass Cat is in its prime, with many more lives left to live BY MAYNARD LEE
For 2015, Bass Cat brings back the Caracal. A 19’8” model that carries extra width well into the front deck. Bass Cat feels this boat will compliment their impressive line of high performance fishing boats.
PHOTO BY BASS CAT BOATS
IT’D BE COOLER SAYING the name came from a fabled feline, a tomcat that could run full stride across a field of pads and take down a bullfrog and a dragonfly in one pounce. Truth is, though, the iconic Arkansas boat builder got its moniker when a weensy housecat ambled down the aisles of a fishing shop. More mundane, but historically important nonetheless. Paul Lingle, owner of Midway Wholesale Tackle, was chewing the fat with few a locals—including watercraft visionary Ron Pierce— and trying to come up with a name for Pierce’s new brainchild bass boat. Along came the kitty. Lingle asked, “How about Bass Cat?” And some four decades later the name still represents better-thansliced-bread bass boats. Pierce’s passion—more like out-and-out obsession—with boat design really started taking shape in high school when he cobbled together kit boats. From there, Pierce went on to a career in plastics engineering, which ultimately led to a fusion of his education, technical know how and love for fishing. And in 1971, a kitty named Bass Cat was born in Mountain Home. Today, the Bass Cat legacy is championed by Ron’s son, Rick Pierce—trust that the boat molds are in good paws. One senses his father’s pride surfacing when Rick talks about the brand and what makes Bass Cat king of the pride.
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“Our number one goal is consistency,” Rick Pierce says. Every boat that leaves the building is as faultless as the one before it. And when core construction elements are administered by hand, maintaining consistency is both an art and discipline. The components, the Bass Cat ingredients, also set the boats on their own higher plane. Pierce points to the industry-best resins, carpeting and gel coats that make up every boat. To that end, it’s Bass Cat’s undeniable performance attributes that have laid their legend among bass anglers. “Bass Cat bottoms are wider by eight inches than the competition. That gives us more stability,” Pierce says. Bass Cat’s other hallmarks, according to Pierce, include exceptional fuel mileage and the driest ride on the water. It shouldn’t be a surprise when Pierce says that 80 percent of Bass Cat’s sales are fiberglass bass boats. But don’t think the boat builder is one dimensional. Four years ago Bass Cat got bullish and acquired Wisconsin’s Yar-Craft, a maker of premium, V-hull fiberglass walleye boats. (Don’t expect a name change to Walleye Cat anytime soon, though.) Yar-Craft production has been moved to a building across the street from Bass Cat headquarters in Mountain Home. 2015 marks the fourth generation of Yar-Craft offerings under the leadership of Bass Cat. And Pierce says to watch for an “out of the box” design change to the Yar-Craft fleet, which will be unveiled next fall. Pierce sums it up best in a quote from the history section on the Bass Cat website: “We said it before, in any industry, you either lead, evolve or die. Leading is all we know how to do and we continue to do so.” www.basscat.com. PHOTO BY JIM EDLUND
LETTING THE CAT OUT OF THE BOATHOUSE
Bass Cat national sales manager Ivan Williams says the company continues to evovle, offering anglers the bes-riding boats on the water.
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UP TIGHT IN PLAIN SIGHT A before-light turkey stalking proves worth the time investment. BY MARK STRAND PHOTOS BY MONTY MILBURN
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THIS IS A PRIVATE SETTING IN NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, but settle in up close and undetected and you’re in for the nature show of all time. If you know exactly where they went to sleep last night, it’s possible to set up within about 40 yards of roosted turkeys, as long as you do it early enough. There is life in the night woods, and you miss it if you’re always a hair late, chasing breaking daylight as you press truck doors closed and wish you had been there earlier. If you get there when frogs and whippoorwills are belting it out, you can walk among the raccoons and nocturnal deer, sounding like a lightstepping deer yourself, right up to the turkey’s stoop. Deer snap twigs and shuffle leaves as they walk, so if you sound like that and get there early enough, time will heal the wounds of sound. You need to be there, at the foot of their bed, letting silence reign, at least an hour before any light cracks. After you’re in position, don’t make any noise yourself, because if you do, the best you can hope for is a quiet, compromised turkey wake-up followed by black blobs vacating on sailing wings. (Now, before we even get started: There are moveable roosts of modest bird numbers and there are big, traditional roosts that should not be invaded. What we are talking about here are bands of turkeys roosting together after spring dispersal.) The wait can seem long, but settle in and enjoy what’s left of the night, letting your ears amplify quiet and you’ll be prepared for the start of the turkey show. Actually, you’ll be beyond prepared, because you’ll hear the first part plain as day: a sharp sound like somebody striking a match, followed by more of the same, the spit of gobblers anxious to get this mating day underway. Then low-pitched tom turkey breath humming, completing the spit and drumming. Usually, this is all you will hear, turkey-wise, for a while, as if they are warming up before playing their trumpets. This has become one of my favorite things in the world. While it’s still pitch black, the first gobble usually rings out, and you hear it all, brassy but throaty, and if you can avoid being startled you should probably sign up for sniper training. First gobble doesn’t always precede first yelp, but if the yelping starts first there will only be about half a second before first gobble. At this range, the first yelp doesn’t even sound real if all you’ve ever heard is distant calling, but this is what they sound like to each other. A bit
Take time to listen to the sounds of Arkansas woodland creatures.
squeaky, distinct differences in voices, and you begin to understand how they can know each other by their calls. You will discover that all hens do not begin the day with soft tree calls. Some of them wake up ready to rasp, and if there is any doubt about which hens bring the biggest response, that will be settled in your mind forever.
It goes from being pitch dark to a world of blues and blacks so gradually, you don’t really notice the transition. It’s best if you’re inside a blind with a roof over it, because you can look up, usually at a severe angle, and see them. If you have several days to hunt the same place, and believe you know the location of a roost, slip in and set up a blind Continued on page 20
If you start out early enough, it’s possible to set up about 40 yards of roosted turkeys.
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WHILE IT’S STILL PITCH BLACK, THE FIRST GOBBLE USUALLY RINGS OUT, AND YOU HEAR IT ALL...
The Natural State is the perfect place to bag a trophy tom.
at midday. Leave the zipper open. Slip in next morning, put a gloved hand on both sides of the zipper, and take as long as necessary to close it, almost silently. In a tangled fortress of major limbs and smaller crisscrossing branches, the blobs wake up, stand up, roll side to side to flex their feathers, preening and peering in all directions. I’ve seen them shake their heads hard, like we do when we’re trying to snap out of it and get ready for the day. Soft hen-talk causes gobbler feathers to stand up, partially at first, starting on their back, tail feathers easing outward slightly, rising and falling with their breathing, then they gobble and poof out like a porcupine, full strut, convulsing as they spit and drum, sometimes losing their balance and almost falling out of the tree. They gobble sometimes, it seems, without deciding to, even pumping out two or three in a row, causing other toms to gobble, too. Detailed feather outlines become apparent as toms strut on the limb, an action that seems as involuntary as their feet clamping around the branch during the night. Just the fact that hen turkeys exist causes the whole show, of course, but the gobbling also gets the girls going, and spirited yelping and 20 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
cutting is the gas that fans the flames and turns it into a loud, rowdy saloon about to explode. Long strings of hen yelping mixed with unbelievable cutting, during which you swear you can hear their beaks snapping shut, interrupted by waves of gobbles and you can hear toms trying to catch their breath to do it again, jakes joining in at the end, goofy yelps that sound like donkeys. Keep an eye on ’em, because when they start to rock on the limbs that means they’re fixin’ to fly down. Rock-rock-rock, flap-flap-flap and the first one’s on the ground. Heavy wingbeats and a frantic rush and they’re all moving around on the still-dark ground, the boys chasing the girls while simultaneously trying to run each other off. Strutting toms pivot and spin like tilt-a-whirls at the fair, the red and white of their heads striking, like they’re lit up, against the gritty early light. It’s fun to watch them tip their spread tails in the direction of feeding hens, who seem not to notice, but they do. You know what? After watching this unfold, even if they move off to parts unknown and we go home without firing a shot, truth is, we got ’em all.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 21
ARKANSANS VIE FOR BASSMASTER CLASSIC IN SOUTH CAROLINA DAVID A. BROWN
WHEN THE 45TH ANNUAL GEICO BASSMASTER CLASSIC unfolds a tapestry of talent across Lake Hartwell near Greenville, South Carolina, February 20-22, the cadre of competitive competence will contain a common cord of Arkansan affinity. Five standouts of Natural State heritage will bring their experience and ability to Greenville with hopes of bringing home the Classic trophy. Mark Davis, Scott Rook, Kevin Short, Mike McClelland and Stephen Browning each cut their teeth on Arkansas waters and all agree that what they’ve come to love about their home state has had a huge impact not only on their tactical development, but also the preparation needed to face a broad spectrum of fisheries on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Classic veterans all, Arkansas’s native sons have their go-to baits, their stylistic preferences, their favorite waters, but all share a deep appreciation for the state that has helped ready them for a shot at the title of titles. Here’s a look at who’s representing Arkansas. Continued on page 24
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PHOTO BY JASON MASTERS
Scot t Rook
HOMETOWN: LITTLE ROCK ° CLASSIC APPEARANCE: 9TH SIGNATURE TECHNIQUE: FISHING WITH JIGS AND WORMS ° FAVORITE ARKANSAS WATERS: ARKANSAS RIVER SCOTT ROOK CAME CLOSE TO CLAIMING ANOTHER CLASSIC title for Arkansas with his second-place finish on the Louisiana Delta in 2001. A decade later, he posted another strong finish at the same venue with a seventhplace effort on this famed fishery. The Louisiana Delta is a very different scenario than what he’ll face on Hartwell, but Rook echoes his fellow Arkansans’ appreciation for what his home state has meant to his development as a professional angler. “I feel like I’m a very versatile angler,” Rook said. “I can put down my rod with 20-pound line and pick up a spinning rod with six and not miss a beat. “We have shallow, muddy lakes, we have deep, clear lakes, we have lakes with grass, we have the Arkansas River. I think that’s why you see so many great anglers come out of the state of Arkansas. It’s because of the diverse fisheries we have. Arkansas is the only state that has had a Classic qualifier every single year.” Growing up, Rook was one of those kids that basically taught themselves the ways of the lakes and rivers. His family had marginal interest and, like most Southern homes, the basics were handily available. “My dad wasn’t into fishing, but as long as I can remember I liked to fish,” Rook recalled. “We had an old tackle box and a couple of rod and reels, and I used those at a pretty early age, like when I was 5 or 6 years old. “I was in my early 20s before I fished my first tournament. I’ve always said that fishing picked me—I didn’t pick fishing.” Of course, ever since his career tapped him on the shoulder, Rook has dropped his trolling motor in just about every freshwater scenario the nation has to offer. In each case, his Arkansasborn angling acumen has provided the mental waypoints he’s needed to chart a course to success. 24 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
“I have applied a lot of what I’ve learned here nationwide,” Rook said. “I’ve learned how to fish in gin-clear water and I’ve learned to fish in really muddy water and that’s helped me a lot along the way. A bass is a bass anywhere you go, and I can apply something I’ve learned in Arkansas to any lake we fish anywhere.” Having seen Hartwell at the 2008 Classic, Rook knows what to expect and he’s eager to take another shot at the lake. When he gets there, he’ll no doubt refer to his experience back home. “If I had to pick one lake that Hartwell is similar to, I’d say Lake Ouachita with no grass in it,” Rook said. “It’s a great big lake that’s spread out with lots of creeks and it has a couple of big river arms like Lake Ouachita. It’s really similar, but it doesn’t have grass like Ouachita occasionally does.” Heading into this year’s Classic, Rook said meteorological matters would be of utmost concern. This time of year, weather can play a significant role in tournament outcomes, so staying on top of current and forthcoming trends will be his focus. “In late February, if we have a warming spell, it will be shallow-water fishing; if we have a cold spell between now and then it will be more deep-water fishing,” he said. “More than likely, it will be won deep, but if it continues to warm, you can continue to fish shallow. “The weather is going to be the biggest factor in what you can do. And you might have to mix it up some.” As Arkansas’s quintet of angling ambassadors heads to Lake Hartwell, Davis, Browning, Short, McClelland and Rook will entrust their fate to the piscatorial pedigrees founded in the waters of their youth. And while it’s been three decades since B.A.S.S. brought the Classic to Pine Bluff in 1985, the state has five solid shots at seeing the trophy in 2015.
PHOTO BY JASON MASTERS ARKANSASWILD.COM | 25
PHOTO BY JASON MASTERS 26 | Arkansas Wild 存 SPRING 2015
HOMETOWN: HOT SPRINGS ° CLASSIC APPEARANCE: 10TH SIGNATURE TECHNIQUE: PITCHING/FLIPPING SHALLOW WOOD ° FAVORITE ARKANSAS WATERS: LAKE MILLWOOD OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES WERE A BIG PART of Stephen Browning’s youth, as he spent many mornings fishing with his dad and grandfather on the Arkansas River near his boyhood home in Pine Bluff. Much of their time was spent on the river’s lower reaches from Pine Bluff to Pendleton; and while Browning enjoyed the company, he quickly realized where his interest was taking root. “My dad and my grandfather were big crappie fishermen, but as a kid you have to be doing something and I couldn’t let a cork sit very long,” Browning said. “I’d sit in the back of the boat and cast worms or spinnerbaits. That intrigued me more than looking at a cork and waiting on it to go under.” Over the years, Browning has had ample opportunity to hone his bass skills on Arkansas waters. And, like Davis also noted, the state is no one-trick pony. “I think it’s the sheer diversity of the whole state,” Browning said of his development as a professional bass angler. “I grew up in south Arkansas fishing the river, but that’s why I moved to Hot Springs—to learn how to catch fish out of these highland reservoirs.” Making his home near a trio of very different lakes—DeGray, Hamilton and Ouachita—Browning has the ideal practice range for wherever his professional schedule takes him. “These lakes give me a great amount of diversity to [prepare for] a particular type of lake that we’ll be fishing on the [Bassmaster Elite Series] or in the Classic,” Browning said. “Arkansans have had lots of success as tournament anglers because of this diversity.” Balancing the assortment, Browning said his home state waters have taught him to fish with an abundance of patience. The opportunity is there, but
“easy” days teach you very little. Conversely, Browning said his experience in Arkansas waters has instilled in him a meticulous nature that serves him well on challenging waters elsewhere. “Our lakes get a tremendous amount of pressure,” he said. “We don’t have the true super heavy stringers that win tournaments, so being super-patient and thorough in the water I’m fishing has really helped me in my 18, 19 years of doing this.” Browning said he’s been spending a lot of time on two of his local lakes with specific scenarios in mind. Two possible Hartwell scenarios also play out on his home waters, so Browning has been practicing on what could be considered a simulation field. “My game plan for preparing for the Bassmaster Classic has been to spend a lot of time on Hamilton and DeGray — mostly DeGray because it sets up like Hartwell with offshore humps and shallow structure but no grass,” Browning said. “I think in the Classic, a lot of anglers will be fishing these scenarios. “Also, Hamilton has many docks, so that allows me to hone my dock pitching skills prior to the Classic as well. If I need to fish docks on Hartwell, I’ll be ready for that, too.” Regarding his Classic game plan, Browning again referenced the similarities between the tournament site and his home waters. “I think [my strength] will be a pretty good knowledge of what phase the fish should be in,” he said. “I can pretty much gauge the water temperature and determine what they should be doing this time of year. “Everything that happens at Hartwell happens right here around my house. When I show up [in Greenville], I should have a pretty good handle on it.” ARKANSASWILD.COM | 27
Kevin Shor t
HOMETOWN: MT. IDA ° CLASSIC APPEARANCE: 18TH SIGNATURE TECHNIQUE: CRANKING DEEP STRUCTURE ° FAVORITE ARKANSAS WATERS: LAKE OUACHITA SHORT HAS SEEN A PAIR OF CLASSIC TAKEOFFS, but notably his first was the event’s last Hartwell visit in 2008, when he finished above mid-pack at 22nd. In preparation for this year’s Classic, as well as his broader competitive travels, he too lauds the array of angling opportunities his home state offers. “Probably the best thing we have is variety in the different types of water,” he said. “We have everything from muddy backwaters off the Arkansas River, to gin-clear highland reservoirs like Bull Shoals and Norfork, and we also have a few lakes in between them like Ouachita. We have a little bit of everything.” Somewhat of a late-bloomer on the tournament side, Short fished his first competitive event in his mid-20s and didn’t start seriously pursuing this course until his early 30s. Nevertheless, he spent plenty of his youth enjoying Arkansas’s vast natural resources with his family. Even as a young angler, these early years brought valuable lessons that have stuck with him and provided the foundational concepts for his professional level performance. One in particular: Be prepared for multiple scenarios. “We fished everywhere from border to border in the state,” Short said. “From going to a lot of different lakes as a kid, I learned that you couldn’t go to different bodies of water and do the same thing. It taught me early on that you need to have more than one bait in your box.” Short also points out that a lifetime observing prominent fisheries provides insight and understanding that you simply cannot otherwise acquire. Lakes go through life cycles, and seeing the highs and lows—not just in terms of water level, but also productivity—builds a bigpicture awareness that helps an angler recognize the patterns and make more informed decisions on the water.
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Extending this wisdom to similar fisheries throughout the nation has proven strategically beneficial for Short. “One of the things that has helped tremendously is fishing these fisheries over long periods of time and seeing when they’ve been really good and seeing them when it’s been very hard to get a bite,” he said. “So I’ve been able to do well as a pro fisherman when we go somewhere with lots of big fish or places where it’s hard to catch five a day.” He’s hopeful that the Classic won’t prove so perplexing, but Short is confident that his Arkansas background will help him dial in the daily deals. “Hartwell is one of those lakes that are pretty diverse,” he said. “You can catch fish shallow on a crankbait or deep on a jig in dead of winter,or you can go to the opposite end where the water is clear and fish a jerkbait. “There’s just a whole lot of things to do there. You could pick up on one technique and do that all three days and do well, or you can get a couple of different things going. You might throw a shallow crankbait bite part of the day, or a deep jig bite or a jerkbait part of the day.” Short said he would feel comfortable with either option and if he can get around the right quality of fish, he believes he can do well. Familiarity is good, but despite having fished a Classic on this year’s host lake, Short is arriving with a clean slate. “My thought process going in will be to work very hard at paying attention to what’s [happening] on the water,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is work off of anything from my past experience. “I really want to work off of what’s going on. What do I have to do to get the next bite? I want to pay attention to detail. I won’t take anything for granted.”
PHOTO BY JASON MASTERS ARKANSASWILD.COM | 29
Mike McClelland HOMETOWN: BELLA VISTA ° CLASSIC APPEARANCE: 10TH SIGNATURE TECHNIQUE: STICK BAITS ° FAVORITE ARKANSAS WATERS: BULL SHOALS LAKE
WITH SEVEN CAREER VICTORIES, including an impressive four Elite Series wins in four different states (Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Oklahoma), Mike McClelland never tires of his home state waters. Rich with rodbending potential, Arkansas lakes have also captivated him with their aesthetic appeal. “Probably the biggest thing is the natural appearance that a lot of our lakes have,” he said. “The state has always done a good job of maintaining the natural beauty.” Favoring Bull Shoals when the prespawn finds a little color in the water, McClelland considers himself a versatile angler capable of adjusting to any situation he faces on the Elite Series. This advantage, he said, has served him well throughout his career and he owes his development to his home state waters. “Arkansas does offer a broad range of different types of fisheries,” McClelland said. “Growing up fishing Bull Shoals and Beaver Lake, I really had to learn to be very versatile and use a lot of different techniques to catch fish. “As time went on and I was able to travel and fish different areas of the state, I was exposed to vegetation fishing and river fishing. The variety of lakes and rivers that we have in Arkansas has conditioned me to be a very versatile angler across the board.” McClelland further noted that the waters on which he learned his craft also taught him a key attribute with deep impact on his professional fishing performance: patience. “A lot of anglers from other states are exposed to fisheries where it’s not uncommon to catch a lot of fish; it’s not uncommon to have 15- to 30-fish days during the course of a year,” he said. “With some of the fisheries I grew up 30 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
on, I had to learn to be really patient and grind. That’s made me stronger as a tournament angler.” In his nine previous Classic appearances, McClelland has notched a pair of top-five finishes: fourth place at the Red River (2009) and fifth on Grand Lake (2013). When the Classic visited Hartwell in 2008, he placed 42nd; but with a better understanding of this Palmetto State fishery, he’s mapped out a game plan for taking on the big lake and a key dynamic that contrasts with similar Arkansas lakes. “By looks and structure, Lake Hartwell compares very similarly to some of our Arkansas lakes,” McClelland observed. “The biggest difference is the blueback herring. That baitfish can dictate the fishing a lot more than the structure. It’s definitely going to affect it in terms of not fishing only the kinds of places where I would normally fish in a similar situation in Arkansas. The bass will move around more as they follow the blueback, so I may have to adjust for that.” McClelland said he’s planning on putting his signature series Spro stickbaits to work on Hartwell—very likely splitting his time between the jerking discipline and a deeper presentation. “I think my Spro stickbaits are definitely going to be a player at the Classic,” McClelland said. “I’m not sure if you can win it on one bait only, but the stickbait will definitely play at the Classic. “I’ve also made a lot of money with a football jig. It’s no secret that when Alton Jones won the Classic in 2008 [Lake Hartwell], a football jig was a big part of that win for him. So, I’ll definitely be using my strength, throwing a football jig offshore. Hopefully, that in conjunction with the stickbait will be all I need to win this thing.”
PHOTO BY BASSMASTER ARKANSASWILD.COM | 31
HOMETOWN: MT. IDA ° CLASSIC APPEARANCE: 18TH SIGNATURE TECHNIQUE: CRANKING DEEP STRUCTURE ° FAVORITE ARKANSAS WATERS: LAKE OUACHITA THE MOST TENURED OF THIS YEAR’S Arkansan qualifiers, Mark Davis won the 1995 Classic on High Rock Lake in Greensboro, North Carolina. The thrill of the big event never fades, but Davis said that experiencing the associated hype and pressure several times has allowed him to cut through the distractions and just focus on the job at hand. “For one thing, you know how high the hurdle is you’re trying to jump,” Davis said of his Classic perspective. “That can help you or hurt you. You know what it takes to win an event like this, but the Classic is an event where everything just has to fall in place for you perfectly. “There’s no way to plan for it, and at the end of the day you have to go out there and get on the fish and have them to yourself. If you have to share an area, that’s one of the many things that can keep you from winning a Classic. Having been there and done that is an advantage.” Davis said he’ll rely on his diverse angling aptitude, and for that he credits his state of residence. “Arkansas offers such a diversity of different types of water,” Davis said. “You have everything from clear, upland reservoirs to rivers and lowland reservoirs. You have grass, you have structure, you have every possible scenario within this state to hone your bass fishing skills. “Not every state has this [level of diversity]. You have the Delta country and you’ve got the rivers and you’ve got the mountain region. So you have all different types of water to fish.” Along with the fishing resources, 32 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
Davis credits fellow anglers for invaluable lessons early in his career. “Without a doubt, Arkansas has a wealth of not only great fishing, but also great anglers,” Davis said. “When I was 16, I joined the Ozark Bass Club, and at a young age I was exposed to all these great anglers. You can learn so much so quickly at that age. “Even beyond that, I’d fish a lot of tournaments and you’d draw a guy and he’d teach you something and you’d teach him something. So fishing with great anglers in the state of Arkansas helped me as much as anything.” Growing up in Hot Springs, Davis learned the fishing basics in his youth while fishing with his dad. He so loved the sport that he started running guide trips on Lake Hamilton at age 15. He fished his first tournament at age 13 and won the jackpot team event on Lake Hamilton. Notably, Davis partnered with his crosstown pal Allan Ranson, now the CFO/COO of Strike King—one of Davis’ longtime sponsors. “Fishing became a way of life,” Davis said of the early onset of his fishing addiction. “I was one of those kids who knew at an early age what I wanted to do. It was always my goal to be a professional fisherman and I’ve been able to make a living at it.” Davis’ Classic snapshot: “Hartwell’s a lot like Lake Ouachita or Bull Shoals. It has a lot of deep timber and it has largemouth bass and spots. These lakes are very similar in what the fish do. “I’m really looking forward to fishing this one because it really suits my style of fishing. It will be a deep tournament unless we really have an early spring. I think it will be won deep.”
PHOTO BY DAVID BROWN ARKANSASWILD.COM | 33
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36 | Arkansas Wild 存 SPRING 2015
‘KRAPPIE KINGS’ TOURS THE NATURAL STATE
TV fishing show explores Conway, Fayetteville areas for fish and good eating. BY KARL KALONKA HOST OF “KRAPPIE KINGS TELEVISION” “KRAPPIE KINGS TELEVISION” is a character-driven, angling travel show that features unique people, places and appetizing culinary techniques and recipes across the United States and Canada. One of the most enjoyable aspects of planning our road trips to film episodes for “Krappie Kings Television” is being able to meet great people along the way. And, experiencing some of the best crappie fishing in North America is priceless. Our Arkansas trip began in Conway. Rachel Shaw, director of destination marketing, arranged this portion of our trip. We began filming our popular series segment, “Chill n` Grill” at Mike’s Place on Front Street. We met John McNamara, the restaurant’s general manager, who gave us a guided tour and history of the Mike’s Place. The restaurant specializes in seafood, steaks and wood-fire pizza, but serves speciality appetizers that we were lucky to sample. They were simply out-of-this-world great. Our arrival date in Arkansas was pushed back past the prime bite time due to a devastating tornado that ripped through the Faulkner County area a few days before our original arrival date of May 2, 2014. As we passed through the destruction left the storm’s wake, our thoughts and prayers were with the victims. The tornado left a lot of debris in the
lake and the fish were as scattered as scattered gets. We were very fortunate to hook up with Jeff Smith of Arkansas lure manufacturer Crappie Magnet. Smith volunteered to guide us through the lake. We had to literally dissect every little spot we stopped to find our catch. We fished the many cypress trees and timber on Lake Conway with Crappie Magnet’s tiny, soft plastic jigs—creeping along ever so slowly and dropping our baits on a tight line into every little shady hole we could find. Working the tree trunks and branches produced a few bites. Having to fish a little harder gave us an opportunity to explore acres of excellent crappie fishing on Lake Conway. One of the challenges of so much timber provided some of the most enjoyable experiences Smith and I shared. We would hook into a bigger-than-average slab and have to figure out a way to get that fish back into the boat while avoiding lifting our rods into the overhanging branches and tree limbs. All while the fish was splashing on the surface. Pandemonium? Yes, but so rewarding when a fish was landed. It truly made for great TV moments. The second leg of our Arkansas trip was to Fayetteville. Marilyn Heifner and Jessica Leonard of the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission made our first Continued on page 36 ARKANSASWILD.COM | 37
Jeff Smith and Karl Kalonka on Lake Conway.
“OUR FIRST-EVER TRIP TO ARKANSAS WAS IMPRESSIVE. BOTH CONWAY AND FAYETTEVILLE DIDN’T DISAPPOINT.” — KARL KALONKA Crab-stuffed fish served at Café Rue Orleans, Fayetteville.
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visit to Fayetteville impressionable. Fayetteville reminded us of a Norman Rockwell-type place you read about in books or see in movies. The people were friendly, the restaurants and nightclubs were plentiful and unique, and local attractions like the Arkansas Air and Military Museum as varied as anyone could ever expect. The ladies arranged for us to film our cooking segment at Café Rue Orleans with owner/chef Maudie Schmitt, who is one heck of a cook and so friendly it felt like we were meeting a favorite aunt. Schmitt prepared several appetizers, including a mess of boiled crawfish and seafood samplers, and several main dishes that stuffed us like Christmas hams. Once again we had an opportunity to fish and film with another great guy, Mark Pifer. Pifer works for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. He contacted us via Facebook and told us about this little lake named Sequoyah that consistently produced plentiful numbers of crappie—some very large! Lake Sequoyah has stained water with shorelines that feature miles of potential crappie holding cover including trees, lily pads, brush piles, many “lay down trees” and stumps that are scattered on the flats. We decided to pound the shorelines first and see if any of those big slabs that we had heard about were willing to come out to play. Again, due to our later arrival date in Arkansas, many of the fish were in post-spawn mode. This made for additional effort in locating and provoking bites from larger crappie. Not to be outdone by the fish, we cast jigs under slip floats to submerged brush piles and small isolated weed edges away from the banks and began catching fish. This lake has so many year-classes of crappie (five to ten inches) including a wide range of fish species that our float usually didn’t sit still for long, signaling a bite from a crappie, bream, bass or catfish. Searching for larger crappies, we sought out Pifer’s friend, Mike McBride. McBride operates the park boat ramp, bait shop and canoe rental. He suggested we move further off the banks onto the wide-open flats in search of the isolated “lay downs” that hold bigger crappie. Bingo! We began pitching our tiny jigs and soft plastic baits and started putting bigger slabs into the live well. Our first-ever trip to Arkansas was impressive. Both Conway and Fayetteville didn’t disappoint. The people were friendly, the restaurants plentiful and the crappie fishing opportunities endless. If you’re a crappie fisherman, consider Conway and Fayetteville for your next crappie fishing adventure. These Arkansas adventures can be seen in early episodes of “Krappie Kings,” season two starting January 2015 on the Sportsman Channel and World Fishing Network. Visit www.krappiekings.com for more information about the show.
ARKANSASWILD.COM | 39
PHOTOS BY JIM EDLUND
More fun than should be legal after dark (on Arkansas’s Lake Norfork) BY JIM EDLUND
Larry Olson and Jason Mitchell with a Lake Norfork Striper.
AS THE SUN SINKS BELOW THE HORIZON during early spring, shad move into shallow coves on Lake Norfork. Not far behind, striped bass follow the high-protein forage, tuned into a biological imperative older than man. And completing the predator/prey relationship, a handful of diehard anglers who understand these fish movements idle silently into sheltered coves, in pursuit of silvery, pin-striped pelagics that can push 20-plus pounds. Lucky for me, I met one of these insomniac anglers. But it wasn’t by design. I planned my trip to Arkansas with White River trout on the brain, fantasizing a new personal best brown. And maybe some big bass action as a break to flinging fluff and feathers in moving waters. Stripers, let alone at night, were not in my wheelhouse. The story starts with a sweet little lady named Marion Olson. I had driven straight to Lake Norfork’s Mockingbird Bay Resort from Minnesota and was ready for a good night’s 40 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
sleep. But almost as soon as I stepped out of the truck she started in with fish stories. “My husband Larry will be back out there tonight. Last night he caught a half-dozen big stripers,” announced Marion Olson, friend of Mockingbird Bay Resort staff. She glanced in my direction. “And he’s got an empty boat seat tonight.” “Kind of beat after 12 hours of windshield,” I stammered. She shook her head. “My husband Larry works 12 hours every day and fishes at night!” Nothing like a reminder from a woman who could be your grandma to buck up and grow a set. Before I knew it, I was digging a heavy-power St. Croix flipping rod out of the back of my truck. The rumor of big fish called for a stout stick. Minutes later Larry pulled up on a golf cart. “Ready to go, kid?”
Immediately, I knew Larry Olson was one of the good guys. He reminded me of the dad I lost to cancer in 2003, a retired combat pilot who ran a bait shop for 20 years after returning from Vietnam. Like dad, Olson was a good Swede–and originally from Minnesota. See, Larry’s not a professional fishing guide, just a guy who loves to fish. “A lot of people call asking me to guide them and I say, ‘Sure, I’ll go fishing, but I’m no guide.’ But I do like to fish with new folks. These night stripers really get me going–they’re too fun to keep a secret!” Salt of the Earth. I knew that even if we got skunked, we’d still have a blast. Nothing like the droll (and mildly filthy) jokes of an old Swede. No dig on guides, but sometimes the best guide isn’t one. Could be a bartender, barber, somebody’s uncle or grandpa. There are a lot of seasoned anglers out there who know how to catch fish and love sharing it, just don’t want a nickel in return. “You turn something into a business and pretty soon all of this is work. And I got enough of that,” joked Olson. It was 10 p.m. as we idled out from Mockingbird Bay. Olson explained that it’s not uncommon to fish until just before sunrise, especially if the bite is on. A 15-minute boat trip later, Olson dropped down the bow-mount trolling motor. “Cast up close to shore, but not too close…there’s a lot of buck brush, don’t get stuck.” We started fishing off a main lake point, working back into the cove, throwing large Smithwick Rogues near shore, working the baits over shallow water on a slow, steady retrieve. The challenge was judging how far to cast in the darkness. You wanted to hear a splash, not the lure falling on rock or wood. The other danger to night fishing with big baits is the possibility of sinking a hook in human hide. Headlamps are only turned on when boating a fish becomes critical. The shallow-feeding stripers are easily spooked by light and noise. “With two or more guys casting big baits, best to pay attention. If somebody gets hooked…one time this guy…. Then, wham! “There’s a fish, boys… finish the story later!” Larry’s drag screamed and the fish peeled line, making mad 50-yard runs into deeper, open water. The striper zigged and zagged until finally fatigued. I dipped the net, scooped the fish headfirst, and hoisted the heavy,
flopping mass over the gunnel. Larry pulled out his pliers and removed the Rogue from the fish’s mouth. “I change out all my hooks with heavier saltwater-grade trebles. They make mincemeat out of a regular freshwater hook.” Larry heaved the 20-somethingpound fish into a horizontal grab and grin for a quick photo and the trophy was slipped back into the water. High fives all around. A few minutes later I connected. Retrieving the Rogue at a painfully slow pace, the strike was like a blind spot sack by a 280-pound lineman. The rod doubled over, and the fish sprinted toward some far-off end zone. The fish’s athleticism was only intensified under the shroud of darkness. I began to shake as I caught occasional glimpses in the moonlight. Adrenaline coursed through my veins. Meanwhile, Larry kept the boat away from stumps and other cover that could have quickly ended the prize fight. “Get wrapped up ‘round wood and that fish is a memory.” Hoping for a photo, and fearing a broken heart, I took my time. I could imagine my dad’s mantra, “Don’t horse him, take your time” echoing in the darkness. The seconds passed like years. And then the moment of truth. Larry slid the big Frabill net underneath the glistening trophy. Still shaking, I struggled to hold up the fish for a quick photo. Then, back into the water she went to fight another day. Bassin’ magazine publisher Brad Uhl was next with another big striper, his first ever at night. Over the next few hours we caught several more fish between jokes and the kind existential talk that only happens late at night. I couldn’t get enough. Each cast into the darkness was another occasion for hope and a freight train crash of fish into metal and wood. Before I knew it, birds began to sing, the prelude to sunrise. As we motored back to Mockingbird Bay, I couldn’t help but think about Marion. She had set me on course for one of the best bites I’d ever experienced—and I was grateful. A few hours later at breakfast I thanked Marion. She beamed like the Cheshire Cat. “You, Brad and Larry had a good time, didn’t you?” “Sure did, ma’am.” Continued on page 42
Brad Uhl of Bassin’ magazine with a beast of the night.
WHOEVER COINED THE NOW-RUSTY ADAGE “NOTHING GOOD EVER HAPPENS AFTER MIDNIGHT” NEVER FISHED ARKANSAS’S LAKE NORFORK UNDERNEATH A BRILLIANT BANNER OF STARS.
Larry Olson and Pat Kalmerton reel in another a Lake Norfork striper. ARKANSASWILD.COM | 41
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WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE...
42 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
“I knew you would. I s’pose you want to go again tonight.” I nodded my head and winked, “Just like Br’er Rabbit. Please don’t throw me in the briar patch!” The days that followed are a blur of daytime bass fishing. Unfortunately, the river conditions weren’t optimal to chase big browns in waders. Didn’t matter. Each night I met Larry at the dock for a sleepless rinse and repeat of big striper action. A couple other Mockingbird Bay guests, Tim Huffman, a crappie magazine editor from Missouri, and North Dakota fishing/hunting TV host Jason Mitchell, joined us. And watching them experience Norfork’s nighttime stripers was almost as fun as catching fish myself. The end to Larry’s story interrupted by that first fish? I imagine it ends like this: “One time this guy from Minnesota came down here to catch stripers and he never went home.” Larry’s hooked. So am I. And Brad, Tim, Jason…Georgia writer Jeff Samsel and his son Nathaniel, too. I cannot wait to fish Norfork’s night-shift stripers again soon. What they offer in sportfish potential rivals anything that swims, anywhere. Those big White River browns will just have to wait. What hath the night to do with sleep, when there are big stripers to be caught in the humid wee-hours of Arkansas’s vernal darkness? Not much. Not much at all. For more information on Lake Norfork striper fishing and accommodations, call Frank & Loretta Zortman at (870) 491-5151 or visit www.mockingbirdbayresort.com.
Jim Edlund is a freelance fishing writer from Minnesota who regularly contributes to In-Fisherman, North American Fisherman, Cabela’s Outfitter Journal, and numerous other outdoors publications. Jim is also active in an organization called Fishing’s Future that reconnects kids and parents through fishing education outreach (www.fishingsfuture). He’d like to thank the people of Arkansas for their hospitality, fishing and good cooking. Especially the good cooking.
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SPRING ARKANSAS DESTINATIONS BY ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND TOURISM
Central Arkansas PINNACLE MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
Pinnacle Mountain State Park is a recreation, environmental education and conservation preserve surrounded by an urban area. Located in west Little Rock, Pinnacle offers interpretive programs, special events, exhibits, a picnic and playground area, pavilions, boat launching ramps, plus hiking and mountain bike trails. In addition, you’ll find a horseback riding concession, the Arkansas Arboretum, canoe and kayak rentals/floats, barge tours, paddle boats, technical rock climbing and fishing. The overlook at the park visitor center provides spectacular views of the water route of the Trail of Tears, a Congress-designated National Historic Trail.
SCOTT AND KEO
Do an indoor and outdoor excursion by visiting the two small communities of Scott and Keo off U.S. Highway 165. The flavor of the Old South surrounds these two tiny communities located approximately 20 minutes southeast of Little Rock. The Plantation Agriculture Museum, Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park and Scott Plantation Settlement provide the opportunities for the outdoor activities. Both state parks, antique shops and an Arkansas fresh produce store provide indoor attractions. Two of Arkansas’s legendary restaurants—Cotham’s in Scott and Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets in Keo—draw visitors from far and wide.
Northwest Arkansas OZARK HIGHLANDS NATIONAL RECREATION TRAIL
This 210-mile hiking and backpacking trail winds east-west through the Ozark Mountains from Lake Fort Smith State Park to Tyler Bend of the Buffalo National River. It passes along mountaintops and bluffs, past waterfalls and over streams in the remote and scenic landscape of the Ozark National Forest. The national forest contains campgrounds, picnic areas, cabins, wilderness areas such as East Fork, Hurricane Creek, Leatherwood and Richland Creek, and many additional hiking trails. (479) 964-7200; www.fs.fed.us/oonf/ozark
BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER
This river in northern Arkansas provides a beautiful space for canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, caving, wildlife watching and much more. The Buffalo River was designated by Congress as America’s first national river in 1972. Along the Buffalo, the National Park Service oversees more than 95,000 acres that contain three designated wilderness areas. The 135-mile river offers both swift-running and placid stretches, inviting sand/gravel bars, towering limestone bluffs, hardwood forests, protected wilderness areas and excellent nature watching opportunities. It is a prime example of one of the last freeflowing streams of the Ozark region. (870) 439-2502; www.nps.gov/buff/
44 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
North Central Arkansas MAMMOTH SPRING STATE PARK
One of the great natural wonders of Mid-America, Mammoth Spring flows at an average hourly rate of some 10 million gallons. The 58-degree Fahrenheit water flow creates Spring River, a popular year-round canoe and fishing stream. The park, located at the big spring, includes a restored 1886 Frisco Depot as well as walking trails, picnic sites, playgrounds, early hydroelectric power plant and an official Arkansas Tourist Information Center. (870) 625-7364; www.arkansasstateparks.com/mammothspring
GREERS FERRY LAKE/LITTLE RED RIVER
Greers Ferry is the third-largest lake in Arkansas’s Ozark Mountains (31,500 surface acres). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir has served as a national model for environmental cleanliness. Commercial and public-use campgrounds, first-class lodging, resorts and championship golf courses are trademarks. The Little Red River emerges icy cold from Greers Ferry Dam and provides excellent trout fishing waters for miles downstream. An International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame all-tackle world-record German brown trout was caught here in 1992. The lake and river visitor center is located on state Highway 25 at the western end of the dam. (501) 362-9067; www.swl.usace.army.mil/parks/greersferry
Northeast Arkansas (Upper Delta) JONESBORO
Jonesboro is a great site to get away to this spring. Whether alone, with your special someone or for a quick family getaway, Jonesboro is the perfect spot. Check out the Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center, one of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s four centers statewide, to learn more about the formation of the ridge itself. For some outdoor fun, plan a visit to Lake Frierson State Park north of Jonesboro. History buffs should plan a visit to the Arkansas State University Museum, located on the ASU campus.
Located in Randolph County, Pocahontas is one of The Natural State’s most historic towns. The county is known for its five rivers (the Spring, the Black, the Eleven Point, the Current and the Fourche), making for the perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts. Check out Shady River for a great getaway, featuring nature trails, opportunities for bird and wildlife watching, and access to the beautiful Eleven Point River.
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Southeast Arkansas (Lower Delta) DELTA RIVERS NATURE CENTER
One of the first must-sees on a visit to Pine Bluff is the Delta Rivers Nature Center. The center features a 20,000-gallon oxbow lake aquarium filled with native fish, exhibits explaining the natural history of the Arkansas Delta, live critters (turtles, gators and snakes), and a movie that takes you on a “flyover” of the Arkansas Delta. If you’re in the mood for some fishing, head to Lake Saracen, home to largemouth bass, white crappie, bream and catfish.
Lake Chicot, located in Lake Village, was once a main channel of the Mississippi River. The lake is the largest natural lake in Arkansas and the biggest oxbow lake in North America. The waters are known for fantastic fishing, boating and water sports. The area is also a birder’s paradise, offering some of the best year-round sighting opportunities in the region. The magnificence of the lake is at its majestic peak when bathed in the breathtaking hues of an Arkansas Delta sunrise or sunset.
Southwest Arkansas CRATER OF DIAMONDS STATE PARK
Digging for diamonds is an experience that can only be found in Arkansas. Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro is the world’s only diamond producing site open to the public. Visitors can dig for diamonds there and keep whatever they find. The park’s Diamond Discovery Center offers an introduction to diamond hunting. Diamond displays and exhibits detailing the site’s history and geology can be found in the park’s visitor center. Searching for diamonds is always a lure but the gemstones that can be found at the park also deserve the spotlight. The park is home to more than 40 types of rocks and minerals, making it a delightful destination for rock hounds.
GARVAN WOODLAND GARDENS
Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs is a neat spring destination. The gardens are located on the shores of Lake Hamilton and are part of the University of Arkansas’s Fay Jones School of Architecture. It is the only botanical garden in the nation that occupies all of a peninsula in a major water body. During the spring season, the Gardens are in bloom with tulips, daffodils, wildflowers and other colorful spring flowers. Along with flowers, other popular Garden attractions include The Anthony Chapel, a work of art that features a 57-foot, open-rafter ceiling supported by pine columns and crossbeams, and the Joy Manning Scott Full Moon Bridge.
46 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
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FIVE BY DENA WOERNER
Q & A with leading Arkansas professional fishing guides. THERE ARE SEVERAL REASONS ti hire a professional fishing guide. First and foremost, they put you on fish. A good guide will show you new techniques and tips, you don’t have to own a watercraft or worry about boat control and you’ll get to try out new gear. Guides eliminate the fish-free hours and days you’d spend searching for a bite. Call it maximizing your time. Every body of water has its own personality, and having spent countless time on the water, these guys know the lake like the back of their hand and the fish are like family. You call it fishing; they call it catching. In each issue of Arkansas Wild we’ll feature five guides across the state who will point you in the right direction. I asked each of our five professionals about their business offerings and passion for fishing.
CHRIS DARBY Q: TARGET SPECIES? A: Bass, walleye, bream, crappie and striper. Q: WHAT REGIONS OR BODIES OF WATER DO YOU FISH? A. Lake Ouachita, Lake Hamilton and DeGray Lake. Q: WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR GUIDE OFFERING? A: I am the cook at Mountain Harbor Resort. I’ll not only put you on fish, I’ll cook your catch in the restaurant at the end of the day. Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU GUIDED PROFESSIONALLY? A: Seven years. Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE STYLE OF FISHING? A: I love to drop shot. Q: WHO TAUGHT YOU THE MOST TO PREPARE YOU TO BE A PROFESSIONAL GUIDE? A: Jerry Bean, also a guide on Lake Ouachita. He taught me about finding schools of fish.
BILL DENNIS Q: TARGET SPECIES? A: Bass and crappie. Q: WHAT REGIONS OR BODIES OF WATER DO YOU FISH? A: The Arkansas River from Dardanelle to Dumas, Lake Maumelle, Greers Ferry and Lake Ouachita. Q: WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR GUIDE OFFERING? A: I offer senior and military discounts of 15 percent and there is no charge for children under 12 years of age. I’m a past educator, I teach water quality, safety and an appreciation of our environment. During fishing trips I talk about the species of fish we will catch, their feeding habits and environment in which they live. Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU GUIDED PROFESSIONALLY? A: Seven years. I had guided parttime three years prior to that. Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE STYLE OF FISHING? A: My favorite styles of fishing are with a Jig, Texas Rig Worm, Finesse Worm and Swim Bait.
Q: WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE BASS PRO? A: Aaron Martens.
Q: WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE BASSMASTER PRO? A: Scott Rook and Kevin Short.
Contact Information: Chris Darby Mountain Harbor Resort 994 Mountain Harbor Road Mt. Ida, AR 71957 870-867-7822
Q: WHO TAUGHT YOU THE MOST TO PREPARE YOU TO BE A PROFESSIONAL GUIDE? A: I have gathered a lot of techniques from Ricky Easter. We have fished together for 35 years and have qualified for national bass fishing tournaments. Contact Information: email@example.com Facebook: Central Arkansas Fishing Guide 501-580-0669
48 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
KEVIN PATRICK KREMENTZ
Q: TARGET SPECIES? A: Primarily crappie, but will fish for anything that’s biting.
Q: TARGET SPECIES? A: Rainbow trout, brown trout, bass, walleye and crappie.
Q: TARGET SPECIES? A: Trout, small mouth, hybrid stripers —anything that will hit a fly.
Q: WHAT REGIONS OR BODIES OF WATER DO YOU FISH? A: I only guide on Lake Greeson. We work closely with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and local biologists to strategically place crappie condos (fish habitats) all over the lake.
Q: WHAT REGIONS OR BODIES OF WATER DO YOU FISH? A: The first 18 miles of the White River from Bull Shoals to Cotter for rainbows and browns. Bull Shoals Lake for bass, crappie and walleye.
Q: WHAT REGIONS OR BODIES OF WATER DO YOU FISH? A: The Little Red River, White River, Norfork River and area lakes and streams.
Q: WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR GUIDE OFFERING? A: I supply everything my customers may need while out fishing, and send them home with fillets from the fish they catch. Guests literally just have to step aboard and fish. I also have contests and drawings for our customers to win a free-guided trip. Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU GUIDED PROFESSIONALLY? A: Six years on Lake Greeson and four years in the Gulf of Mexico targeting tuna. Q: WHO TAUGHT YOU THE MOST TO PREPARE YOU TO BE A PROFESSIONAL GUIDE? A: I would have to say my father, A.J. Krementz. He started taking me in the ’70s when I was just a little boy. We would fish daytime and nights under the lights. I remember scaling fish for hours. Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE STYLE OF FISHING? A: I love jig fishing for spring crappie. Q: WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE BASS PRO? A: Kevin Van Dam and Roland Martin Contact Information: Kevin Patrick www.actionfishingtrips.com firstname.lastname@example.org 228-363-3580
Q: WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR GUIDE OFFERING? A: I target trophy brown trout with stick baits. I teach a Fly Fishing School through Gaston’s Resort. Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU GUIDED PROFESSIONALLY? A: I’ve been guiding for 32 years. Q: WHO TAUGHT YOU THE MOST TO PREPARE YOU TO BE A PROFESSIONAL GUIDE? A: My uncle, Paul Saksa, taught him how to fly fish and how to tie flies. Jim Wakenight inspired me with lake fishing. Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE STYLE OF FISHING? A: Artificial baits, both casting and flying. Q: WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE BASS PRO? A: Mike McClelland and Chris Lane. Contact Information: Frank Saksa 1777 River Road Lakeview, AR 72642 870-421 4500
Q: WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR GUIDE OFFERING? A: I provide everything from flies, leaders, rods and reel — even lunch. Beginners are welcome. I’m the only Arkansas guide endorsed by Orvis. I am sponsored by Fayettechill, and am the only pro staff member of Supreme Boats. I was the 2007 Orvis Guide of the Year, and won the 2012 Orvis Guide Service of the Year award. Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU GUIDED PROFESSIONALLY? A: For over 20 years. Q: WHO TAUGHT YOU THE MOST TO PREPARE YOU TO BE A PROFESSIONAL GUIDE? A: Dale Fulton. He was one of the original Arkansas fly fishing guides. He owned Blue Ribbon Fly Company. Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE STYLE OF FISHING? A: I love to cast streamers for big browns. Q: WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE BASS PRO? A: Mike Iaconelli. Contact Information: Jamie Rouse 501-691-2252 email@example.com Facebook: Rouse Fly Fishing www.rouseflyfishing.com Instagram: Rouse Fly Fish ARKANSASWILD.COM | 49
OUT & ABOUT
LAKE FORT SMITH STATE PARK BY DENA WOERNER • PHOTOS BY ARKANSAS STATE PARKS
LOCATION: On the western side of Lake Fort Smith, tucked away in a scenic valley of the Ozark Mountains, you’ll find Lake Fort Smith State Park. WHEN YOU GO: The park is eight miles north of Mountainburg on U.S. 71, or take Exit 29 off Interstate 49 at Mountainburg and go east on state Highway 282 for 1.8 miles to U.S. 71 then travel north on U.S. 71 for 7.5 miles to Shepherd Springs Road, then turn east on Shepherd Springs Road and go 2 miles to the park. Or travel an alternate route by taking I-49 Exit 34 at Chester and go east on state Highway 282 to U.S. 71 North. HISTORY: Lake Fort Smith State Park’s current location opened in May 2008. When the city of Fort Smith enlarged the municipal water system, the park was moved to this location on the lake’s western side. The style of the park’s structures are similar to the WPA facilities built in the 1930s that were found in the original park. The cabins are crafted of stone and wood, and some contain reclaimed stone from the old park site. OFFICIAL ATTRACTIONS: Perfect for a family getaway, you can enjoy outdoor adventures including camping, fishing, kayaking, swimming, mountain biking, hiking and nature study. You can cool off in the 2,660-squarefoot swimming pool with adjacent wading pool and a splash pad or take a tour across the lake via boat or kayak. Don’t have a kayak or boat? No worries, the marina rents both. If you like backpacking, you’ll be happy to learn that the park serves as the western terminus of the 165-mile Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail. Are you into history and cool facts? Check out the park’s interpretive programs that are offered in the park throughout the year. These activities include cruises and kayak tours on the lake, hikes and outdoor workshops. MEET, EAT, RETREAT: The park’s accommodations are perfect for a family reunion, church retreat or a quiet respite. Two lodges complete with kitchenettes and a dining hall make the location perfect for group meetings, and can accommodate up to 32 people. In addition to the lodges, 10 secluded cabins and 30 campsites are ideal for resting your head after a day on the water or on the trail. A pavilion and picnic sites make for scenic outdoor dining. TAKE A HIKE: The western terminus of the Ozark Highlands Trail is located behind the visitor center. Waterfalls, ridges, valleys and vistas make for pleasing eye candy, so be sure to take your camera. This trail can be completed all at once or over the course of several days. The eastern terminus is located along the Buffalo National River at Woolum, 165 miles from Lake Fort Smith State Park. WE RECOMMEND: Spending time at the park’s 8,000-square-foot visitor center. It includes exhibits, a 50 | Arkansas Wild ¸ SPRING 2015
The park’s visitor center offers you an orientation to Lake Fort Smith State Park, your gateway to adventure in the Boston Mountains.
meeting/classroom, an outdoor patio featuring native stone, a wood-burning fireplace and a lake view. The exhibit gallery includes a log cabin, covered wagon, recreated Shepherd Spring and a diorama of the lake. Several exhibits are handson, and some contain live education animals. Don’t forget to visit the theater and watch the 16-minute video that visually tells the park’s story. NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Lake Fort Smith State Park is located just far enough away from the bustle of the city to truly be a getaway but close enough to sightsee and taste the local fare. Be sure to find a Bluebird of Happiness at Terra Studios, located 18 miles away. Or, make the 17-mile drive over to Alma for a mess of Southern fried catfish. The Catfish Hole in Alma will leave you so stuffed you’ll need to take a hike back at the park or settle in for a nap in one of those cozy cabins. While you’re in Alma, say “hello” to Popeye. BOOK IT: For park details or to book campsite, cabin or group overnight reservations online, visit ArkansasStateParks.com/LakeFortSmith or call 479-369-2469 or tollfree: 888-695-3526.
Follow the trail behind the park’s visitor center to this overlook and enjoy the view of the lake and surrounding mountains.
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Meet the official mascots of Arkansas wildlife conservation. When you purchase a conservation license plate from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, you support the AGFC Conservation Education Fund. Help college students pursue a conservation degree by requesting your plate at your revenue office.
1 0 191
5-2 0 1 5
A Century of Conservation
Conservation license plates make great gifts. Get your gift certificate by calling 501-682-4692 or visiting www.agfc.com. 52 | Arkansas Wild 存 SPRING 2015