CREWS LEADS ON DARDANELLE
Story by Matt Pangrac – Photos by Dave Rush
Russellville, AR – The fifth stop of the Bassmaster Elite Series season kicked off today on Arkansas’ Lake Dardanelle with mixed expectations. During the official two-and-a-half days of practice leading up to the tournament, the weather ranged from sunny skies and warm temperatures to torrential downpours and low temperatures in the 40s. As a result, fluctuating water levels and muddying water had many of the 107 competitors on edge.
The changing conditions didn’t appear to have a negative impact on the majority of the field, however, as angler after angler crossed the Elite Series stage with impressive opening round limits.
Leading the way was Virginia’s John Crews, who was one of three anglers to break the 20-pound mark on Thursday. Crews’ 22-9 limit outdistanced his closest competitor by 12-ounces.
Greg Hackney finished the day in 2nd place with a total weight of 21-13. Hackney appears to be on his way to another solid finish on the Arkansas fishery after posting a 2nd place finish on Dardanelle in the Elite 50 in 2004 and 8th place finish in the 2007 Bassmaster Legends tournament.
Texas’ Grant Goldbeck turned some heads with a 3rd place finish on Thursday after weighing-in a limit worth 20-1, and Keith Combs continued his hot streak fresh off a victory last week at the Toyota Texas Bass Classic with a limit of Dardanelle bass weighing 19-14 to tie for 4th place with Jason Williamson.
In total, 12 anglers broke the 18-pound mark on Thursday and 49 anglers weighed-in at least 15-pounds. 102 of the 107 managed to boat a five bass limit.
In the Toyota Angler Of the Year race, Mark Davis showed signs of being human, weighing in a 13-13 limit to finish the day in a tie for 64th place. Jared Lintner, who started the day in 2nd in the TAOY race, finished in 69th with 13-5.
Tournament: Bassmaster Elite Series (Stop #4)
Location: Lake Dardanelle – Russellville, Arkansas
Day One Leader: John Crews (22-9)
50th Place: (Tie) Timmy Horton (14-14) & Brandon Palaniuk (14-14)
Total weight separating 1st from 12th Place: 4-7
1st Place: John Crews (22-9)
Crews on his overall day on Dardanelle:
“It was just kind of steady all day. I’d catch one good one here and one good one there and by the end of the day, it looked really nice. The day was somewhat of a grind, but I think that I picked up on a few little things and hopefully it will continue.
“It’s not like I’m fishing one single area, I’m just bouncing around. One of the areas I think that I only saw one other tournament boat, and some of the other areas there are guys all around. This is Dardanelle, so there aren’t any secret hiding spots. I don’t think that fishing pressure is going to be to terribly bad.”
Crews on the consistency of the bite despite changing conditions:
“I think that these fish are used to the water going up and down. I’m sure that we’ll see the water bounce up and down a little bit, but I don’t think that it will affect the fish too much – at least I hope not. These are northern largemouth, so the cold front didn’t affect them that much. The field in general caved their heads in today.
“I kind of had a feeling that would happen when I saw the weights from last weekend in the Michelle Short Benefit Tournament. I knew that we were fixin’ to bruise them pretty good and that I would have to sack them up. I was fortunate to get some good ones. I think that 20 (pounds) a day is going to be strong moving forward for the rest of this tournament.
“The lake in general has gotten better since the last time that (the Elite Series) was here. There’s a lot of shoreline cover and it seems like there’s more coontail grass. There’s not as much milfoil as I thought there would be, but anytime that you have grass, you’re going to have a quality fishery.”
Crews on his key moment of the day:
“I’d been fishing one way for most of the morning and then I changed baits and caught a good one that was between 4 ½- and 5-pounds. When I caught it, I saw what it was on and then just duplicated it. It clued me in to what I needed to be doing because that was the first fish that I put in the boat.”
2nd Place: Greg Hackney (21-13)
Hackney on his overall day:
“I ended up getting some quality bites, but I didn’t catch a lot of fish today. I really thought this morning that I was rotating behind (another competitor). They (the bass) have been biting really well, and I fished and fished and fished without any bites. I finally got in a groove and they were just a hair different than they’d been. They were relating to the cover just a little differently and it was just slow and steady.
“My first bite was a 4-pounder and then things kind of came together. It got better as the day progressed, but it was never just wide open like it had been in practice. It took me until 11:30 to catch a limit.”
Hackney on his expectations heading into the day:
“It’s been a lot of fun during practice, and I figured that there would be tons of bags weighed-in between 16- and 18-pounds. When we got up this morning with the big moon shining, these fish hadn’t seen the sun for a few days and it seemed like the fish were kind of shocked.
“I stopped on a couple places this morning where I thought that I was going to catch an 18-pound sack in 30 minutes. They were just gone. I ran three places like that and never had a bite. It made me nervous after a while but I had to settle down and fish really deliberately.”
Hackney on his familiarity with Dardanelle:
“Dardanelle is a body of water that’s just further down from the body of water that I grew up on, so I’ve had a lot of opportunities to fish here over my whole career. I grew up on the Dumas end, and they fish a lot alike. I think that this fishery is back to where it was back in the early 90s. Another thing that’s helping the deal is that the water is kind of dirty. These fish here are typically offshore fish. With the dirty water, it’s holding them up shallower longer and that’s why the fishing is probably so good.”
3rd Place: Grant Goldbeck (20-1)
Goldbeck on his expectations heading into the day:
“Half of my practice was not the best practice and half of my practice went really well. I really went into the day just looking to get bites. I figured that if I was able to get bit, some good things could happen.”
Goldbeck on how his day played out on Dardanelle:
“I stopped first thing this morning in an area where I thought I had the best chance to get several bites and I ended up getting a lot of bites, but most of them were small. I ended up putting three fish that were all over 3-pounds in the boat before I left that area and went to what I considered to be my best area.
“I pulled in and started catching fish right away and culled once. I had my weight mostly by 9:30 or 10:00. From then on, I just spent the rest of the day looking for fish for the rest of the week. Some of the stuff that I went and fished in the afternoon had a lot of boats around, but I’m fishing the stuff completely differently that most of the other guys. I’m really hoping that plays to my advantage as the tournament goes on.”
Goldbeck on what it will take to remain in contention:
“It’s hard to say what is going to happen, but if I’m fortunate enough to fish through Sunday, I think that I can break 20-pounds at least one of the next three days. To say that it’s possible to have 20-pounds every day of the tournament, that’s pushing it because it’s tough to do. The key is getting 20 keeper bites a day and waiting for the big ones. I think that the guy who wins this tournament will probably have a couple days where he catches around 17-pounds.”
DAY ONE STANDINGS