Thursday, March 19, 2009
Updated: March 31, 11:28 AM ET
Lake Dardanelle predictions, forecasts and prognostications
By Rob Russow
The Bassmaster Elite Series makes its second stop of the 2009 season in Russellville, Ark., home of Lake Dardanelle and Feltner's Whatta-Burger. The focus of this fantasy tournament will be picking pros that won't be headed out early to chow on burgers and fries at the locally famous fast food establishment.
Aside from the temptation of old-time good food, Dardanelle presents a different sort of challenge for the anglers, having both qualities of a lake and a river. With warming spring temperatures, bass will be moving shallow, and many anglers will find success in and around the abundant shoreline grass, wood and rocks that cover the 34,000 acres of this pool of the Arkansas River that will be open to competitors.
From the south end of the lake, which fishes more like a lake, to the upper reaches of the pool, which turns into a more traditional river, Lake Dardanelle should provide plenty of room for competitors to explore in search of the winning lode of largemouth.
Most of the pundits agreed that local favorites Kevin Short and Greg Hackney are the ones to watch for this tournament, both having extensive experience on the Arkansas River. They each received five votes from our nine pundits for Dardanelle, tied only with the ever-famous fantasy choice Kevin VanDam.
Coming off a top-10 finish at Lake Amistad, most pundits agreed that he has both momentum and history on his side. Even though he seems to be the popular choice in every event, he has the track record on Dardanelle to back it up.
More interesting than the favorites are the dark horse or long-shot picks from the pundits. One angler that most people seem to be overlooking is Kenyon Hill. He is fishing as well as any other angler on tour right now, sacking great bags at both the Classic and Amistad. Fantasy players are slowly catching on to Hill's true value as he is being played by 10 percent of fantasy managers.
A daring pick came from Alan Clemons, who chose Zell Rowland as one of his top picks for the event. Zell may be struggling as of late, but his history on Dardanelle is stellar with two top 10s in two trips. Follow along on the Elite Series season with Rowland's blog Straight Outta Zell.
Another risky picks, but also one to watch, is rookie Billy McCaghren. Steve Bowman tapped him this week and indeed, this might be the Mayflower, Ark., pro's best chance at a high finish on the Elite Series. His rookie status might be cause for concern, but being on familiar waters might help steady his nerves.
Here's a look at who our pundits like at Lake Dardanelle:
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Kevin Short This is the first time I've picked Short two tournaments in a row. Short had another great tournament at Lake Amistad, but Lake Dardanelle may be his best chance to win his first Elite Series event. You can't run and jump over all money Short won on Dardanelle early in his career. He is the ultimate 'homer' pick on that lake, and nobody in the field will know the subtleties better.
Scott Rook Rook has started a bit slow with less-than-stellar performances at the Bassmaster Classic and Lake Amistad. Look for that to end at Dardenelle — Rook is just too strong on the Arkansas River.
Kevin VanDam VanDam will finally get to fish fast this year, and that never bodes well for the rest of the field.
Greg Hackney My third and final pick from the state of Arkansas. The 'Hack Attack' seems to be more focused this year, and he's another Arkansas River rat from way back.
Hunch picks I would feel good filling out my fantasy picks with one of these four: Dean Rojas, Boyd Duckett, Skeet Reese or Bobby Lane.
Greg Hackney Yes, it feels like spring and the bass will be right in Hackney's wheelhouse when it starts.
Scott Rook I have fished with him too much in these here parts. He knows way too much about Arkansas bass…period.
Michael Iaconelli MOMENTUM.
Kevin Short We are trying to patch up our love-hate relationship. Some things were said, mostly by him, at Amistad that you just can't take back! Do I find it strange the guy loves the color pink? Yep. By the end of this derby, he'll be all about the color green!
Matt Herren Why not? The Elite rookies were a little, or a lot, flat at Amistad. One of them will show up here and I think it's this guy.
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Scott Rook It may be a little early, and two pools up from Rook's particular brand of Arkansas River magic, but expect him to have Dardanelle dialed in just the same.
Greg Hackney Another homer pick, as Hackney was once the kingpin of the Arkansas in lower stretches of this river. We watched him just starting to get his King Kong muscles loosened up on the third day at Amistad. He'll be ready.
Kevin VanDam Let's get away from the local no-brainer picks and put a large bet on the biggest no-brainer play of all. KVD has the smell of points in his nostrils from the last event and will be in full beast mode.
Kevin Wirth The other Kevin this time will bring his sweet swing into John Daly country. Just expect him to find a backwater hole and light it up.
Tommy Biffle Another angler with experience on the upper reaches of this river at this time of year. He's been too quiet lately, so it's time for him to smash something.
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Scott Rook He's a no brainer. It's on the Arkansas River system and he built his career fishing from one end to the other.
Boyd Duckett He just knows how to catch them wherever he goes. He won the last Major on Dardanelle, which gives him extra confidence. Not that he needs it. But those things just seem to help you settle down.
Clark Reehm He lives there. He should have an advantage.
Bill Lowen Like Rook, he's one of the best river-system anglers in the field. This is his kind of fishing and it will play straight to his strengths.
Billy McCaghren He's your dark horse of the week. He's a rookie. No one knows him outside of Arkansas, but he's fished enough local tourneys here that he will have a boatload of knowledge.
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Kevin Short If you could have seen his face as he described how he barely missed the Major that was on Dardanelle in 2007, you'd understand how bad he wants this. He's coming off a top 12 on Amistad and landing on basically his home lake. Short's a fantasy must-have for Dardanelle.
Clark Reehm This is my other local pick. Honestly, I'm a little hesitant to pick Reehm because there's going to be quite a bit of pressure on him — mostly from himself. I know he really wants to do well, and sometimes when guys get in that situation on a lake where they have 8,000 spots, they move around too much. But if he catches them early on Day One and is able to relax, he's going to be a force and he's a cheap pick up.
Kenyon Hill This is mainly a hot-hand pick, but he did finish fourth on the Elite 50 on Dardanelle in 2004 (never mind the 44th out of 50 in the 2007 Major). He was 17th in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings last year, he killed them at the Classic and did the same at Amistad.
Skeet Reese He's spent a decent amount of time on Dardanelle and he had a top 25 on Amistad. I have him and VanDam as a wash at this event. They both have good history on the body of water and will most likely finish high, but Reese is slightly cheaper.
Mark Davis He lives a couple hours from Dardanelle and he's been flying a little under the radar since his much publicized return to BASS last season. He hasn't had a great history on Dardanelle (45th and 44th in two tournaments), but I'm working on a hunch that tells me this tournament will be different.
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Looking at the previous events, despite not being at the same time of the year, you'll find some familiar names among the top 20 who obviously like this lake. Consistency, even later in the year, means something.
Kevin VanDam He's finished in the top 10 in the last three tournaments. After the Amistad event, he mentioned how important it was to get off to a good start since there are only eight tournaments. That means he's pretty focused.
Mike Iaconelli The Chummer was among the leaders at the two spring Elite 50 tournaments a few years ago. Those were a few weeks after this event is scheduled but he should be able to hit the pre-spawn or maybe spawning fish with confidence.
Dean Rojas It may be too early for the frog…or will it? Rojas is versatile enough to make a move if he's not getting bites on Kermit, and if temperatures keep rising, the shallow bite could be hot.
Gary Klein Another cagy veteran who has shined in Dardanelle's previous spring tournaments, and is coming off a decent start at Amistad. He's so meticulous, precise and determined that he can figure out transitions pretty well on the fly and that may be critical at Dardanelle.
Zell Rowland Don't laugh. This could be a sleeper pick for any fantasy team at a bargain. Zell finished high in both spring tournaments, has ice water in his veins and will put his big spinnerbait or jig to the test. If there's a topwater bite at all, well, he'll capitalize on it, too.
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Greg Hackney Hackney has been disappointing of late, and maybe one of these days I'll learn my lesson. But not today. Hackney has posted some solid finishes here, and who can forget Hackney's infamous "Godzilla ain't got nothin' on me!" scream from the 2004 Dardanelle Elite 50 event.
Kevin Short There's rarely a home-field advantage in this sport, but fickle weather conditions in recent weeks have pushed fish up and back and maybe back up again. Short, from just down the road in Mayflower, Ark., should be well equipped to deal with changing conditions on this fishery.
Kevin VanDam His record speaks for itself, on Dardanelle and taken as a whole.
Dean Rojas He keeps getting close at Dardanelle. This could be his year.
Mike Iaconelli A hot start to the 2009 campaign and a solid track record on Dardanelle can't be ignored.
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Kevin Short Pretty in Pink has been the belle of the ball lately. Short has a tendency for inconsistency as the year unfolds, so he needs another great finish at Dardanelle to help make a push for the Classic. His blog has been unusually quiet, so check in with him to see his reaction to everything bass fishing.
Denny Brauer This flipping machine wins one every so often by putting on a dominant display of his shallow-water fishing prowess. Keith Alan hasn't screamed this guy's name and "to the top of the food chain" in the same sentence since he won on Lake Champlain. It's Denny Brauer time and Dardanelle should suit him if the bass get up shallow.
Greg Hackney Check out this guy at Amistad and tell me he isn't athletic. The Hack Attack is a hook-setting machine and returns to the site of his Godzilla sighting where he feels perfectly at home. When it comes to stump-jumping, mud-turning, gnarly-log fishing, Hackney is as-good or better than everyone else in the field. Wait 'til Sunday to find out.
Terry Scroggins Shallow-water mat fishing IS the Big Show. This guy can catch them if they are in the grass at Dardanelle. A lackluster start at Amistad should leave him excited to mash some lips with a flippin' stick. His history on the river isn't impressive, but that won't phase the Big Show, who is out for blood.
Brian Snowden Quiet Brian likes rivers. He did well at the Classic on the Red River fishing pad stems for pre-spawn bass. There's a good chance he will find some delicious shallow-water cover on Dardanelle that he can ply for another high finish. Unlike some other pundits that rely on past numbers to guide their choices, this one is pure instinct.
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Kevin VanDam KVD has fished very well here in the past. He came in third at the 2007 Bassmaster Legends, 10th at the 2005 Arkansas Bassmaster Elite 50 and eighth at the 2004 Arkansas Elite 50. Also, the reigning Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of The Year finished in the top 10 at the OPTIMA Batteries Battle on The Border, so he'll be fired up for this one.
Gary Klein Klein finished 13th at the 2007 Legends, fifth at the 2005 Elite 50 and 10th at the 2004 Elite 50. He came in fith on Amistad and will be looking to build on that momentum.
Dean Rojas Dean has been very consistent on Lake Dardanelle. He came in fourth at the 2007 Legends, 12th at the 2005 Elite 50 and ninth in 2004. Combine that with his sixth place finish at the Battle on the Border and it's clear that Rojas is a solid pick.
Mike Iaconelli Ike has finished in the top 10 in both 2009 events and has caught the largest fish so far this year (12-13). Not only is he in the zone, but he finished in second at the 2005 Bassmaster Elite 50 and 14th in 2004 (31st at the 2007 Bassmaster Legends).
Boyd Duckett Duckett is a perfect sleeper pick for this one. He won the 2007 Legends here and has been fishing very well of late. He finished 12th at the Classic (leading after Day One) and came in ninth at Amistad. I'd be surprised if he didn't finish in the top 10.