Fishing & Boating News

Fishing Lake Dardanelle during that transition period.

by: Bill Dennis,

(Sep. 13, 2012 - Lake Dardanelle, AR)

Lake Dardanelle is a popular fishing destination located on the shores of a 34,300 acre man-made reservoir on the Arkansas River near the cities of Russellvilleand Dardanelle Arkansas. Lake Dardanelle State Park offers outdoor recreation opportunities with state of the art facilities and technology.

In 1964, construction was completed on the Dardenelle Dam, located near the river crossing between Russellville and Dardanelle. Lake Dardanelle was created in 1965. Construction on the lack and powerhouse was completed in 1969. The dam, build by the Army Corp of Engineers, is part of the McClellan-Kerr navigation project that made the Arkansas River navigable to commercial vessels.

Lake Dardanelle spreads westward behind Dardanelle Dam and is two miles wide in places. It reaches fifty miles upstream to the Ozark - Jeta Taylor Lock and Dam and has three hundred and fifteen miles of shore line with five major creeks. Depending on what area of the lake you would choose to fish, there are numerous concrete launch sites with good parking facilities.

Russellville State Park features a one thousand eight hundred and sixty one square foot fishing tournament weight-in pavilion, a world class facility and first of its kind. It serves as a staging area for tournaments. Near the weight-in pavilion is a covered, barrier free fishing pier, a popular facility for fishing enthusiasts. The pavilion provides a meeting room and computer room, weight-in scales, a public address system, LED weight-in readout, a de-watering station, aerator tanks, catch and release tanks and a first-aid station for tournament participants and sponsors. The park also provides a catch and release boat to take the fish back to their natural habitat. Lake Dardanelle and Russellville have hosted up to two hundred tournaments a year including professional, college and high school tournaments that frequent Lake Dardanelle yearly for the search of that eighteen to twenty four pound sack at the weight-in which frequently occurs.

The second week of July Iwas contacted by a college student in Texas that had qualified for the Southern CollegeConference Championship that would take place on Lake Dardanelle the first weekend in October. During our telephone conversation, Ethan George explained that the topfive finishersfrom this tournament would qualify for the National Tournament and that the winner of the national tournament would qualify for the "Forrest Wood Cup Tournament". We established the date and time to fish Lake Dardanelle. Ethan had never been on the lake, however, he did some research on past tournament weight results and knew that it would take eighteen pounds per day to win this tournament.

I arrived in Russellville the morning of August 20th and met Ethan at his hotel where he was staying with his parents. We had an opportunity to visit and establish a plan for the day on our way to the Dardanelle State Park launch site. Ethan and I agreed this trip was his introduction to Lake Dardanelle, however we would try to establish a few patterns for fishing for quality tournament fish. We started fishing coves off the main river that had vegetation and cover in them. We found the early morning bite to be productive. The baits we chose to use in the shallow vegetation were the Spro Frog in black, a double willow leaf War Eagle spinner bait and a worm. The shallow bite just didn't seem to be working in that area. We moved to another pocket up river and repeated our pre-fishing strategies, however we made one change. We tied on a transparent "Zara Spook" that did the trick. The bait fish were on the outside of the grass line in three to five feet of water. We caught a number of fish on the spook, but they were not the tournament size fish we were looking for. Our next stop was six miles up river in a backwater creek that offered the same structure, but also had sand bar islands with a defined drop and lily pads on the drop-offs. We opted to fish the lily pads first and concentrate on the drop-offs. This creek also has abundant stick-ups and lay down logs which can be very productive at times. Ethan added one more bait to his arsenal, a square bill sexy shad crank bait. The shallow crank bait did catch some fish, but still not what we were looking for.

We caught some fish shallow, however the quality bite was still alluding us. At that point it was time to make a decision and change our tactics.

As in any river system there is structure beneath the waters surface , in the outside bends and drop-offs. Ethan tied on a deep running "Sexy Shad" crank bait that would get down to fifteen feet. I pulled my Carolina Rig out of the rod box with a "Green Pumpkin Baby Brush Hog" already tied on. We started concentrating on the five to ten foot drops on the outside bends of the river and sand bar drops.

The Lowrance Graph didn't indicate any bait fish or structure on the first bend, so we continued down river to the next bend. Ethan cast his deep crank bait "Sexy Shad" and I started dragging my "Green Pumpkin Baby Brush Hog". That was what we were looking for, caught two keepers and lost a good one. Just about every third drop-off we would catch fish. We had found the pattern and right baits for that day.

Ethan and I continued to fish drop-offs with structure on them using the "Sexy Shad" bait, Carolina Rig and worm. We caught a number of fish, however, the quality tournament fish were in five to ten feet of water close to or on structure. Ethan was satisfied with what we had found. Ethan had mentioned that he was "impressed" with the Russellville State Park weight-in facility and the way the Corps of Engineers had marked the main river channel with buoys.

We had found the pattern and right baits for that day. It was getting late in the afternoon and we had put in a full day of fishing graphing and observing. There were some more drop-off I wanted to show him down river on the way to the boat launch. The graph indicated balls of shad and fish on the structure. That confirmed what we found to be a good pattern.

Bill Dennis, Central Arkansas Fishing Guide Services, Inc.
(501) 580-0669