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InsideLine – Hawk Talk – Lake Dardanelle Elite Series Event
Category : HAWK TALK
Fresh off the Toledo Bend tournament where I strayed from my shallow water game plan during practice, I vowed not to make the same mistake on Lake Dardanelle. Dardanelle is essentially a river with several connected creeks and bays—more than I could possibly cover in the three-day practice period. The weather forecast called for rain much of the week, so I knew there’d be a good chance the river would turn muddy and decided to spend my time concentrating on the creeks and bays I thought would be less likely to be affected by runoff.
I started in Shoal Bay the first practice morning and found lots of vegetation; lily pads, water willow, and milfoil. After catching some quality fish in the morning I decided to dedicate most of the day learning as much as I could about Shoal Bay. Keying in on any type of vegetation (all types were holding fish) I fished both moving baits and soft plastics with good results.
I felt confident about what I’d found in Shoal Bay and made a brief stop in Dardanelle Bay on the way back to the ramp later that afternoon. I started winding a vibrating jig along a causeway and quickly caught two 3 1/2 largemouth. With sunset approaching I fished fast trying to cover as much of Dardanelle Bay as possible. I discovered the bay held vegetation, rock, and wood, and felt it would be a great place to start or end the tournament each day.
On day two I trailered up to the Spadra Recreation area. Spadra is a well-known spring time location with lots of lily pad fields and spawning flats. I found only one small 50-yard stretch with fish on it by noon and didn’t feel confident in the dirtier water, so I loaded the boat and drove back down to the lower end and spent the second half of the day in Illinois Bayou.
Illinois Bayou had plenty of fish holding cover like rock and water willow, but I struggled to find quality fish and (mistakenly) wrote the area off. As it turned out several of the top finishers, including the winner, Jason Christie, caught a majority of their fish in Illinois Bayou.
I concentrated on Piney Bay and Keener Cove the final practice day. All three offered plenty of fish holding vegetation and I had a few quality bites in each area. They were also fairly close to Shoal Bay. I liked having multiple areas to fish within 20 minutes of the launch. This would allow me to maximize my fishing time and give me an opportunity to spend more time fishing instead of running around.
With a late draw on day one I watched each boat in front of me take off. Most turned right toward Illinois Bayou or headed up river. I saw only one other boat head across the river toward Dardanelle Bay, so I decided to start there. Three minutes after take-off I came off pad as I approached the causeway and positioned my boat parallel tight to the rocks. On my third cast I landed my first keeper—a 2 1/2 pounder.
After fishing the length of the causeway I drove back to the bridge and fished the deeper edges with a worm and crankbait, but only caught two short fish. With only one keeper by 9am I decided to run up river to Shoal Bay.
Originally published over on the InsideLine online magazine