Several areas on the Arkansas River are likely to produce bass during the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open June 2-4, but the best spots could be wherever the competitors find spawning shad.
Talala, Okla., angler Terry Butcher predicts the timing could be right for the shad spawn to occur during competition.
“We really haven’t had (the shad spawn) here yet,” said Butcher, who finished second in the 2013 Bassmaster Central Open on the Arkansas River. “The water got up to around 70 to 72 degrees a couple of weeks ago, but we have had some cool weather since then, and the water went back down to the upper 60s again. That’s odd for this time of year. I look for the water temperature to be about right for a shad spawn then.”
A wet spring has kept the river level high and the water murky, but Butcher believes the fishery will be in good shape during the Open.
“We have had a lot of rain around, so the water has been pretty high,” Butcher said. “It looks like there is going to be current. The area lakes around here are a little bit above normal, so there will be some good water flow in the river.”
The last three Central Opens at Muskogee were held in September when the river is usually low with little current. The river usually “fishes small” then, but Opens competitors will have more options to fish in June with the higher water level and more flow.
“With the water flow, the (main) river is going to be a little more of a player, but I think the weedbeds are going to play a big role too,” Butcher said. “I think the guys will probably scatter out pretty well between the Afton, Three Forks and Kerr pools. The bite should be relatively good in all three pools this time of year.”
Locking through to the Robert S. Kerr pool will be most tempting to the Opens contestants because it usually contains bigger fish, according to Butcher.
“Kerr is going to be good, but the guys who go down there are going to be taking a gamble on the barges and limits on time,” he said. “The tournament will probably be won down there.”
Fishing a spinnerbait or buzzbait around spawning shad on the main river should be a productive pattern during the Open. Butcher usually finds spawning shad along channel bends where the current sweeps into bluffs or riprap banks.
Postspawn bass will also be caught in the backwater vegetation on a “typical river arsenal” of lures, according to Butcher.
“A frog like the Booyah Pad Crasher is going to be a good bait,” he said. The Oklahoma angler also catches bass in the backwaters with a square bill crankbait and a Texas rigged creature bait in black-and-blue or Cajun neon colors.
The winning weight for the last three September Opens averaged around 42 pounds; Butcher expects the winner of this Open to have a higher total since the first week of June is traditionally a good time to fish the river.
“I think the river is going to fish pretty well,” he said. “I have heard that fishing has been pretty good this spring. It has been taking more than 20 pounds to win most of the one-day events.”
The two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier predicts an angler will need 13 1/2 pounds a day to make the Top 12 cut, and the winner will probably catch 15 to 16 pounds a day.
Anglers will take off each day at 6 a.m. at Three Forks Harbor. Weigh-ins will be held at 2 p.m. at Three Forks Harbor the first two days, with the final weigh-in on Saturday taking place at the Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow, Okla., at 3 p.m.
The local host for the event is the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce.