Elite 50 Pros Return to Lake Dardanelle

Russellville, Ark. – One word describes the fishing on Lake Dardanelle for the second Bassmaster Elite 50 event: sluggish. The largemouths have hit a mid-season slump as they transition from their post-spawn areas to their summer locales.

Arkansas pro Jimmy Mize says it’s just what he expected.

“It’s slow – the way I thought it would be when I got here,” he said. “If a person can catch 10 pounds here, he’s doing pretty well.”

Randy Howell, winner of the first ever Elite 50 tournament held on Lake Dardanelle last year, agrees. Howell won last year’s event with 56 pounds, 13 ounces, but doesn’t expect this year’s weight to be nearly as hefty.

“The fish are in transition from a post-spawn pattern to a summer pattern,” he said, “which simply means a really slow period. There won’t be too many big fish caught – just little ones.”

In addition to the difficulty anglers are experiencing with the transitioning bass, the lake has also changed dramatically.

“The lake is much different than last year,” Howell said. “There’s nothing but grass everywhere this year. Last year it was spotty, so it was easier to find the fish. This year the fish are more scattered, and it’s hard to pinpoint them. Most spawned so long ago, they swam out to deeper water.”

Despite Howell’s belief that the fish have moved to deeper water, he’s decided to stick to his guns and hold his “ground” in the shallows using spinnerbaits, crankbaits, worms and jigs.

“I’m still sticking to the shallow bite right now,” he said. “I fished out a little bit yesterday and caught a few fish here and there, but I’m going to continue to fish shallow because that’s what I’m best at.”

Mize and fellow deep-water fishermen hope that Howell’s prediction is right, but even Mize has found the fishing difficult off-shore. He’s fished the muddy and fluctuating water of Dardanelle several times, emphasizing that May is the toughest month to find the largemouths, year in and year out.

“It’s amazing what a difference one month makes,” said Mize. “May is always the worst time to fish here. They’re through spawning and haven’t got to where they’re going in the summer. They’re all in transition right now and not where they’re supposed to be. It’s going to be a tough tournament.”

A seasoned Carolina and Texas rigger Mize is fishing off-shore in eight to 10 feet, covering a lot of water.

“There are still fish up shallow, but I like the deeper water. It’s what I’ve always done,” said Mize. “They seem to have backed out of the grass, so I’m staying away from the shoreline right now.”

According to Mize, a cool front may also have slowed the fish down.

“The cool front is hurting us right now,” Mize said. “The river fish like hot weather – the hotter, the better. If it gets warmer, we may see some bigger catches.”

Whatever their success this week, each of the Elite 50 anglers will earn a check in the no-entry-fee event. The winner will take home a check for $100,000, and even the last place finisher will earn $5,000. The total payout for each of the four Elite 50 events is $400,000.

Part one of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series event on Lake Dardanelle will be telecast on The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, May 28 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Part Two will air on June 4 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite 50 Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).

Local Sponsors include the Russellville Tourism & Visitors Center.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.bassmaster.com.