Cabot man’s strategy backfires, Swink maintains lead on tournament’s second day

PENDLETON — There is a lot of strategy that goes into doing well in the Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza.

A Cabot man fishing in the Dumas/Pendleton pool learned that the hard way during the tournament’s second day, and a man from Star City was the beneficiary.

Shannon Keathley brought his fish up to the weigh-in station with just five minutes remaining in the noon weigh-in hour (11:01 a.m.-noon).

The hour’s leader was J.R. Grubb and his 5.52-pound fish.

Keathley didn’t think his fish could top Grubb’s, so he faced a dilemma.

Either weigh the fish now and probably settle for second place or wait until the 1 p.m. weigh-in hour (12:01-1 p.m.).

What complicated the decision, and what probably was the deciding factor for Keathley, was that the weigh-in master doesn’t let the anglers with the top two fish on the leaderboard for that hour go back out fishing until they get knocked out of the top two, so Keathley would basically lose an hour of fishing just waiting around to see if anyone knocks him off.

He decided to get his fish weighed during the noon weigh-in hour and head back out on the river.

It’s a decision Keathley is probably regretting right now.

His 5.17-pound fish earned him second place for the noon weigh-in hour at the Dumas/Pendleton pool, but it could have earned him a lot more.

“There is a bit of strategy involved,” Keathley said after having his fish weighed. “When you come up at the end of the hour you have to kind of check out the leaders.

“You don’t want to get bumped (off the leaderboard).”

Keathley didn’t get bumped off the leaderboard, but he did help someone else top the final hour.

Thanks to Keathley, Ben Mullikin of Star City and his 4.90-pound fish took home the first place in the 1 p.m. weigh-in hour.

“There is a lot of strategy that goes into it,” Mullikin said. “It’s kind of a guessing game down there (by the water) nobody’s going to tell you what they got.”

Mullikin, though, isn’t flying quite as blindly as some other anglers.

“I have a scale onboard with me that pretty accurate, so I try to weigh before I get up here so I know what to expect.”

Mullikin not only walked away with a top finish during the final hour, but also with a new fishing rod in hand.

A local rod maker donated it, and the weigh master Scott Gilbreth decided to give it away to the winner of the final hour on Saturday.

“I’m definitely going to test this baby out,” Mullikin said.

Mullikin was one of only a few local anglers to enjoy success on Saturday at the Dumas/Pendleton pool.

Cabot’s Randall Payne won second place during the opening weigh-in hour (6-8 a.m.) and Star City’s Denville Culliford took home third place for the 9 a.m. weigh-in hour (8:01-9 am.).

Despite not putting a single fish on the scale, the big winner Saturday was still Jonathan Swink of DeValls Bluff.

His 6.63-pound catch from Friday still holds up as the largest in the tournament heading into the final day.

Swink’s fish may have held up through the day, but it didn’t go unchallenged in the Dumas/Pendleton pool.

The second-, third- and fourth-best weights of the pool all came on Saturday.

England’s Nicholas Bennett got things started early with his 5.92-pound catch being the first fish of the day to touch the scales.

During the 10 a.m. weigh-in hour (9:01-10 a.m.), Little Rock’s Francis Lee posted the second-highest weight in the tournament this year at 6.40-pounds.

Just an hour later, Tony Nesterenko, another Little Rock resident, put himself in position for a third-place finish in the pool, as things stand, with a 6.25-pound bass.

With those kind of weights being posted, any angler fishing in the Dumas/Pendleton pool has to feel good about their chances of winning some money on Sunday.

That is, if they use the correct strategy.