For all three days of last year’s Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza, Eric Green of Rison had the biggest fish out of the Pine Bluff pool of the Arkansas River. That earned him $10,000.
Pine Bluff almost had its fifth champion when Daniel Shults, then going into his senior year at Watson Chapel High School, led overall for the first two days. He fished in the Dumas pool, near Pendleton Bridge.
One thing that’s for sure this year is that at least $10,000 again will be won in each of the Pine Bluff and Dumas pools during the 24th annual Bonanza, which begins today and concludes Sunday. Fishermen also will take to the water in Fort Smith, Dardanelle, North Little Rock in hopes of a five-digit pay day.
The one who catches the biggest fish overall will win $50,000. Patrick Chapman of Parkdale won it last year when he caught a 6.81-pound lunker in the Dumas pool on the last day — the only day Shults did not fish. Chapman’s win cost the youngster even a $10,000 prize because it wasn’t the biggest out of the pool.
Shults isn’t changing his schedule for this year: Fish today and Saturday, and go to church Sunday.
“I’ll stick with my phrase: I ain’t going to be too blessed if I fish on Sunday,” Shults said. “I was just walking out of church when my aunt told me the news. I went to church, so it was meant to be for (Chapman) to win.”
He will, however, fish in an area considered to be the strongest on the river.
“The better fish will always come from Dumas,” Green said. “We (my partner Scott Perry of Pine Bluff and I) fish in Pine Bluff a lot. We stand a better chance there. We know Pine Bluff better than we know Dumas.”
Green has fished in the Bonanza for about 17 years, winning an hourly prize each of the last four or five years, he said. The first lines are cast daily at 6 a.m., and weigh-ins are held each hour from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. to determine the biggest catch.
Green’s goal always has been an hourly prize, but winning the pool made for a nice savings account.
“I split it with my partner, then put my half in a savings account,” Green said. He plans to do the same if he wins the $50,000.
Green thinks the fish will go deeper into the water to escape the extreme heat that’s blanketed Pine Bluff. Other than that, he and Shults didn’t speak of any other strategy than fishing as best they can.
“If you get the bite, you get the bite,” Green said.
Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza
• What: 24th annual event of Arkansas largest amateur big bass tournament
• Where: Five pools along Arkansas River. Weigh-in sites are Clear Creek Park, Fort Smith; Dardanelle State Park, Russellville side; North Little Rock Marina and Boat Dock; Regional Park, Pine Bluff; and Pendleton Bridge, 9 ½ miles east of Dumas on U.S. 165
• When: Today-Sunday; awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday at North Little Rock weigh-in site
• Prizes: $50,000 for largest fish overall; $10,000 for largest fish in each of other pools; $10,000 total place money