Joel Newman of North Little Rock shows off his 5.83-pound bass that won the 11 a.m. weigh-in Friday at the Dumas pool. (Special to The Commercial/Bo Rogers)
Boats crowd near the Pendleton Bridge on the Arkansas River for the Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza on Friday. (Special to The Commercial/Bo Rogers)
PENDLETON — The record high temperatures played a role during the first day of the Big Bass Bonanza at Pendleton Bridge.
The usual home of the biggest bass in the tournament still had one of the biggest basses on the first day, but the overall weights were down a little bit from the norm.
“It was definitely hot and the fishing showed it,” said Steve Gilbreath, the weight master in Dumas. “We had several fish weigh in, but the big fish were few and far between.”
By the time of the final hourly weigh-in at 1 p.m., the temperature had hit 100 degrees at the location 9 1/2 miles northeast of Dumas.
Gilbreath said the heat played with the fishermen’s morale when they weighed in.
“The guys were weary, tired and dragging in,” he said. “It’s pretty laborsome to fish in this weather. But the fish are good and there are a lot of good fish being weighed in.”
The biggest fish that was weighed in at Pendleton was a 5.93-pounder, which was turned in by McGehee’s Les Irons. He turned in the fish during noon weigh-in.
“That’s one of our local guys and he fishes a lot in this pool,” Gilbreath said. “It’s a good fish.”
Irons’ fish beat Joel Newman’s by one-tenth of a pound, and Newman brought in his fish during the 11 a.m. weigh-in. Irons’ fish just missed out on being the biggest fish at the end of the first day, though, as Gary Hensley turned in a fish one-hundredth of a pound bigger at the Dardanelle location.
Even though those two have the biggest fishes on the first day, Gilbreath does not expect either one to be on the leaderboard by the end of the Bonanza on Sunday.
“That chances of one of those fish holding on for the whole tournament is pretty slim,” he said. “Definitely something that can be beaten and the guys around here know that. There’s a lot of fishing to be done.”
The winners of each of the weigh-in spots at the end of the three days will receive $10,000. Craig Flowers’ fish of 5.22 pounds topped the weigh-in at Fort Smith and Brett LeQuieu had a 4.51-pounder in Little Rock.
Some of the biggest excitement came when Jarrod Thompson, of Vilonia, turned in a fish of exactly 3 pounds in Pendleton. Because it was exactly 3 pounds, that won him a $300 gift certificate to Academy Sports and Outdoors. The same happens for a 4- or 5-pound fish exactly.
“That is definitely a hard thing to hit,” Gilbreath said. “You have to hit an exact weight with a fish and for the few years we have done that, it’s only the second time I have seen it.”
Former Pine Bluff resident David Thornton had the top fish during the 1 p.m. weigh-in at 4.62 pounds. Thornton, 70, now lives in Hot Springs, but came back to the Pendleton weigh-in.
“I fished down here a lot and I have friends that live and fish down here a lot,” he said. “This is where the big fish are. I am glad to catch it.”
Thornton, who lived in Pine Bluff for about 50 years before moving to Hot Springs, is going to take the rest of the tournament off, though.
“It’s the only day I signed up for, and I am going to rest and celebrate my victory for the rest of the weekend,” he said.