LITTLE ROCK — David Shopher of McGehee fished each year in the Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza since its inception but never made it in the money until Saturday, when he won an hourly weigh-in.
The next day, he won the grand prize, catching a 6.27-pound fish to supplant fellow townsman Les Ironsin the 24th annual Bonanza. Shopher won $50,000 and a spot in a September Bassmaster Open tournament in Wagoner, Okla., with his victory.
“I lost four real good ones early in the day,” Shopher said. “It got until 5 minutes till 7, and my knees got weak. I knew it had to be the winning fish, 6 or 7 pounds.”
Shopher said he and Irons fish in the same bass club and have been friends for 24 years. Asked about Irons’ reaction to his victory, Shopher joked: “He was a good friend of mine.”
“As much as we fish down there, we figured somebody from our area would win it,” Shopher said. Shopher is the 10th Southeast Arkansan and first from his Desha County hometown to win the Bonanza.
He took the lunker to the 8 a.m. weigh-in and beat Irons’ 5.93-pound catch that topped the leaderboard for the first two days of the three-day tournament.
Shopher’s victory also added to the legend of the Dumas pool at the Pendleton Bridge as the strongest of the five fishing areas along the Arkansas River in the Bonanza. Patrick Chapman of Parkdale won the 2011 Bonanza fishing at Pendleton.
But for the first two days this year, it was the Dardanelle pool that produced the largest fish. Hot Springs’ Jerry Overton, who took the overall lead with a 6.19-pounder Saturday, hung on Sunday to win $10,000 for finishing first in that pool.
Jess Everette of White Hall did the same in the Pine Bluff pool, as his 5.38-pounder from Saturday held up. Lane Patterson of Little Rock turned in a 5.84 to win the North Little Rock pool, and Craig Flowers’ 5.22 was good enough to win the Fort Smith pool.
Shopher, a taxidermist and married father of three, used a Tennessee shad-colored crank bait to catch his lunker near a fallen tree. He said the water level at Pendleton was lower Sunday than in the first two days.
“I caught a few fish yesterday, but I had more bites (Sunday),” Shopher said. “The water was low Sunday.”
Shopher plans to buy a new Outboard motor with his cash prize and put the rest in the bank. His kids have other plans with the money; son Danny wants a Honda 250cc motorcycle, older daughter Tasha wants a car and younger daughter Christie wants a flat-screen television and Kindle Fire reader.
Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza
• Dumas — David Shopher, McGehee, 6.27 lbs. ($50,000 winner)
• Dardanelle — Jerry Overton, Hot Springs, 6.19 ($10,000)
• North Little Rock — Lane Patterson, Little Rock, 5.84 ($10,000)
• Pine Bluff — Jess Everette, White Hall, 5.38 ($10,000)
• Fort Smith — Craig Flowers, Midland, 5.22 ($10,000)
(Place payout for each pool: $900 for second, $700 for third, $400 for fourth)
Sunday’s hourly weigh-ins
(Hourly money payout: $500 for first, $250 for second, $125 for third)
At Pine Bluff Harbor, at Regional Park
8 a.m. — Terry Stewart, 5.00; Kelly Coble, 3.62; Joseph Sherman, 3.39
9 a.m. — Kevin Clark, 5.20; Glen Bates, 4.28; Kenny Baugh, 3.41
10 a.m. — Kenny Baugh, 5.17; Calvin Hemphill, 4.48; Kelly Coble, 3.36
11 a.m. — Joe Spadoni III, 5.30; Kelly Coble, 4.19; Michael Langley, 3.93
Noon — Michael Langley, 4.44; Derwin Thomas, 4.38; Ricky Bailey, 4.04
1 p.m. — David Howard, 4.12; Kelly Glover, 3.91; R.D. Hampton, 3.85
At Pendleton Bridge, near Dumas
8 a.m. — Brad Rice, 4.30; Ricky Cantrel, 3.99; Huston Dixon, 2.62
9 a.m. — David Shopher, 6.27; Mitch Miller, 3.51; William McMahon, 3.43
10 a.m. — Shannon Pierce, 4.23; Joe Glover, 4.06; Terry Hopson, 3.86
11 a.m. — John Andrews, 4.95; James Simpson, 3.67; Jeremy Spears, 2.89
Noon — Nick Brown, 4.39; Scott Hines, 3.38; Kelly Box, 3.22
1 p.m. — Waylon Edwards, 3.59; Dan Heaton, 3.54; J.R. Grubb, 3.24