There’s never been a better time for spring fishing in Arkansas, so grab your favorite rod and reel and hit the water! Here are the places you won’t want to miss.
Every year, I spend a few days at Cedarwood Lodge with a couple of close friends to fish for trout on the White River between Buffalo Shoals and the mouth of Crooked Creek. Later in the month, I spend a few days with a different group of friends fishing at Gaston’s Resort at Lakeview.
We always catch large numbers of brown and rainbow trout, and cutthroats, too, using a variety of methods. For big browns, you can’t beat a big, shallow-diving stickbait, especially in high water. For rainbows, I like a red Berkley Power Worm, or red and chartreuse Berkley Power Eggs on a dropper rig, about 12 to 18 inches above a 1/4-ounce bell sinker or a rainbow trout or brown trout colored Blue Fox Vibrax inline spinnerbait.
If fly-fishing is your game, fishing nymphs in, above, or below the shoals can produce amazing results.
White River Lakes
For the last three years, bass fishing has been phenomenal on Beaver and Bull Shoals lakes. These are the first and third impoundments of the White River chain, respectively, with Table Rock sandwiched between. Table Rock is mostly in Missouri, but with a $10 White River Border Lakes permit, you can fish all three without having to buy a separate non-resident Missouri fishing license.
Extended periods of high water in 2008 and 2011 produced exceptional spawning conditions and subsequent year-classes of largemouth bass in these lakes. Those fish are all in their prime now, so 5- to 7-pounders are fairly common. The lake level at Bull Shoals increased permanently in August thanks to the new White River Minimum Flow regimen that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers adopted in partnership with the Southwest Power Authority and the AGFC. That will produce another good spawn in 2014 in Bull Shoals while providing better trout fishing conditions in the White River below.
In April, bass stage on main-lake points and main tributary points to spawn. Once you find them, you can catch them with anything, including stickbaits, square-billed crankbaits, swimbaits, umbrella rigs, jigs and worms. When you catch a bass from a piece of cover or structure, another one will move in quickly to take its place, so you don’t have to run and gun to find fish.
In May, count on the Arkansas River to run high. When it does, the bass fishing is sensational.
High water does several things. It fills the backwaters and side pools with fresh water and brings in baitfish. Bass follow them. More important, heavy current positions bass in specific places, notably the inside and outside points of gaps in jetties and revetments. Finally, it raises the water level high enough to get a boat into the backwaters so you can fish them thoroughly.
This is the time to catch some of the biggest bass of the year on the river, too. A keeper largemouth must be at least 14 inches, so that’s the class of fish you’re targeting. You’ll catch them with a square-billed crankbait with an interior rattle. Try chartreuse in stained water. If water is flowing into the backwaters, concentrate on the inside points on jetty and revetment inlets. If water is falling out of the backwaters, concentrate on outside points. Fish the middle of the inlets, too. Hop from one inlet to another to give those where you took fish time to replenish.
Also, fish the rock walls inside the revetment pools with Texas-rigged worms. You’ll catch bass smaller than 14 inches usually, but it’s still fun. This pattern will work anytime the Arkansas River rises.
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MSRP: Pricing starts at $22,195.
The 186 VLO measures in at 18 feet 9 inches with an 89-inch beam. The boat is built on a fiberglass, foam-filled hull and weighs in at 1,450 pounds and can hold a payload of 1,320 pounds. Maximum room is devoted to rod and tackle storage and fishing deck. VLO comes with a cus-tom-built, single axle trailer with submersible lights, a swing jack and a swing-away tongue.