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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TRITON 21 TrX
Triton's 21 TrX measures 21 feet and features a 95-inch beam. The bow has a 20 percent larger fishing area than last year's model. A bow panel is ready for flush-mount electronics up to 12 inches, and has an organizer for pliers and baits. Stows 24 rods in the bow, 10 more in the center locker and another 14 in the port side. tri-tonboats.com.
The YUMphibian creature bait has two small swimming arms at the top, a pair of longer curl tails at the end, and two big 'flappers ' at the mid-point. Pitch it, flip it, or work it deep. Customize by pinching off appendag-es to create less water disturbance for finicky or pressured fish. 4 1/2, 5 1/4 and 6 inches in 10 color options.
SUZUKI DF15A/20A EFI
Suzuki's two new four-stroke, two-cylinder portable outboards have a compression reduction system for easier starting. The 20hp tiller model weighs 97 pounds the eletric-start model weighs 106 pounds. Single overhead cam, four-valve engine with Suzuki's Lean Burn Control and bat-tery-less electronic fuel injection. Built for running in skinny water, both motors come with five tilt pin positions and 15- or 20-inch shaft.
SHAKESPEARE MICRO SERIES
Shakespeare's new Micro Series Combos provide lightweight actions and are suited perfectly for panfish. They come in spinning and spin-casting models with high-quality components and each is spooled with Stren monofilament.
STRATOS 186 VLO
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.
RANGER'S ALUMINUM BOATS
Ranger Boat is introducing a line of aluminum boats called The Tourna-ment Series. There are three models:
€¢ RT 178 sports a 17-foot, 8-inch bass configuration.
€¢ RT 178C has a similar platform (17 feet, 8 inches) but designed for crap-pie and multispecies angling.
€¢ RT188, an 18-foot, 8-inch bass de-sign rated for 115 horsepower.
Rapala is hoping the new Scatter Rap Series lures and their 'evasive action ' will be as popular as the original 'wounded minnow ' style action that the company is famous for. The new lure has a 'Scatter Lip ' that creates an evasive, erratic, aggressive sweep-ing action. Ideal for multispecies gamefish, the Scatter Rap Series is available in 14-16 classic and new color patterns. Baits 5- to 9-feet deep.
YUM's F2 MightEE Worm is 10 1/2-inches long, has an arrowhead shaped bulge toward the end and is made for big bass. Because the worm tapers to a smaller circumference before blow-ing back out to the bulge, the tail sec-tion wags back-and-forth in the water with each breath of current.
FLEX 'N GO TACKLE SATCHEL
On-the-go anglers will find a lot to like in Plano's new Flex 'N Go Tack-le Satchel. It features adjustable built-in storage with a deep bin on one side and framework for the pair of swap-pable Plano 3600 StowAway boxes on the other, each Stowaway held with a flexible strap.
Honda Marine's BF250 outboard is a 24-valve 3.6-liter V6 that uses varia-ble valve timing and lift electronic control (VTEC). Programmed fuel injection delivers the precise amount of fuel and air to each cylinder for easy starts and instant throttle re-sponse. 20-, 25- and 30-inch shaft models.
MSRP, $18.95 per pair.
The original Gear Grabbar is a unique way to hold lures and tools at the ready in boats. But the new Lure Hangar is a step beyond. This is a 12- by 16 1/2-inch plate,m ade to mount on your gunwhale, that holds 16 or more lures. There's enough room for a selection of jig, plugs, topwaters or whatever other baits you want to hang.
HAVOC JUICE WORM
MSRP,Package of 12 Juice Worms $3.49.
Designed by Boyd Duckett, the new Havoc Juice Worm gives anglers more action which produces more strikes than any other worms on the market. The slim ribbed 8-inch body has a long, flexible ribbon tail that produces a unique swimming action. 20 colors.
G-Loomis'Jig and Worms Serie GLX rods offer sensitivity to feel the bite and the power to control the fish. GLX models feature Fuji Titanium SIC guides, along with a new proprie-tary reel seat and split-grip handle configurations.
Crestliner's VT19 has a .100 gauge aluminum hull, is 19 feet long with a 91-inch beam. Rated for 150 horse-power and has a top speed of 60 mph. 1,085 pounds and a maximum pay-load of 1,300 pounds. An elevated starboard console has a windscreen, switch panel, gauges and in-dash Lowrance depth finder. 30-gallon aerated livewell. Motor Guide trolling motor.
TACKLE TOTE VEST
If you wade when you fish, Fish-N-Hunt Pro Gear designed a Tackle Tote Vest that to keep gear accessible but dry when you're standing in deeper waters. It's adjustable, sturdy, has lots of pockets and a modest pricetag.
MSRP, Jacket $249.99-$269;
Cabela's Guidewear raingear now comes in four distinct series. Bass Angler (pictured) jackets and bibs are built with the tournament bass angler in mind. Xtreme parkas and bibs will help anglers fishing Northern lakes and rivers. Tidal jackets and pants offer lightweight, waterproof and breathable protection. River Runner jackets are perfect for wading anglers.
CAROLINA SKIFF DLV SERIES
MSRP, $18,178-$22,950, no motor, trailer.
Carolina Skiff's DLV Series is an unsinkable, all-fiberglass, modified-V hull designed for offshore or shallow-water fishing. The series has five siz-es, from the 17-foot DLV 178 with a 90-horsepower outboard to the 25-foot DLV 258 that powers up with a 200hp. High-speed bilge pump, cush-ion seat set, built-in cooler and plenty of storage.
ABU GARCIA REVO SX
Abu Garcia's Revo SX baitcasting reel is now 25 percent lighter than before. The SX frame is crafted of a strong alloy while the handle sideplate are built with weight-reducing C6 carbon. Holds 145 yards of 12-pound mono.
BERKLEY JAR BAIT FOLDER
Anglers who use jar baits know it's a pain to carry more than a few. Berk-ley now has two Jar Bait Folders to keep the baits at hand and make them easy to transport. Model 1170 holds 10 jars. Model 1490 holds 16. Both have various pockets and a D-ring for pliers.
BERKLEY TRILENE XL
Berkley says they've improved a classic. New Trilene XL lines are now 10 percent stronger 20 percent more flexibility then they had been. Knot strength has also improved, said the company. Trilene XL has been around since 1972.