The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is looking for volunteers to help stock black bass fingerlings in prime habitat along the Arkansas River during this year’s Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza, June 23-25.
Hatchery trucks will be available at each weigh-in station Friday morning with oxygenated bags of fingerling-sized largemouth bass for anglers to take with them and place in high-quality habitat during the tournament.
“Spreading the fingerlings out into good habitat gives them a much better chance of survival than concentrated stockings from ramps, but it takes many more people to pull off,” said Tommy Laird, assistant chief of fisheries who is over the AGFC’s hatchery system. “We’ve conducted this partnership for many years, and always appreciate the anglers stepping up and helping with the effort.”
The fingerlings for this stocking project usually come from ponds on Cummins Correctional Facility, which are part of a larger partnership between the AGFC, the Arkansas Department of Corrections and the Arkansas Bass Association.
This year’s high water, however, overtopped the levees near those ponds, allowing predator fish into the ponds and allowing the fingerlings to escape before their scheduled release.
Laird says the Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery in Lonoke has been able to adjust to the setback, and will provide 20,000 largemouth bass fingerlings from its ponds at each of the five weigh-in sites for the tournament:
• Clear Creek Park, Fort Smith
• Dardanelle State Park, Russellville side
• Verizon Ramp, North Little Rock
• Regional Park, Pine Bluff
• Pendleton Bridge, east of Dumas
With the Arkansas River flow settling slightly, this year’s Big Bass Bonanza looks to be on schedule for this weekend.
The tournament is the largest amateur bass fishing tournament in the U.S., with more than 2,000 contestants annually and more than 300 miles of the Arkansas River available to fish.
Anglers can choose to fish one, two or all three days of the tournament. The angler who lands the largest fish in the three-day tournament will take home a guaranteed $50,000. Other prizes, including first, second and third hourly winners in each pool, will depend on the entry money received.
The annual Big Bass Bonanza is the successor to the King Cotton Classic that operated a number of years out of Pine Bluff. More information on tournament rules and format is available at www.arkansasbigbass.com.