Zach King of Clarksville, Ark., used a Heddon Zara Spook to catch 14 pounds, 11 ounces claim the day one lead in the Toyota Series Plains Division event on Lake Dardanelle presented by Fish-Intel. King will take a 6-ounce lead over Matt Wood of Jessieville, Ark., into day two.

Complete results 

“I caught 15 keepers junk fishing mostly,” King says. “I caught some on a Rat-L-Trap, and I caught some on a worm. I caught some on a River2Sea Whopper Plopper, but the main bait I’ve been catching them on is a (Zara) Spook. I caught them all day on it.”

King says it took him until about 9:30 a.m. to find a groove. After that, he says he caught fish consistently on light-colored lures.

“I didn’t have a fish at 9 o’clock,” King says. “I pulled up on a spot, and at 9:25 I was culling. When I figured that out, I started running that pattern, and I caught them all day.”

Although current surged through the lake all morning, King says current was not a factor for him.

“I have some places that have got current, and I have some places where there is no current,” King says. “They’re keying in on shad right now. I don’t think current’s going to bother them too much.”

King has fished Dardanelle his entire life and says the lake is true to its usual mid-September form.

“This time of year, the pattern I’m running is pretty good,” King says.


Matt Wood

2. Matt Wood – Jessieville, Ark. – 14 – 5 (5) 

After an unproductive practice, Matt Wood feared he was doomed to a dud tournament, but a single hot spot put him in contention.

“Practice was brutal, to say the least,” Wood says. “I caught just a few keepers all week long. I found one little area that had some fish. I ran to it this morning, and they were biting.”

Wood had his weigh-in limit by 9:30 a.m. Plenty of fish remained, but Wood left them because he said there were none that would improve his weight.

“I hated to set the hook on many more because I knew 12-13 pounds a day was going to be good,” Wood says. “My scale said had 14, so I knew I was all over it.”

Wood says he caught his fish in shallow structure, but it isn’t part of a reliable pattern. His spot just happened to pop on Thursday.

“That’s the way this lake is. You find one spot that has fish and they’re either going to bite or not,” Wood says. “Tomorrow I could zero, but I’m optimistic I can catch them.”



3. Kyle Weisenburger – Columbus Grove, Ohio – 13 – 12 (5)

Like Wood, Kyle Weisenburger practiced poorly, and his slump continued until 1 p.m. on Thursday. His fortunes improved dramatically when he found fish in shallow grass in the back of a pocket. He only caught five fish all day, but they were the right kind.

“I saw a bunch of bait and I started flipping some grass in there, and I came across four good bites to finish off the day,” Weisenburger says.

Weisenburger says he caught his fish inside the grass. The bites were quick and decisive.

“Looking at Google Maps, that’s what I wanted to do down here, but I really struggled to make that bite happen,” Weisenburger says. “Luckily I decided to go back to it at the end of the day, and luckily there was a group of fish in there. Truly, I thought it might be a zero day after about the first two hours, but it turned into a good day.”

Like Wood, Weisenburger says his spot is situational and not linked to a reliable pattern. There was no current on his spot Thursday, and visibility was about 1 foot deep. He said the key factor was sunlight and wind pushing bait into the pocket.

“That made it come alive,” Weisenburger says. “I’m going to swing for the fences tomorrow. I’m catching quality fish doing what I’m doing.”


4. Joe Bennett – Ashland, Mo. – 13 – 6 (5)

Unlike the top three anglers, Joe Bennett came out of the gate in full gallop and caught a 4-pounder on a spinnerbait in the first five minutes to set a quick pace. Unfortunately, electrical problems cost him the last two hours of fishing.

“I culled quite a few, but my cranking battery died, and then my aerators wouldn’t work,” Bennett says. “I couldn’t fish the last two hours.”

Bennett says his pattern is strong, and nothing can happen overnight to help or hurt him.

“I just have to put them in the boat,” Bennett says. “I lost a couple of fish today. One was over 5 pounds and it just jumped and came off. I could have culled a 14-inch fish with that 5-pounder. The malfunctions hurt quite a bit, too.”


Steve Floyd

5. Steve Floyd – Leesburg, Ohio – 13 – 1 (5) 

Flipping a Strike King Rage Bug on shallow wood cover in an up-lake backwater enabled Steve Floyd to catch nine keepers, including five that totaled 13-1.

Floyd says his pattern is strong, but it would be stronger if the water rose.

“Current is not important where I was at,” Floyd says. “The water fell today, and it hurt. They’ve been biting real good in the morning.”

Many anglers said they lost fish and they complained that bites were not aggressive. Floyd experienced it, too.

“I lost a couple of fish early that kind of hurt,” Floyd says. “They’re biting funny. They really are. I’d put it in a laydown and the line would jump. I’d set the hook and get nothing. There was a lot of that.”

Baitfish were key to Floyd’s area. He caught fish in practice around bait with spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, but bass wouldn’t hit them Thursday.

“I just had to bear down and flip most of the day,” Floyd says. “They’re biting early. The shad are popping and then it’ll go dead a little bit about 9:30 or 10 o’clock. and then it picks back up later in the day.”


Top 10 pros 

1. Zach King – Clarksville, Ark. – 14 – 11 (5)

2. Matt Wood – Jessieville, Ark. – 14 – 5 (5)

3. Kyle Weisenburger – Columbus Grove, Ohio – 13 – 12 (5)

4. Joe Bennett – Ashland, Mo. – 13 – 6 (5)

5. Steve Floyd – Leesburg, Ohio – 13 – 1 (5)

6. Teddy Bogard – Rison, Ark. – 12 – 5 (5)

7. Dylan Hays – Hot Springs, Ark. – 11 – 14 (5)

8. Spencer Shuffield – Hot Springs, Ark. – 11 – 13 (5)

9. Jason Lieblong – Conway, Ark. – 11 – 10 (5)

10. Israel Mills – Donaldson, Ark. – 11 – 8 (5)

Complete results 


Bill Amis

Amis Seizes Co-Angler Lead

Fishing soft plastics over a sandy drop enabled Bill Amis of Shawnee, Kan., to nail down the co-angler lead with four bass weighing 11 pounds, 5 ounces.

Amis says his pattern was being paired with a generous pro, DeWayne French of Mammoth Spring, Ark.,  that put Amis in a position to catch fish.

“I had a good guide and he done great,” Amis says. “You can’t catch them from the back of the boat unless they put you on them.”

Once on them, Amis put them in the boat dragging green pumpkin Zoom Baby Brush Hog on drops.

Complete results