What I Learned Fishing in Arkansas

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I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the state of Arkansas. Over the last several years of college fishing, I’ve had the opportunity to compete on numerous fisheries in the state of Arkansas. Some of my most frequented lakes include Lake Dardanelle, Norfork and Lake Ouachita. While these lakes vary in quality, they all have unique attributes that make each one special. While I’ve had both good and bad tournament experiences here, I still love traveling to this one of a kind state. I truly believe that once you learn to fish in Arkansas you can fish almost anywhere in the country. This is due to Arkansas’ lake diversity, giving you the opportunity to learn on numerous styles of fisheries.

where bass go in the winter and when to fish them



Fish diversity is one of the most appealing factors for fishing in Arkansas. This state has fantastic fisheries for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. The variety gives anglers the opportunity to learn how and when to target each species of bass. Not only this, but Arkansas is also home to the Red and White rivers which are both fantastic trout fisheries. While I haven’t had the pleasure of fishing these rivers yet, my dad has made many trips there and always speaks highly of the fishing.

Dardanelle was the first lake in Arkansas I ever fished. While this fishery is extremely challenging, it offers various species of bass and options for targeting them. Lake Norfork was the second lake in Arkansas I’d ever fished. I travelled here for a College Bassmaster event during my Junior year. This lake had phenomenal largemouth fishing as well as spotted bass and a few smallmouth. What this lake taught me was the importance of targeting different species of bass to achieve different goals. For instance, I had found a gizzard shad spawn on a secondary point that had a lot of quality sized largemouth. While the fish were plentiful, I could only get one or two to bite before they wised up. Each day of the tournament I’d be stuck with two quality sized largemouth and nothing to go with it.

Each afternoon after trying to catch a few more quality largemouth, I’d transition and start to target spotted bass. These fish were much easier to catch however they were also much smaller in size. Each afternoon I threw a shaky head at bluff walls and filled out a limit of 1 to 2-pound spots. While these fish weren’t giants, they still mattered given that I had a few quality sized largemouth to go with it. This experience taught me the importance of targeting specific fish to achieve a specific goal. I knew I likely wasn’t going to catch a giant once I transitioned to spotted bass, but what I did know was that the chances of a limit were much greater.

Lastly, Lake Ouachita is the most recent lake in Arkansas I’ve travelled to. I was here for the Bassmaster Open and was pleasantly surprised by both the numbers and quality of bass in this lake. There are a plentiful amount of 2 to 3-pound spotted bass in this lake, as well as numerous trophy sized largemouth. Much to my surprise, there were two bass caught the week I was there that touched the 10-pound mark. There was another 11-pound bass caught a few weeks before by another local angler. One of the reasons I think there are so many giant fish in this lake is because of the vast amount of cover.


All three of the lakes I’ve fished in Arkansas have some sort of grass. Whether that be submerged grass, bank grass or something in between, you have the options to learn in it all. Lakes such as Darnell have bank grass covering miles of shoreline providing the ideal habitat for shallow water largemouth. Both times I’ve traveled to this fishery, quality bags of largemouth were caught out of the shallow bank grass. Not only does Arkansas have a vast amount of shallow grass to target, but there’s also submerged vegetation as well.

Lake Ouachita was absolutely covered in submerged grass. This was especially weird to me because I wasn’t used to seeing grass on these types of fisheries. Lake Ouachita is a super deep fishery reaching depths of over 150 feet. The shoreline is very steep and exceptionally rocky. This lake is also full to the brim with standing timber. Nearly every pocket, point and bank had standing timber, providing bass with a plentiful amount of ambush points. The craziest thing to me was seeing how well the grass grew in such a rocky environment. Grass covered nearly every bank, point and hump shallower than 15 feet. I believe this is what’s responsible for all the trophy sized bass. As a matter of fact, this tournament was won throwing a lipless CrankBait over submerged grass in 5-10 feet of water.


Flooded timber is another prevalent type of cover on Lake Ouachita that played a large roll in this tournament. This is arguably the most prevalent type of cover on this lake and what most of the anglers targeted. I focused on timber around points and drains that had both largemouth and spotted bass cruising in the area. My two baits of choice were a Berkley Stunna 112 and a Berkley Powerbait Power Switch. I would use the Stunna to target bass that were positioned towards the top of the water column or sitting still on a piece of timber. Typically, whenever I’d find a largemouth it would often be sitting still in relation to a tree or piece of cover. I would then throw the jerkbait past the fish and work it down to its desired depth, quickly getting them to react. This is how I caught some of my biggest fish during this event.

Another way I targeted the flooded timber was by looking for deeper groups of spotted bass that were moving through the timber. These fish were anywhere from 15 to 50 feet deep and were often moving fairly quick. For this technique I would use forward facing sonar to lead the fish with a half ounce Power Switch. I’d often have to make multiple casts at a single fish before getting them to see it, however once they did they’d often react. This accounted for the majority of my fish catches in this tournament and is a technique almost the entire field was practicing.


Another common tactic on Lake Ouachita was power fishing up shallow. Even though this lake is known for being a great deep water fishery, quality bags were still caught up shallow. Anglers such as Ish Monroe capitalized on a shallow water reaction bite throwing a Z-Man Jackhammer around shallow grass and timber. There was both a lower lake and up river shallow bite going on in this event, however they each varied slightly. Down the lake the water clarity was much better, making fish a little more reluctant to bite. This caused anglers to speed up their retrieve to keep fish from getting a good look at their bait. Reaction baits such a jerkbaits, lipless CrankBaits and vibrating jigs all played a major roll down the lake.

Up river however, I encountered both a reaction bite as well as a slower flipping bite. Water clarity dirtied as you began to head up river allowing anglers a little more freedom with their bait selection. Red CrankBaits such as a Berkley Frittside 5 and Jackall Bling 55 played a roll on rocky channel swing banks in this section of the lake. Another way anglers found success was flipping a jig around shallow cover and bluff walls. This is a great way to get some trophy sized bass to bite that don’t want to chase down a moving bait. All in all, there were quality bites going on all over Lake Ouachita. It was all about getting on the right pattern and setting yourself up for success.

I’m always thankful for any excuse to travel to the state of Arkansas. Whether it’s duck hunting, trout or bass fishing, I always have an exceptional time. One of the many reasons I love fishing in this state is because of its diversity. Every time I fish here I get to target bass in a completely new way, quickly expanding my bass fishing skillset. If you’re thinking about making a trip to Arkansas, I highly recommend checking out Lake Ouachita and the other fantastic fisheries this state has to offer.