The “fun fishing” Jason Christie experiences on his home waters could be in full swing during the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open No. 2, April 19-21 on the Arkansas River.
The Bassmaster Elite Series star grew up fishing the Arkansas River and still enjoys catching bass there whenever he has a break in his schedule. “The river has good fishing; that’s where I go to fun fish a lot,” he said. The Oklahoma pro said he especially enjoys fishing the river in the spring when bass are spawning and stacked up in the backwaters.
Christie thinks fewer than 20 percent of the bass in the river have spawned by now due to low temperatures this spring.
“With the cool weather we just had — even with the full moon — those fish held off from spawning, and they are not going to go until we get that next really good warm front,” he said.
If warm weather arrives, a full-blown spawn should be on during the Open.
“These fish, for the most part, are going to be more in the backwaters,” Christie said. “It is that time of year and that’s where they spawn. They get in little bitty places. You can have a backwater that is 20 acres and 1 acre of it is where a lot of the fish will spawn. It is kind of hard to find those places, but the fishing is good enough so there will be a lot of fish caught and a lot of
nice fish caught.”
Arkansas River bass typically spawn on hard bottoms, according to Christie. “That river is old and full of silt, but there are little places with hard bottoms where these fish spawn,” he said. “They will also spawn around a log or a stump or something like that.”
Central Open competitors will find plenty of cover to target in the backwaters including stumps, logs, riprap, water willows, lily pads and milfoil. “There is just a ton of different stuff to fish,” Christie said.
Bass will be less than 5 feet deep during the Open, so Christie suggests trying any shallow, dirty water lures such as 1/2-ounce spinnerbaits, jigs, plastic frogs and swimbaits.
Spring rains have raised and muddied the river some, but Christie thinks the river could be in good shape during the Open.
“Barring any more rain, the river will be settled down a little bit,” he said. “A lot of the backwaters may not be clear. There has been a lot of flow — a lot of ‘local flows,’ which is what hurts the backwaters most because those blow out the creeks. The mud from the main river current doesn’t affect the backwaters as
much because the backwaters are protected from that. But when we get locally heavy rain like we have had, it is going to flush a lot of the mud into the backwaters.”
The five-time B.A.S.S. winner thinks the best strategy for the Open competitors will be to “camp” in an area rather than running and gunning on the river.
“The guys who do well may not fish the same area three days in a row, but they are going to go to an area and maybe milk it the first day and maybe even the second day,” he said. “But the third day they may go to a different area. It is hard to run and gun the river because I don’t think there are going to be any backwaters that are secret.”
Christie expects heavyweight limits will be brought to the scales the first day of the Open. “There are going to be several bags of around 20 (pounds) or better the first day,” he said. “But just the law of averages of going through locks and pressure in areas is going to level things out to 17 to 18 pounds each day.” He
predicts it will take 15 to 16 pounds a day to make the Top 12 cut and about 51 pounds to win the Open.
Daily takeoffs will be at 6:30 a.m. CDT from Three Forks Harbor in Muskogee with weigh-ins beginning at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. The Day 3 championship weigh-in begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Bass Pro Shops in Broken Arrow.