Arkansas River poised to shine during B.A.S.S. Nation Qualifier | Sports Destination Management

Arkansas River poised to shine during B.A.S.S. Nation Qualifier

Mar 29, 2024

The Arkansas River has been a familiar and fantastic destination for B.A.S.S., but Chris Jones, a former qualifier for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors, believes the river is destined to shine even brighter during the 2024 Mercury B.A.S.S. Nation Qualifier at Arkansas River presented by Lowrance.

“This past year, the fishing was about as good as it’s ever been, and that just set up a phenomenal spring,” the Bokoshe, Okla., native said.

Tournament days are scheduled for April 3-5. Competitors will take off from Three Forks Harbor at 7 a.m. CT and return for weigh-in each day at 3 p.m. This is the second qualifying event in the new Nation format, and the Top 20 anglers will punch their tickets to the 2024 Mercury B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Lowrance, which is scheduled for Grand Lake in Grove, Okla., Nov. 6-8.

The Arkansas River has proven to be a challenging venue. Fluctuating water levels have been a puzzle in the past, and should anglers choose to lock into Kerr Reservoir, barge traffic may end a promising tournament too early.

“It is 100% a gamble to go to Kerr all three days,” said Jones, who won the 2020 Bassmaster Open on the river. “It can be won up North too. I don’t fish up there much, but in the spring, there are a lot of key backwaters up there. Tommy (Biffle) won (an Open and an Elite) up there. It can be won up or down.”


With that said, Jones said this section of the Arkansas River is fishing better than it ever has been and that is largely due to the increased coverage of hydrilla and coontail.

“The wildcard on this place is, we’ve gotten so much good hydrilla and coontail in the last couple of years,” Jones said. “I’m 44 and I’ve fished here since I was a kid and this is the most grass I’ve ever seen in it.”

Largemouth are the primary species to target and there could be bass in all three stages of the spawning cycle, depending on the weather conditions. That will allow anglers to spread out across the entire playing field, especially if the water stays clean.

“Usually by then, there are some postspawn bass, there’s a lot of prespawn bass and then some on the beds,” Jones said. “That will start on the full moon of March and will last until May.

“The grass will open up a lot more spawning areas. There will be a lot of clean-water areas that have never been like that before. It will fish differently. This river has changed a lot in the last three or four years.”

Along with the grass, hard cover like stumps and laydowns will play a factor, as well as current breaks and eddies. Water willow and lily pads are also prominent features on the river and pads in particular provide quality spawning habitat. 

The majority of bass will be caught in less than 8 feet of water, Jones believes, which means traditional shallow-water presentations will be prominent. Soft plastics like Yum Dingers, tubes and lizards will be key pitching and flipping baits, while Booyah Covert spinnerbaits and Mobster Swim Jigs will excel as well.

“It will be river baits 101,” Jones said.

The tournament is being hosted by Visit Muskogee.

2024 Bassmaster Nation Series Title Sponsor: Mercury

2024 Bassmaster Nation Series Presenting Sponsor: Lowrance

2024 Bassmaster Nation Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2024 Bassmaster Nation Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2024 Bassmaster Nation Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew's, Lowrance, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC

2024 Bassmaster Nation Series Youth Sponsors: Seaguar, Shimano

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