Arkansas native Mark Davis takes lead at Lake Dardanelle Bassmaster Elite
Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media Published June 3, 2017
Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., is no stranger to tough tournaments, and during Saturday's second round of competition, he caught 19 pounds, 4 ounces of bass to take the lead at the GoPro Bassmaster Elite at Lake Dardanelle presented by Econo Lodge. His two-day total is 33-9.
Davis has accomplished nearly everything during his distinguished career on the Bassmaster tour, including three Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles and one Bassmaster Classic world championship in 1995.
One thing has escaped him, however - a good finish on Lake Dardanelle.
"Dardanelle has been my career nemesis," Davis said. "I live only an hour and a half from here, and I've always struggled. I'd have a good practice and be excited about getting the tournament started, then have a hard time even catching a limit."
For someone who has done so much in this sport, a win here would mean a lot to the 54-year-old angler.
"It would be huge to win this tournament," he said. "This place has whipped me down so many times, it feels good to just do well. I would love to finally conquer these bass, and I think I am on the right fish to make it happen."
Davis said he has a few productive spots, and is burning quite a bit of gas running between them.
"I'm making a pretty long run up the river, and one of my most productive spots is very small," he said. "So small, in fact, it takes just one easy cast to effectively cover it. But I keep catching fish off of it, so there's something special going on there."
He believes an average of 16 to 17 pounds per day will keep an angler in the hunt to win.
"It's very easy to not catch them on this lake," he said. "But, I'm fishing where the right fish are, and this is the kind of fishery where you can't force it. These bass are experienced, they've seen it all and can be hard to fool from time to time. But by slowing down and letting it happen, I feel like I'm making good decisions. Hopefully I can stay consistent and it'll finally pay off for me at Dardanelle."
To prove the point about how easy it can be to lose track of Dardanelle bass, Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., fished for over six hours Saturday without catching a single keeper.
"Painful," VanDam said when asked to define his second day. "Everything I did this morning was wrong. At this level you can't make bad decisions and expect to win."
The four-time Classic champion's pattern produced 19-3 during Friday's opening round, but fizzled out Saturday forcing him to improvise and quickly adapt.
"This lake is changing by the minute, which means the bass are repositioning just as often," he said. "Staying on active fish requires moving around a lot and trying multiple presentations."
With time dwindling, VanDam slowed down and focused on making very precise casts to specific pieces of structure, which ultimately produced 12-8 taking his two-day total to 31-11, which was good enough to start Sunday's semifinal round in second place.
David Mullins of Mount Carmel, Tenn., is still in position to win the Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award, thanks to a 6-8 largemouth he caught Friday.
The field will be cut to the Top 51 anglers for Sunday's semifinal round. Competition will resume with take-off at 6:15 a.m. CT at Lake Dardanelle State Park. Weigh-in will occur in the same location at 3:15 p.m.
However, fans can come out early and enjoy the Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo beginning at noon. Companies including GoPro, Econo Lodge, Huk, Berkley and Power-Pole will be onsite featuring their latest products. Skeeter, Yamaha, Nitro, Triton and Mercury will be giving free boat and motor demo rides. Toyota will also be onsite with interactive displays such as designing your own lure and a NASCAR video game vs. your friend. All venues and activities are free and open to the public.
The event is hosted by the Russellville Advertising and Promotion Commission.