Note: Due to Hurricane Rita, this event has been rescheduled to Oct. 13-15.
CELEBRATION, Fla. After nearly four decades of staging big-league tournaments, it is difficult to find a bass fishery that has escaped the BASS circuit.
Welcome to Mountain Home, Ark., and Norfork Lake.
BASS is pulling out all the stops for the CITGO Bassmaster Central Open, Sept. 29-Oct. 1. At stake is a $50,000 top prize and valuable points toward the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship (Dec. 1-4 in Prattville, Ala.). That event will send five pros to the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 24-26, on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla.
It's a good bet that the pros and non-boaters are heading into uncharted territory on Norfork Lake.
"There won't be very many guys that are real familiar with Norfork," said Mark Davis of Mt. Ida, Ark., 1995 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion and three-time BASS Angler of the Year. "That should make this tournament real interesting."
The 22,000-acre Army Corps of Engineers impoundment was formed in 1944 with the damming of the North Fork River. The crystal-clear reservoir has 550 miles of shoreline and good populations of largemouth, white and striped bass as well as crappie.
The lake has enjoyed good largemouth spawns the last few years and local anglers report a decided improvement in bass fishing. "I've been around the lake a lot and I have fished it quite a bit," Davis said. "It's clear with rocks and gravel. No vegetation. The lake is going to be about 10 feet low, so you're not going to have any cover other than rocks. There is a little bit of standing timber, but it's not really a factor.
"There's not a lot of offshore stuff. It's kind of a steep, up-and-down canyon-type lake. There are a few humps and long points, but it's mostly banks and bluffs and points. That's about all you've got there."
Davis expects the fishing to be challenging in this tournament, the second of three Central Open events in 2005.
"It's going to be tough for most," he said. "There will be some shallow fish caught and there will be some real deep fish caught. But I think it's going to fish real tough for most of the guys.
"First, the lake has a 15-inch size limit, which makes it even tougher. I suspect somewhere between 30 and 35 pounds should win. It's not a good time of the year. It's a pretty good lake in the spring and the winter, but it's not a good summer lake. And we're not going to really be into the fall, so we're going to be there at a real tough time."
Weigh-ins will begin at 2:30 p.m. at Lake Norfork Marina, 19 Count Road 825, Henderson, Ark., 72544.
Local sponsors include Mountain Home Area Chamber of Commerce.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Open Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).