Heeding a small craft warning in effect for the Arkansas River near Little Rock, BASS announced Wednesday the fishery for the June 4-6 Academy Sports + Outdoors Women's Bassmaster Tour event has been changed to Maumelle Lake.
"BASS' first concern in these situations is always safety of the anglers," said Bruce Mathis, WBT tournament director. "We have been monitoring the Arkansas River, and we were prepared for the possibility of a move just a short distance west to Maumelle."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers routinely issues a small craft warning when a river flow exceeds 70,000 cubic feet per second. According to the corps, the velocity of the Arkansas River at Little Rock was 180,000 cfs early this week. The WBT competitors were notified of the change Wednesday.
The launch site on Maumelle will be Jolly Roger's Marina, 11800 Maumelle Harbour Road, Roland, AR 72135 (501-868-5558). Take-off time is 5:45 a.m. CT. Daily weigh-ins are scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. CT at the Academy Sports + Outdoors retail location at 6100 Warden Road, Sherwood, Ark., across the river from the city of Little Rock.
All WBT events are free and open to the public. The competition will be covered daily by www.bassmaster.com with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards, plus daily photo galleries and results.
The Arkansas tournament will be the WBT's third event of the 2009 season. The top prize in the pro division is $1,000 plus a fully rigged boat-and-motor package valued at $55,000. In the co-angler division, the first-prize package consists of $500 and a boat rig worth $25,000.
And, for the pros, the tournament continues the 2009 Toyota Tundra Women's Bassmaster Tour Angler of the Year points race, the qualifying route to the Academy Sports + Outdoors WBT Championship, Oct. 16-18 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La. After the WBT Championship, the winner of the AOY will receive a berth in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 19-21 Classic out of Birmingham, Ala., on Lay Lake.
Leading the points race is four-time WBT winner Pam Martin-Wells of Bainbridge, Ga. Her first look at the reservoir, which is almost 9,000 acres, was last Tuesday.
"I'm just riding around, starting out by looking at the water," she said. "I don't know a whole lot about it. So far, I see bank grass and a lot of rocks."
Martin-Wells will have to do well at Maumelle to stay in front of the tight AOY race. She is only 26 points ahead of Juanita Robinson of Highlands, Texas, and 29 points away from Laura Gober of Pendergrass, Ga.
It isn't all their race, either; the top-10 spread is less than 100 points.
The angler who takes the AOY crown will win a new Toyota Tundra as well as a berth in the Classic. She will follow in the historic footsteps of WBT pro Kim Bain-Moore of Alabaster, Ala., who as the 2008 AOY became the first woman to qualify for a Classic.
For WBT pro Danalee Lofton of Little Rock, the change to Maumelle was good news. Although she's at home on the Arkansas River, she said she's fished Maumelle "about 200 times."
She is not banking on a home-lake advantage.
"Yes, I've been on the lake a lot, but that doesn't mean I can be complacent and not work very, very hard. There's a lot of very, very good anglers on the circuit, so I'm sure they can figure it out as well," said Lofton, who jumped 37 places in the AOY standings on the strength of a 18th-place finish in April on the Ouachita River.
No one should have trouble hooking into Maumelle bass, she said.
"There's a ton of small fish in the lake, so a kicker will definitely make your bag," she said. "I predict the weights will be close and leaders will have to have about 10 pounds or so each day."
The lake holds largemouth and Kentucky spotted bass, but not smallmouth bass, she said.
"There is a lot of rocky structure, lot of shoreline willow grass, some lily pads, some submergent grass, but very little wood," she described. "It's an old lake, so most of the timber is gone."
According to the Web site of lake overseer Central Arkansas Water (www.carkw.com), Maumelle Lake was constructed in the mid-1950s by damming the Big Maumelle River. The lake is about 12 miles long. Its average depth is about 25 feet; maximum depth is 60 feet.
Because Maumelle supplies water for the Little Rock metroplex, its shoreline is unbroken by private docks and homes. Personal watercraft, skiing, wakeboarding, and swimming are not allowed. Those restrictions, noted Lofton, might work to an anglers' advantage on high-traffic days.
Title sponsor of the Women's Bassmaster Tour: Academy Sports + Outdoors.
Official sponsors of the Women's Bassmaster Tour: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, Booyah Baits, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats and Yamaha Marine.
Supporting sponsors of the Women's Bassmaster Tour: Ramada,Triton Boats, LaserLure and Legend Boats.