Mike Rhinehart remembers fishing the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza before the event even had a name. Then, in the late 1980s, he’d hop in the boat with his father, Wayne, and venture out onto the Arkansas River searching for bass large enough to cash a check with.

Over two decades later, Rhinehart stood atop the winner’s podium at the annual event, holding a $50,000 check for a single fish, a fish caught in memory of his dad. “Every bit of this is for him,” Rhinehart said. “My dad started me out when I was little. Fishing is the last thing I did with him before he passed away in a car crash 21 years ago this month.

The winning fish was caught Saturday at 12:13 p.m. on the second day of competition.
Rhinehart says he was fishing a jig at Lake Dardanelle when he felt a monster bass annihilate his lure. “I knew immediately that it was a five pounder or better,” he said. “When I unhooked her and put her in the live well, I just sat there for a minute. I got my scales out, weighed the fish at 5.97 pounds. I knew my scales were a little light, and I knew I had a shot at being right in contention, so that’s when it started to kind of sink in.”

Rhinehart’s scales were indeed light, as the winning fish dialed in at 6.22 pounds at the official Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza weigh-in at Lake Dardanelle. But a mid-day lead on Day Two wasn’t enough to satisfy a nervous Rhinehart. With big fish being caught all over the state this week, the experienced angler and PCS Ferguson service technician from Delaware, Arkansas went back to work, fishing the remainder of the event on Sunday, the last day of the event. And although 20 fish weighing over five pounds were caught this weekend, none were able to top Rhinehart’s.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I’ve been fishing this thing for a long time. For over 20 years I’ve been trying to win this. For it to happen is kind of surreal.”

Rhinehart took home the $50,000 grand prize for biggest fish, but four other winners took home $10,000 each for topping their pool:

Pool 5 Dumas- Glenn Neal – 6.15 lbs.
Pool 1 Fort Smith- Grady Gann – 5.35 lbs.
Pool 4 Pine Bluff- Kelly Glover – 5.28 lbs.
Pool 3 Little Rock- Jordan Johnson – 5.19 lbs.

John Whitman took home the $1,000 Willow Leaf Award with a 5.41 pound bass out of Lake Dardanelle. The Willow Leaf Award is presented to the parent/child or grandparent/grandchild pair weighing the biggest fish during the three days.

Youth Division
The top three finishers in the grades 9-12 division were:
Carson Arrington – 4.04 lbs.
Grant Dutton – 4.03 lbs.
Jesse Mosely – 3.81 lbs.
The top three finishers in the 6-8 grade division were:
Chevy Morgan – 3.29 lbs.
Jackson Nolan – 2.26 lbs.
Chad Gill – 2.24 lbs.

Update: Big Bass Bonanza, Day 2 

 

Hundreds of anglers traded tee shirts for hoodies and jackets this weekend, as a cold front dropped morning temperatures across Arkansas into the 50s. The change was a stark contrast from the start of competition on Friday, which still held summer-like conditions for Dumas angler Glenn Neal, who landed a 6.15 pound bass in the early hours of the 2019 Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza.

That fish was heavy enough to put Neal in first place for the $50,000 grand prize for biggest bass weighed during the three day event, which continues on Sunday. But despite fears that fishing would slow under the bite of brisk temperatures, tournament anglers are still boating big bass.

Mike Rhinehart

By the end of competition on Saturday, Neal’s lead from Dumas had been supplanted by Mike Rhinehart, who brought in a 6.22 pound bass out of Lake Dardanelle. Now, Rhinehart will sweat out the final day of competition on Sunday with a narrow lead that could fall at any moment.

As Day 3 of the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza approaches, the leaderboard looks like this:
Pool 2 Lake Dardanelle — Mike Rhinehart, 6.22 lbs.
Pool 5 Dumas— Glenn Neal, 6.15 lbs.
Pool 4 Pine Bluff— Kelly Glover, 5.28 lbs
Pool 3 Fort Smith — Jordan Johnson, 5.19 lbs.
Pool 1 Little Rock — Dennis Rogers, 5.14 lbs.

The Willow Leaf Award of $1,000 will be presented to the parent/child or grandparent/grandchild pair weighing the biggest fish during the three days. The amount of hourly prizes will be determined by the number of participants for the three days and will not be announced until Sunday. John Whitman is currently leading that competition with a 5.41 pound bass out of Lake Dardanelle.

In youth competition, Chad Gill leads the grades 6 through 8 division with a 2.24 pound bass from Dumas, while Carson Arrington leads the grades 9 through 12 bracket with a 4.04 pound bass from Dumas.

Temperatures are expected to reach the low 70s at tomorrow’s finale. Pool winners will each receive $10,000 cash, while the overall winner will take home $50,000.

Original Story: Glenn Neal, Day 1 Leader of Big Bass Bonanza

Glenn Neal

Glenn Neal leads the field of anglers in day one of the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza with a 6.15-pound bass from the Dumas pool. He caught the fish around 8 a.m. to take the overall lead on the first day of the three-day tournament.

For each of the past two years, the $50,000 grand prize bass has been landed on the first day of the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza. Neal says he plans to keep fishing the event to defend his lead.

Three anglers from pools in Dumas, Fort Smith and Lake Dardanelle weighed in bass at over five pounds, and every pool has so far produced a fish surpassing the four pound mark.

Leaders in each of the five pools are:

Pool 5 Dumas— Glenn Neal, 6.15 lbs.
Pool 2 Lake Dardanelle — Robinette Fox, 5.43 lbs.
Pool 4 Pine Bluff— Kelly Glover, 5.28 lbs
Pool 1 Fort Smith — Dennis Rogers, 5.14 lbs.
Pool 3 North Little Rock — Brian Freyaldenhoven, 4.83 lbs.

The Willow Leaf Award of $1,000 will be presented to the parent/child or grandparent/grandchild pair weighing the biggest fish during the three days. The amount of hourly prizes will be determined by the number of participants for the three days and will not be announced until Sunday. Jesse Mosley currently leads the contest for the Willow Leaf Award with a 3.81 pound bass out of Dumas.

The Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza spans more than 300 miles of eligible fishing waters on the river inside the state’s borders. The event is divided into five pools, and tournament action will resume at 6 a.m. Saturday morning with the final weigh-in being held Sunday at 1 p.m.

Fishermen can still register at any weigh-in location Saturday and Sunday. The grand prize and other cash awards will be presented during Sunday’s award event at the Rocky City Yacht Club, which will begin at 4 p.m. at 1726 East 2nd Street in Little Rock.

The five weigh-in sites are: Pool 1 – Clear Creek Park, Fort Smith; Pool 2 – Dardanelle State Park, Russellville side; Pool 3 – Rock City Yacht Club, Little Rock; Pool 4 – Regional Park, Pine Bluff; and Pool 5 – Pendleton Bridge, east of Dumas.

Major sponsors of the tournament are Simmons Bank, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and Hardee’s Saddle Peak and Rock City Yacht Club. Other sponsors include Aqua-Vu, Raymarine, St. Croix Rod, Gill, Fish Monkey, Z-Man Fishing, LIVETARGET Lures, Flambeau Outdoors, FishBomb, Sunsect, Heart of Arkansas, North Little Rock Visitors Bureau, Pine Bluff Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Russellville Advertising & Promotions.

For more information on the tournament, registration sites and complete results, visit
arkansasbigbass.com.

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