Historic flood levels on the Arkansas River have forced the state’s largest amateur bass tournament to reschedule. This year’s Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza, originally set to take place along the length of the river from Fort Smith to Dumas on June 28-30, will now be held the weekend of October 11-13.
“We are really excited about moving the dates to October,” said Arkansas Hospitality Association CEO Montine McNulty. “It’s great for the fishermen number one. The river will be good and the fishing will be good, and we have some exciting announcements to make involving additional prizes for the fishermen.”
A number of factors contributed to the Arkansas Hospitality Association’s decision to reschedule the tournament, according to McNulty. “We know that the river is not ready right now for a fishing tournament,” she said. “The Army Corps of Engineers has told us there is work to be done, the flow is still feeling the impact of high water, and some of our weigh-in sites sustained damage during the floods. In addition, a number of our anglers have been hurt by this flooding, and we want to give them time to recover.”
Come October, McNulty says her organization is planning on throwing a celebration of recovery. “It’s going to be an exciting, fun tournament,” she said. “The best we’ve ever had.”
Each year, the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza awards more than $100,000 in cash prizes to anglers who compete to weigh the biggest bass each hour at five pools along the Arkansas River. This year’s first place prize is $50,000, but anglers can win multiple prizes and checks for weighing bass each hour. In 2018, the tournament paid out more than $182,000 to participants. Pools include Fort Smith, Lake Dardanelle, Little Rock/North Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Dumas.
Last year’s tournament was won by 55-year old Billy Holeman, Jr. On the first day of the competion, the Camden native weighed a 6.03 pound bass that held the lead for the entire three day event. That bass netted Holeman a $50,000 check.
This year, the tournament is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and officials say the move to October does carry a silver lining: average temperatures in Arkansas plunge from 90-degrees in June to around 70-degrees in the fall. And, new sponsors have signed on to provide new prizes that will be announced in the coming weeks.
Football fans needn’t worry as the new tournament dates coincides with an Arkansas Razorbacks road trip to Kentucky and an off weekend for Arkansas State.
Competition runs from 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. All currently registered participants will be automatically entered to fish the tournament during its new dates; however, refund forms are available at ArkansasBigBass.com