Ricky Cantrell with his 6.76-pound bass.

Ricky Cantrell with his 6.76-pound bass.

Day 2 Update:
Ricky Cantrell still holds the overall lead, with his 6.76-pound largemouth weighed in during the early hours on Friday, but fishermen and women across the state still have one more day to capture the checks.

Day 1
Dumas angler Ricky Cantrell led day one of the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza with his 6.76 pound bass. Cantrell landed the big bass in the early hours of the tournament and kept him sitting atop the leaderboard throughout the first day of the three day event.

Cantrell waited out severe weather blowing across the eastern portion of the state in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Cindy for bass. Now, he’ll have to wait out two more competitive days of fishing and hundreds of other anglers hitting the water between Fort Smith and Dumas.

It seems like a stretch, but winning the $50,000 grand prize from day one is possible, as last year’s winner, Holbert Holman, of Dumas, proved. Holman’s 7.25-pound largemouth was landed in mid-afternoon of Friday’s event, and he sweated out results the rest of the weekend before finally being awarded the big check on Sunday.

“I listened to the radio reports all weekend,” Holman recalls. “Every big fish, I started to sweat a little.”

If Cantrell’s fish holds, he will find himself in the same winner’s circle Holman occupied last year.

In addition to the $50,000 grand prize, winners for each of the other four pools will take home a $10,000 prize.

Hendrix head football coach Buck Buchanan landed a 6.62-pound bass out of Little Rock early Friday morning, and leads the North Little Rock pool through day one. “I got lucky,” Buchanan said. “I saw a big bass jump out of the water right around daylight and eat a shad. I threw in there and caught a small one, then on the second throw I landed that one.”

Buchanan says he caught the pool-leading fish on a Pop-R, though he wouldn’t reveal exactly where or on which color bait. And while he’ll have to catch another fish on day two or three to beat out Cantrell, he plans to share the wealth with a win.

“I told my assistants that if I win, they’re all getting camp bonuses,” he said, laughing.

Leading each of the five pools today are:
Pool 5/Dumas— Ricky Cantrell 6.76 lbs
Pool 3/North Little Rock — Justin “Buck” Buchanan 6.62 lbs
Pool 2/Lake Dardanelle — Mark Cheatham 5.99 lbs
Pool 4/Pine Bluff— Brandon Ward 5.53 lbs
Pool 1/Fort Smith — Steven Sanchez 5.68 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. Luke Hackney currently leads the competition for the award.

Academy Sports and Outdoors will award a $300 gift card to Richard Carney of Cane Hill, Arkansas, for catching a fish weighing exactly three pounds in the third hour of day one.

The number of hourly prizes will be determined by the number of participants for the three days and will not be announced until Sunday.

The tournament spans more than 300 miles of eligible fishing waters on the Arkansas River inside the state’s borders, with the event divided into five pools. Tournament action will resume at 6 a.m. Saturday morning with the final weigh-in being held Sunday between the noon to 1 p.m. hour. Fishermen can still register at any weigh-in location Saturday and Sunday from 5 a.m. until 1 p.m. The grand prize and other cash awards will be presented during Sunday’s award event, which will begin at 4 p.m. near the North Little Rock/Verizon Arena boat ramp.

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

Major sponsors of the tournament are Simmons Bank, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and Hardee’s, Saddle Peak. Other sponsors include Raymarine, St. Croix Rods, BUFF®, LIVETARGET Lures, BaitCloud, Heart of Arkansas, North Little Rock Visitors Bureau, Pine Bluff Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Russellville Adventures & Promotions.

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