The Okie Division looks to end the month of June just how it started it – with back-to-back Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine events.
This time around the playing field will be the Arkansas River, and the fishing should be decent for the third and fourth events of the Okie season.
Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Okie Division
How the fishery sets up
Spanning from Colorado to Arkansas, the Arkansas River stretches nearly 1,500 miles, making it the second-longest tributary in the Mississippi River system. It’s also the sixth-longest river in the United States.
At Muskogee, the Arkansas River is joined by the Verdigris and Neosho rivers, which make it a very fertile stretch of water. There tends to be cleaner water upstream from Muskogee, while the area around takeoff is more stained. Downstream is where you can find muddier water.
Standard river cover is available to fish. Hard cover such as wood, rocks and riprap dominate most of the river. While there is grass – especially water-willow – to be found throughout the system, severe flooding in 2019 led to a decrease in the availability of grass this year.
What to expect
Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit pro Kyle Cortiana has spent plenty of time on the Arkansas River over the years and believes that despite recent tournament pressure the system should be fishing strong.
“After the flooding last year, the river was drained way down to help recover a barge that broke free and crashed into one of the dams. Because of that, it basically destroyed a lot of the water-willow,” Cortiana says. “Because of that, the cover on the bank to fish was depleted, and guys aren’t able to spread out as much. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fish to catch still.
“The bite is getting better,” he adds. “I think the Three Forks pool [the area around Muskogee] will be a big player for guys trying to catch re-treads. A guy could camp around the release area and have a pretty good day. The Grand River arm has been really high with cooler water, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see somebody do well out of that arm, too.”
While there are plenty of options to stay close to takeoff and catch fish, Cortiana feels that running south will be the way to put the odds in your favor to catch a kicker or two.
“Locking down is a big run, but that’s where tournaments get won,” he adds. “The fish seem to just average bigger down south where the Illinois and Canadian rivers flow in.”
Even though water temperatures are in the upper 80s and air temps have been pushing triple digits, Cortiana still believes that winning bags each day should be above 17 pounds.
“I could see 18 to 20 pounds winning each day,” Cortiana adds. “We just had a bunch of high water, and now they sucked the bottom out of the river. So, when they dropped the bottom out, you got a lot of fish transitioning out from the backs of the creeks, and I think the main-river flats and pieces of wood are going to start loading up with fish by this tournament.”
Baits and techniques
There shouldn’t be any surprise for baits in this one. Cortiana says the way to fish the Arkansas River is basically junk-fishing 101. Everything from swim jigs to frogs to crankbaits should catch fish.
“Junk-fishing is really what it’s all about on the river,” says Cortiana. “Basically, you’ll need something to flip and something to pull through water-willow. But there should be a topwater bite early, too.
“Really, you can do whatever you want to do. If you want to fish cleaner water, go upriver. If you want to stick to stained water, stay in the middle portion. And if you want to fish in the mud, head down south. Both BFLs should be pretty fun.”