All-American Competitors Take on Lake Hamilton - Major League Fishing
All-American Competitors Take on Lake Hamilton
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All-American Competitors Take on Lake Hamilton

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June 2, 2022 • Mason Prince • Phoenix Bass Fishing League

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – The 39th annual Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine  All-American gets underway on Lake Hamilton this morning with 49 boaters and 49 Strike King co-anglers. Temperatures climbed into the low 90s during Wednesday’s final practice day, and the rain came rushing in overnight in the Hot Springs area. The field is expecting to find a different Lake Hamilton on Day 1 than the one they’ve (hopefully) figured out during practice.

The cooler water below the Blakely Mountain Dam was popular and productive in the 2019 Forrest Wood Cup.

About the Fishery

Lake Hamilton is only about a 7,460-acre lake and fed by the Ouachita River. The main creeks off the main lake are Cearley Creek, Molly Creek, Mazarn Creek, Stokes Creek, Little Mazarn Creek, Hot Springs Creek and Mount Carmel Creek. The lake is bookended by two dams: Blakely Mountain Dam on the northwest end and Carpenter Dam on the southeast end. Blakely Mountain Dam feeds cool water from the bottom of Lake Ouachita into Hamilton, which can prolong the spawn and keeps the lake a little cooler than you’d expect from a small Arkansas reservoir.

There are spotted bass in Lake Hamilton, but don’t expect those to be a big player this weekend. The tournament will likely be decided by largemouth (both deep and shallow) throughout the lake.

Rock, brush piles and offshore structure will be the predominant targets out deep. Shallow, it’s docks and scattered grass that provide the best cover.

Current Conditions

It’s been sunny and pretty warm in central Arkansas over the past couple of days with temps touching 90 degrees, but that’s going to change for the first day of competition on Thursday. It rained for much of the night leading into Thursday morning with cooler temperatures—in the mid-60s—and cloudy skies expected for much of the first day. Clouds are expected to clear the area in the afternoon, but by that time the anglers will already be in line waiting to weigh-in.

Brian Bean, a boater who qualified for the All-American from the Okie Division and a Hot Springs resident, said that water managers were pulling water out of Hamilton on Wednesday in preparation for the overnight rain. He thinks the change in weather could throw a wrench into some anglers’ plans.

“They’ve been drawing the lake down for weeks because of the rain, and more rain last night is going to make it tougher, I think,” Bean said. “The lake is so small that really anywhere you go you’re probably going to be fishing somewhat near someone else. Everything is so tight, including the long-running creeks. But, everything is in play right now, from zero to 25 or even 30 feet deep.”

Tactics in Play

The spawn is all wrapped up on Hamilton and the fish should theoretically be starting their move toward deeper water in the main lake. However, that wasn’t the consensus among some of the anglers we talked to after practice on Wednesday.

“The lake may seem small, but it fishes big,” said Kevin Brown, another Hot Springs resident who fished the Okie Division in 2021. “These guys are from all over the country and everyone has different strengths. This lake sets up for that and I think people are going to really spread out. I don’t think one section of the lake is going to be more popular than any other. It’s all good.”

The main lake has a lot to offer, and can play to plenty of anglers’ respective strengths. But if any anglers find themselves wanting to venture further up the Ouachita River, there could be a bigger bag awaiting them at the end of the day.

“I went up the river and fished in water that was about 58 degrees and really clear,” said Arkansas native Drew Tabor, who qualified through the Ozark Division. “There’s some big fish up the river, it’s just about catching them. I think there’s fish up there that can win it. Catching five won’t really be an issue for anyone, it’s about finding the bigger ones to separate yourself.”

“I’m going to fish shallow and deep because you can catch them just as easily in a foot of water as you can in 25 feet,” Bean said. “There’s not going to be one surefire way everyone is catching them.”

Dock Talk

Practice was not easy on Wednesday, and every angler we spoke to had their own struggles with the changing conditions. But the majority of the anglers seemed confident that they could bring in a solid bag and stay in contention due to the lack of bigger fish in the lake right now.

“I look for a guy to catch 14 pounds a day and win,” Bean guessed. “I could be wrong, but that’s just the feeling I get from practice.”

“I think getting over that 10-pound mark is going to be tough for me,” Tabor estimated. “I think 13 pounds a day would be pretty salty. If a guy does that then has one day where he catches a 15-pound bag, that’s what will win it. I think whoever can adjust their technique or strategy with the changing conditions will do the best. I don’t think anyone should settle in on any certain singular technique or bait. You better have a few different things tied on if you want to win.”

“It could take 12 pounds a day to win but that’s just a guess,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of fish in this lake, but the quality is hard to come by. I think anywhere from 36 to 40 pounds will probably be the final count.”

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