Dardanelle anglers ready to roll on the river - Major League Fishing
Dardanelle anglers ready to roll on the river
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Dardanelle anglers ready to roll on the river

Image for Dardanelle anglers ready to roll on the river
Dardanelle is a diverse and interesting fishery. Photo by Sean Ostruszka. Angler: Zach King.
May 21, 2024 • Mike Pehanich • Phoenix Bass Fishing League

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark.The Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Arkie Division heads to Lake Dardanelle for its June 8 tournament. Luckily for anglers, Dardanelle is in great shape, the fishing perhaps as good as it has been in years.

Tournament details

Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine Arkie Division

Lake Dardanelle

Russellville, Arkansas

June 8, 2024

Sign up today!

About the fishery

Aquatic plant growth on the 34,300-acre Arkansas River reservoir has stabilized and spread along the main body and backwaters after a decade of spotty growth. The 34,000-acre impoundment, part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, stretches more than 50 miles upstream from the Dardanelle Lock and Dam through Pope, Yell, Logan, Johnson and Franklin counties. It features quality habitat in the main lake and creek arms – from grass beds, riprap, bridges, and laydowns to ledges and other offshore structure.  

The temper of the Arkansas River rules the bite as current and water levels dictate the habits of forage and predator alike. The upper reservoir is river itself with rock and wing dams serving as the primary fish-holding areas.

Dardanelle bass feast on a varied menu of threadfin and gizzard shad, bream, crawfish, crappie, a wide range of minnow species and more.

Dardanelle always produces good tournaments, and what does well varies a lot year over year. Photo by Matt Brown.

What to expect

Fred “Boom Boom” Roumbanis first fished the lake in its glory days. Seven years ago, he left California to take up residence in Russellville, Arkansas.

“The way Dardanelle is fishing now is probably the best it’s been in years,” said Roumbanis. “It’s a lot like it was when I first fished here in 2007.”

The Illinois Bayou area on the east end is a consistent producer of big fish with its railroad riprap and rock bottom, brush piles, and flooded strip pits. The latter feature some of the deepest water in the system. “I like to fish big swimbaits and glide baits in there,” said Roumbanis, who expects the railroad bridge and narrows leading back into Piney Lake to produce some nice totals, too.

Roumbanis recited a litany of techniques that play well here. He called Dardanelle “a lake you can fish to your strengths.”

“They will weigh in a lot of 13- to 15-pound bags,” said Roumbanis. “It may take 20 pounds for a one-day win.”

Expanded coontail, water willow, gator grass and milfoil has given bass plenty of places to hide. Lily pad beds have spread all along the river as well.

Big bags could come from a range of techniques, but Roumbanis predicted that anglers who find bass feeding on large gizzard shad will find bigger fish.

Crawfish are favored fare, so expect flipping and pitching to come into play. “These are jig-eating bass!” said Roumbanis. “You can do some heavy punching here, too, when bass get back into the gator grass.”

With predictable “Boom Boom” bias, Roumbanis also figures frogs to factor into the payout – he once caught an 8-pounder on a frog at Dardanelle. Swim jigs, big worms, crankbaits, bladed jigs and Carolina-rigged plastics – all should put fish in the livewell.

Roumbanis said that tournament anglers should think “river fishing” on Dardanelle and warned that conditions can change dramatically from practice to tournament day.

“Pay close attention to current and water levels,” he advised. “Think of it almost like a tidal effect. If water levels get high, fish will get tighter to shore.”