B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional heads to Arkansas River

With two phases of the spawn likely in play, St. Croix Bassmaster Opens pro Harvey Horne believes there will be plenty of quality bass caught shallow during the 2023 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional at Arkansas River May 3-5.

“It will be a great opportunity for B.A.S.S. to showcase one of the good fisheries in Oklahoma,” Horne said. “This will be right before the Open on Lake Eufaula, (Okla.). It will be a great opportunity for anglers to move on to Nationals.”

The Central Regional is the first of five Regionals that will qualify anglers for the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, details of which will be announced at a later date. The top boater and the top nonboater from each state will punch their ticket to the championship at this event.

Anglers will launch out of Three Forks Harbor each day at 6:30 a.m. CT, returning to the harbor at 2:30 p.m. for weigh-in. The full field will compete on Days 1 and 2 while Day 3 will feature the Top 16 boaters and nonboaters along with the top two boaters and nonboaters from each state if they are not already in the Top 16. Full coverage will be available on Bassmaster.com.

This section of the river has been a popular destination for the Bassmaster tournament trails over the years. The river provides a large playing field for the B.A.S.S. Nation anglers. Kerr Reservoir has been a player in years past, as well as the Canadian River area and the Neosho River closer to takeoff.

“With not as much practice time as a lot of the Open-type tournaments, I think there will be a lot of anglers going to Kerr and then a lot of anglers staying around the pool where takeoff is,” Horne said. “I think that will open the door for someone to go to one of the backwater areas and capitalize for three straight days. You are going to want to get off the main river and into those backwater areas.”

The last event on this section of the river was the 2020 Bassmaster Central Open won by Chris Jones. Horne himself won an Open here in 2018. The key to his victory was having water to himself, and he believes that if an angler can find and keep a good area mostly to himself, they will be in contention.

Other than submerged vegetation, this section of river has plenty of cover to choose from, including plentiful bank grass and laydowns as well as gravel. There are also bridge pilings that could hold fish, along with rockpiles. Largemouth will be the predominant species but spotted bass will be caught, too.

Depending on the weather, most of the bass will likely be shallow either spawning or in a postspawn phase.

“You will see a lot more fish caught shallow in that postspawn, fry-guarding mode,” Horne said. “The entire system can play instead of just a couple of small areas. I’ll look for gravel anywhere there isn’t any current. That is where the fish will want to spawn. But you can fish whatever your heart desires.”

Horne said swim jigs and spinnerbaits will come into play for postspawners while Classic bed-fishing baits will catch spawners. Some sections of river will provide sight-fishing opportunities.

The tournament is being hosted by the Muskogee Tourism Authority.