What happens to one of Arkansas’ most well known winter bass lakes meets up with scores of kayak anglers? Swepco Lake in Gentry, Arkansas, is the first trail event of the year for the Natural State Kayak Anglers (NSKA) and historically has been stingy on tournament day.
I have competed now in three kayak fishing tournaments on Swepco Lake and looking back at some numbers, the anglers haven’t bagged as many, or as big of fish as you might think for this premier early spring spot.
My first kayak fishing tournament there was the 2014 AKA Christmas Classic big bass event and was my first kayak tournament. On that December day there were 51 anglers on the lake, with only 31 (61%) of participants even carding a keeper. The big bass on this day was 19″ – a nice fish, but not huge for legendary Swepco Lake on a December day. I was extremely happy to take 10th with a 16″ fish in my first event.
For March 2015 tournament recaps describe the day as very, very tough with bluebird skies and little to no wind. There were 71 anglers entered and Tim Hotchkin won this event, including big bass by blowing away the field with 80.25″ and 20″ for the big bass. Of the 71 anglers in the event, 46 anglers (65%) carded a keeper.
Anyone there in 2016 remembers how bad the wind was that day. It was downright dangerous on the water if you had a small kayak. This Swepco Lake tourney had 61 participants, with only 37 (61%) recording a keeper. Nathan Bohannon took the win with 72″, while big bass was caught by Jason Klingman for 17.5″. 17.5 for big bass out of 61 anglers on Swepco?! (note – there was word of a 20″ fish caught but no score-able photo submitted) Only eight anglers turned in a limit on the day, with 87% of the field falling short of five fish. Was a disappointing day for me finishing 16th for the event with only two keepers.
So what do these numbers tell us about what to expect this weekend on Swepco Lake? A few takeaways:
- A good portion of the field, approximately 40% is likely not to card a keeper on tournament day,
- If you catch a 20″ you have an excellent chance to win big bass for this event,
- A limit of five keepers likely gets you a spot in the top 10-12 places based on past history.
Swepco Lake may be a big bass lake in the winter months, but it can get finicky at tournament time. Why? Who knows? But the weather clearly changes this time of year and the schools are harder to find. Extremely high winds are frequent in March as well, which can make fishing difficult for kayak anglers. Maybe it is because having 60-70 anglers on that lake at once really pushes the envelope in finding unmolested bass. Whatever the reason, there will be fish caught this weekend, including some big ones…just not very many.