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Lake life

ACT faces “hot” fishing

The bottom has fallen out of the Ouachita River. Just a couple of months ago, it was above major flood stage (45 feet) in Monroe. Sunday night it was at 21.3 feet and expected to hold near there. I’ve heard several reports of water temps in backwater lakes from 90 to 95 degrees. The fish had been biting pretty good, but the last few days, hot water has the shad in a coma and the crappie as well.

But they will likely change some. And even though the backwaters are gone from some places, the Ouachita should be in good shape for the Big American Crappie Trail tournament coming Sept. 13 & 14. A little cool front this week could help the water temps, too, but not much yet.

If you want to fish The ACT, here is some important information from ACT Tournament Director Matt Morgan:

Matt Morgan

“We will be on the Ouachita River September 13 & 14 out of the Forsythe Boat Dock,” Morgan says. “Official practice starts on Sept. 9 and the Ouachita River goes off limits on August 30. If you are going to fish, you can’t be on the river during off limits. That’s also the same day that late fees go into effect.”

For those that fish the circuit and are battling for Angler of the Year or to make the National Championship in the spring of 2020 on Sardis Lake in Mississippi, this year’s weather has made the Ouachita tournament even more important.

“You’ve got a lot of time to get signed up, but there is no reason to wait,” Morgan says. “Since we cancelled the 2019 tournament on Truman Lake due to flooding and there is no time to reschedule it in the fall, it’s a best four out of five for Angler of the year. And you’ve got two tournaments left to get qualified for the national championship.”

The ACT has opened up more Ouachita River water this year. Last year’s tournament waters were cut off to the south at the I-20 bridge. This year fishermen can fish all the way from the Felsenthal Lock and Dam to the north to the Columbia Lock and Dam to the south. You can also fish Bayou D’Arbonne all the way to the lake spillway and any other river water accessible from the river. If you have any questions, make sure you ask Morgan and don’t violate that off limits or off waters rule.

This year’s tournament is presented by Banded.

The Super Clean Team of Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman are leading the battle for the ACT Anglers of the Year. They are the defending champions from the last circuit year.

Capps & Coleman on D’Arbonne this spring

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I started two weeks ago trying to get some questions answered from the Corps about why the river fell so fast, if water was being held to the north and if there were plans to lower the river any further. Still no answers to my questions in spite of a couple of promises to do so.

The Corps Vicksburg Office did announce to the general public last week that a river dredge boat is being deployed to perform dredging on the Ouachita-Black River in Louisiana starting in late August.  

“The dredge will remove shoaling in the navigation channel caused by significant high-water events on the Ouachita-Black River during 2019,” the release states. ” The deployment of Dredge Dubuque on the Ouachita-Black River follows the recent opening of Columbia Lock and Dam, located approximately seven miles upstream of Columbia, Louisiana, on the Ouachita River. The lock had been closed since July 2018 due to emergency repairs and elevated river stages. The Vicksburg District completed critical repairs and opened the lock to commercial traffic Aug. 1.”

The Corps also plans to bring more than 400 barges of rock to Monroe to be placed at multiple locations. Don’t ask me where or when. I don’t know and apparently don’t know the right people to get those questions answered. The Corps news release is mostly related to the “successful intra-agency collaboration” that it apparently took to borrow the dredge boat and deliver rocks.

Now back to fishing. No matter where the river is during the tournament and what curve balls are thrown at them, these guys are used to fishing in any conditions and circumstances. So it won’t slow them down for one minute, unless they have to pass over the wakes of 400 barge loads of rocks heading down the river.

The river looks like it is stabilized and all the new bayous, runouts, brushtops and river lakes that the southern waters are opening up in this year’s tournament should make it a real shootout!

The Stewarts

Here’s how last year’s river event went:

The American Crappie Trail’s 2018 national qualifier last year concluded with a nail-biter showdown between some of the top crappie teams in the country.

The father and son team of Terry and Cole Stewart from Mississippi are no strangers to the winner’s circle, having multiple top ten tournament finishes, including a win at the ACT’s Sardis tournament exactly one year ago. After locating some big fish on the final day of tournament practice, the Magnolia Crappie Club team was able to develop a pattern spider-rigging D’Arbonne Bayou, which led to a colossal day-one weight of 12.01 pounds, giving them a solid lead going into day two. Storms to the north brought a drastic change in the river system on day two, and with waters rapidly rising, the bite became extremely tough on all anglers, and the Stewart’s struggled to match their day-one weight. However, their 8.34 pounds was enough to put the Mississippi anglers on top of the field of traveling professionals and local fishermen, earning them their second Ranger RT188C and 115 Evinrude outboard, along with contingency cash. The Stewarts also won the Big Fish pot with their 2.09-pound day-one slab.

The B’n’M Pro Staff team of Tim Blackley and Paul Turner spent their four prefishing days looking for areas that wouldn’t be pressured by other anglers. Driving north paid off for the Strike King team, who, like first and third place, spider-rigged various depths with B’n’M Double Minnow rigs to catch their stringers. With a two-day total weight of 19.53 pounds, including the second biggest one-day weight of the tournament at 11.15 pounds, the Abernathy-sponsored anglers brought home $6,850 for their second place finish.

Rounding out the top three was another veteran B’n’M Pro Staff team, Kent Driscoll and John Harrison. Driscoll and Harrison also spent their time on the northern stretch of the Ouachita River tournament boundary, catching their day-one stringer of 7.92 pounds in a shallow slough. On day two, as with many teams, their fish moved, but the War Eagle team pushed out into the main river channel and were able to locate the largest weight on day two, an impressive 10.98 pounds. Their 18.90-pound total brought home the third-place hardware, as well as $4,700 in prize money.

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