When the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza first came about years ago, Pine Bluff was one of only two pool sites, according to Montine McNulty, the Arkansas Hospitality Association's executive director. It's time once again for anglers to crank up the boats for competition all across the state in hopes of taking home the biggest prize.
McNulty has been involved with the Bonanza since it first began, and she expressed how important Pine Bluff is to the tournament. McNulty can remember Travis Creed, who fished out of the Pine Bluff pool, and what he envisioned the Bonanza to be.
"Pine Bluff was the leader in even establishing this tournament," McNulty said. "They've been a part of this form the very beginning. It got started with Travis Creed's company, he was the founding fisherman for what is now known as the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza. At first, it was just a Pine Bluff and Dumas pool. It was Travis' dream that the tournament would go statewide and it did."
Pine Bluff will be one of five towns with weigh-in sites for anglers to check in. From the June 29-July 1, registered fishermen will get going at 6 a.m. Starting at 8 a.m. through 1 p.m. they are able to weigh a fish at the top of the hour.
The five weigh-in sites are in Pine Bluff, Ft. Smith, Russellville, North Little Rock and the Pendleton Bridge. Altogether, $100,000 in guaranteed money will be given away. The biggest catch of the tournament is worth $50,000, and at each pool site, the first place fisherman will be guaranteed $10,000. Second place gets $900, third gets $700 and fourth gets $400. Also, there will be cash prizes given out for hourly winners as well, and the amount is based on the participation count.
"There's guaranteed money in each of the five pools," McNulty said. "On top of that, it will be hourly cash given out to first, second and third place. Each pool is like its own tournament, and that's why it's so cool. You have the big prize, the place money, and the hourly."
Last year, Ricky Cantrell of Dumas took home the $50,000 overall first place prize with a 6.76-pound bass caught from the Pine Bluff pool. McNulty said she would be happy to see the winner come out of the Pine Bluff pool again this year, and she knows it can be done.
Although early registration is closed, anglers are able to register at any of the five weigh-in sites. The entry fee for each angler is $80 for one day, $160 for two days, and $240 for three days.
There's a youth division as well that's separated by 6th-8th graders, and another pool of 9th-12th graders. Both pools will reward the first, second and third place fisherman with prizes.
Last year a heavy rainfall hit a day before the tournament started, which caused high waters and tough conditions. This year, the forecast predicts the tournament will avoid rain, the sun will shine will bright.
"We don't have issues with high water this year," McNulty said. "We have much lower conditions this year. The benefit to that is those who don't want to get out in that high water can participate. Looking at the weather predictions I think it will be warm, but we'll be good on the weather and the conditions on the river."
On Sunday, the award ceremony will be held from 4-5:30 p.m. near the North Little Rock weigh-in site. Guest tickets to the ceremony are $5 per person, and barbeque and beverages will be served.