Richard Metcalf has seen it all in over 20 years as a weighmaster for the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza. He’s seen fortunes made and hearts broken, and he’s not ready to declare a winner in the annual fishing tournament just yet.
“You just never know in a fishing tournament,” Metcalf says. “I weighed in a guy who had a 5.97lb fish to take the tournament lead. 20 minutes later, a man came up with one weighing 6.03lbs.”
That man, Billy Holeman Jr. of Camden still holds the lead after two days of fishing; and with $100,000 in total guaranteed prizes on the line—including a $50,000 check for big fish—Holeman has continued fishing today in a bid to catch an even bigger bass.
“Looking at past history and statistics, it will be tough for 6.03lbs to win overall,” adds Metcalf, whose decades of experience at the Pine Bluff pool keep him weary of catches from other pools in the statewide tournament. “I think once in the history of the tournament has the overall winner come from Pine Bluff. Dumas and Dardanelle are hard to beat. They have so much backwater area and cover that they’re generally going to produce larger fish.”
Indeed, Holeman held off his closest competitor, a 6.01lb bass caught by Chris Tucker of Russellville at Lake Dardanelle by just two-tenths of an ounce.
Still, bass anglers don’t need to catch the overall winner to bring home serious cash this weekend. Each of the winners from pools in Fort Smith, Russellville, North Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Dumas will receive a $10,000 prize for their efforts. Even youth anglers are eligible to win $1,000, via the tournament’s Willow Leaf Award, which serves up a check to the highest placing parent-child or grandparent-child duo.
According to Metcalf, anglers don’t even need to take home a big cash prize to win. Hourly prizes based on registration numbers are awarded each year, though final hourly payouts are not announced until Sunday, after final registration has closed.
Metcalf knows the stakes are high this weekend, nodding to a polygraph station manned by a trained polygrapher. With so much money being given away, Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza organizers randomly polygraph competitors at every pool every hour. “We’re making sure you caught the fish in a sportsmanlike manner in the pool where you’re weighing it,” he says. “We’re also checking to see if people read the rules. Our most common violation is not wearing a lifejacket while the engine is running.”
The Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza continues Sunday, and anglers may still register tomorrow morning at any of the five weigh-in sites for $90 per day.
Pool leaders joining Holeman out of the Pine Bluff Pool atop the board at the end of Day Two are: Ashley Whitman, 5.28lbs out of Fort Smith; Chris Tucker 6.01lbs out of Russellville; John Faucett 5.39lbs out of North Little Rock; Blake Anschultz 5.95lbs out of Dumas.
Current youth leading grades 9-12 are: Scout Echols, 5.54lbs; Jason Faucett 4.38lbs, and Jesse Mosely 4.33lbs. In grades 6-8, Bryson Ridenour leads with 2.3lbs, followed by Marcellous Powe, Jr. with 2.0 lbs and Peyton Sterling with 1.52lbs. Scout Echols is also leading for the $1,000 Willow Leaf Award.
Academy Sports gift cards were awarded to Janet Wood and Scott Self at the Russellville pool, who each scored a fish of exactly 3.0 pounds in the third hour of competition.
Stay up-to-date with the latest news and notes from the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza via the tournament’s Facebook page. This year’s pool locations are at Fort Smith, Russellville, Pine Bluff, North Little Rock, and Dumas. Anglers looking for lake maps can visit ArkansasBigBass.com for free Navionics charts of each pool that are viewable on mobile devices.
Major sponsors of the tournament are Simmons Bank, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and Hardee’s Saddle Peak. Other sponsors include Aqua-Vu,
Raymarine, St. Croix Rod, BUFF®, Z-Man Fishing, LIVETARGET Lures, Flambeau Outdoors, Seaguar, Heart of Arkansas, North Little Rock Visitors Bureau, Pine Bluff Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Russellville Advertising & Promotions.
For more information on the tournament, registration sites and complete results, visit www.arkansasbigbass.com.