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OPINION | PUTTHOFF Crowd reels in advice from Beaver Lake’s top anglers

by Flip Putthoff | March 29, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
Flip Putthoff/NWA Democrat-Gazette Dozens of bass tournaments are held out of Prairie Creek park and hundreds of black bass are released there after they’re weighed. That creates higher numbers of bass in the Prairie Creek area, says Nick Frakes of Rogers, one of the lake’s top tournament anglers.

The treasure chest of angling knowledge overflowed at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area during the park's panel discussion about fishing at Beaver Lake.

Four of the lake's best fish catchers and an expert in fish-finding sonar gathered on a chilly Sunday afternoon March 19 to share their expertise with an attentive audience of around 70 at the park's visitor center.

The panel included Payton and Tiffany Usrey of Springdale, a top husband and wife crappie catching team. Nick Frakes of Rogers, a leading bass tournament competitor on the lake, gave tips for catching black bass. Jon Conklin of Goshen, owner of Fish On Guide Service, shared advice on catching walleye and striped bass. Rounding out the panel was Greg Robinson of Fayetteville, a specialist in the world of fishing electronics.

The hour touched on everything from the best color of fishing bobber to the latest angling technology. Here are some nuggets of fishing info gleaned during the presentations and questions from the crowd.

Want to increase your odds of catching black bass? Fish where the fish are, Frakes coached. Dozens of bass tournaments are held out of Prairie Creek park each year. All those bass, hundreds of them, are released right there at the park. That creates high numbers of black bass in the area. His advice? Fish around Prairie Creek.

Crappie love docks. Payton and Tiffany Usrey prove it by catching crappie after crappie from the shade of boat docks. The darker the shade, the better, they said. Not all docks attract crappie. One dock may have none while a dock just down the bank may have 1,000 crappie. Their advice is move from dock to dock.

The tactic works best from January to April. Once the water warms up, dock owners and their guests walk on the dock during boating and swimming season, which can scatter the crappie.

Conklin and legions of other anglers like trolling for walleye. Speed is critical, Conklin said. Trolling speed of 1.5 mph is ideal most of the time, he said. He's on the lake some 275 days a year and sees lots of anglers trolling too fast.

When a walleye bites, the strike can be very light. When a bite is felt, don't set the hook immediately. Point the rod tip back toward the walleye. It'll be trying to position the bait or lure in its mouth to swallow it. Give the fish a couple seconds before jerking the rod tip to set the hook.

Live bait is the name of the game for catching striped bass, Conklin advised. Live threadfin shad or gizzard shad that he nets directly from the lake are his bait of choice. Brood minnows are more convenient because they can be purchased at a tackle shop, but Conklin said he catches more stripers with live shad than brood minnows.

The latest fad in fish-locating electronics is LiveScope and similar brands. With it, an angler can actually watch on a screen as fish come up and bite a bait or ignore it. It's a great tool to have, but Robinson noted it's a pricey investment of $1,500 to $2,000 or more for the equipment and accessories.

It's also gear that most people can't install themselves, Robinson noted and the Usreys agreed. Wiring is tricky. With the wrong wiring set-up, the batteries may not deliver enough power for the unit to work right. Best to have it professionally installed.

Then there's the issue of learning how to use it, Conklin added. Anglers may need to hire professional help for a lesson or two on how to use the equipment.

Print Headline: Crowd reels in advice from lake’s top anglers


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