17 Feb Fishing tournament to begin
The Arkansas Bass Team Trail tournament series begins Saturday, Feb. 20.
Three years ago, James Arnold and Keith Green held a trial bass tournament to determine whether to start the Arkansas Bass Team Trail. Today, the tournament series is going strong, adding more fishing and prize money opportunities each year.
On July 13, 2013 (the trial year), 143 teams showed up for the inaugural bass tournament. In 2014, the duo planned five single-day tournaments and a two-day championship. The year 2015 had six single-day tournaments and a three-day championship. This year will be bigger and better with five single-day tournaments, a two-day championship, and a single-day big bass tournament.
To fish the championship, anglers have to compete in every one of the single-day events. “They’re actually going to have to qualify this year,” Green said. “After the fifth tournament, the top 100 teams on a point scale will make the championship.” About 115 qualified for the tournament last year. This year some wild cards may qualify as well. “This is a work in progress and we change a little bit every year,” Green added.
Prize money for each tournament is $10,000 for first place and additional payout to 20th place. The winner of the championship receives a boat. This year it will be a Nitro Z-18 from Bradford Marine. The big bass tourney grand prize has yet to be announced.
Arnold and Green started the tournament for several reasons. “The main thing, I guess, is we both fished in Arkansas for a lot of years in lots of different tournaments. No one had ever stepped out and guaranteed $10,000. We had always fished for $3,000, $4,000 and $5,000. We’re not trying to bash any of the tournaments that have been before us, but we wanted more,” Green explained.
This year’s tournament schedule:
- Feb. 20, Lake Ouachita
- March 19, Lake Hamilton
- April 16, Lake Greeson
- May 14, Arkansas River at Pine Bluff
- June 18, Lake Dardanelle
- Sept. 9-11, Lake DeGray for the Championship
- April 30, Lake DeGray for the Big Bass Tournament
The Arkansas Bass Team Trail tries to alternate between a river and a lake for the championship. “In our world we have river and lake fisherman so we try to split it to keep everyone happy,” Green said. The other consideration in choosing tournament waters is the size of the field. Only certain Arkansas waters are big enough to hold 150 boats in a tournament setting.
They also try to schedule it so it goes with the bite, Arnold added. “We’re trying to hit the prime time, but it also depends on luck and weather.”
The annual ABTT membership fee is $60 per person. “That money goes back into the championship funds,” Green said. Entry is $250 for regular season events and the two-day championship entry fee is $300.
Big Bass Tournament is a stand-alone tournament with an entry fee of $100. All ABTT rules apply, but no ABTT membership is needed. It takes place from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. with weigh-in every hour for the biggest bass each hour plus an overall big bass winner. First through fifth place is awarded each hour with $500 down to $100, respectively.
The Arkansas Bass Team Trail is open to anyone except professionals who fish full time. “You can sign up from anywhere,” Arnold said. Some anglers from Texas and Oklahoma are already registered, as are anglers from 42 of Arkansas’s 75 counties. “Our goal is to get people out of the state to come here and fish, and we’re trying to keep Arkansans in the state too,” Green explained. “Our goal is to branch out and have divisions too.”
Green said one unique element of ABTT tournaments is that they feed the anglers after each tournament weigh-in. “We get the community involved,” Green said. “We also give out $3,000 to $5,000 worth of door prizes at every tournament in drawings to the public. We give away Yeti coolers, Lew’s rods and reels, gift certificates.”
Bradford Marine and Crain Automotive are also big sponsors.