If you’ve witnessed a bevy of boats in and around the Muskogee area this week, chances are you’re not alone.
What started Thursday and continues through Saturday, talented anglers from Oklahoma, as well as from across the nation, will be competing in the Bassmaster Central Open, which is headquartered out of Three Forks Harbor on the Arkansas River in Muskogee.
Unlike the Bassmaster Elite Series, boaters are paired with non-boaters.
According to Justin O’Neal with the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce, there are 350 anglers entered in the tournament.
This event generates revenue to local businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and others. This is especially welcome news coming off the flooding of a year ago and the drawdown of the river afterwards to make repairs to the Webbers Falls Lock and Dam.
“Unlike many other activities, this event allows for social distancing” said O’Neal. “We are still trying to rebuild from the flood.”
Friday, June 19th, the weigh-ins will begin at 1 p.m. at Three Forks Harbor.
O’Neal encouraged the public to come out and bring their lawn chairs.
After the weigh-ins on Friday, the top 12 boaters and top 12 non-boaters fishing on Saturday will be announced.
For the finals, Saturday, June 20th, the weigh-ins will begin at 2 p.m.
The Bassmaster Opens are the gateways to the big leagues for the weekend warrior fishermen.
From Oklahoma, there are 32 boaters and 40 non-boaters registered.
Jason Christie, a professional angler from Park Hill, has a wealth of knowledge on fishing the river. Christie has fished the river since he was a teenager with his dad and uncle. He has to be considered one of the favorites.
“The fishing is tough. If they are not running current, it will be double-tough,” said Christie. “The river changes every year but, in particular, this last year brought many changes because of the historic flooding. Places that you used to fish may be high and dry. On the other end of the spectrum, places that were shallow may have 20 feet of water now.”
Christie told me late Monday that he had not found a concentrated area that was holding fish.
Some anglers will want to lock through the navigation systems, whether to lock through and go up to the Verdigris River or to lock down and go to the Kerr Reservoir.
An interesting sidelight, all commercial barges take priority in the lock and dam system, as always.
With the shortened fishing hours, if you lock through to Kerr, it only leaves you about three hours to fish and return to the weigh-in.
I spoke with local businessman, Mike Hitt of Mike’s Outdoors. He said although most professionals bring their own lures given to them by sponsors, the traffic through his shop have been good this week.
“The local restaurants and hotels are the real winners,” Hitt said.
I’m happy to say that the fisheries of Oklahoma are fast becoming a Mecca for fishing competitions. Let’s keep ‘em coming.
Reach John Kilgore at firstname.lastname@example.org.