Jason Christie often fishes Oklahoma's Arkansas River, a short drive from his home on Lake Tenkiller.
Despite his familiarity with the river, Christie doesn't want to be considered a local favorite in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open tournament, which begins Thursday on the Arkansas River near Muskogee.
“I really think that once we get all the Open anglers out there for all of practice and for the tournament, this river is going to fish really small,” said Christie, who qualified for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic through the Elite Series. “I think the winner will be someone who finds an area all to himself or finds a way of fishing that no one else knows.”
Christie said the fishing is good, but the pressure is going to make the tournament challenging. Normally, an angler might catch a five-fish limit of 20 pounds a day, but with so many anglers on the river, weights are more likely to be in the 13- to 15-pound range.
“We've had two big tournaments in the past two years, and from both of those, I know it's going to be tougher during a tournament than it normally is to catch fish here,” Christie said. “This river does have a lot of fish in it, but because of the number of boats and the amount of fishable water, pressure is going to play a big part in this tournament.”
Christie, who has won two Opens in addition to the 2013 Ramada Quest Elite at Bull Shoals, Ark., said ideal times to fish the Arkansas River are spring and fall when anglers have no problems reeling in plenty of quality largemouth. Summer tends to be only slightly slower.
Right now, the river features plenty of current from recent rain, and that should help the fishing. But Christie said the key still will be finding an area with no other boats.
“You might see guys fishing out of aluminum boats to access areas you can't access normally,” he said. “That's the kind of thing that will win this.”