June 28, 2017
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
Pete Clark, who grew up fishing Lake Catherine, didn’t catch the “big bass” in a local fishing tournament on Lake Hamilton the night of Tuesday, June 20. However, his 3.84-pound bass, part of a winning, 13.01-pound stringer he hauled in with his brother, Jessie, to win that night’s tournament, was the premier bass waiting to be caught as part of the sixth annual Hot Springs Fishing Challenge.
Clark landed “Big Al,” a northern largemouth bass tagged by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for the contest, during the June 20 tournament. “Big Al” was the $15,000 fish in the Fishing Challenge, and it marked the first time in six years of the Spa City’s challenge that “Big Al” had been hooked.
Hot Springs feted Clark, from Magnet Cove and who works in Malvern, and his family with a well-attended press conference at the city’s Convention Center on Thursday, June 22. Clark showed off “Big Al” – Clark ventured that it was more likely this was “Big Alice,” a female bass, based on its size – before he and Brett Hobbs, manager of the AGFC’s Andrew H. Hulsey Hatchery near Hot Springs, released “Big Al” back to the Lake Hamilton waters, this time without the winning purple tag.
Clark said he used a Real Deal Custom Tackle 1-ounce black spinnerbait with black blade to land “Big Al.”
First the lake location, then specific coordinates of the fish’s release point, had been announced by the contest sponsor, the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau/Visit Hot Springs, to help anglers find “Big Al,” but Clark said the prize-winning fish was landed about two miles from those coordinates. He and his brother, simply fishing for tournament fish and not looking for “Big Al,” found crappie schooling near a boat dock via their electronics and began fishing there for bass that might win them the bass tourney.
“The funniest part about this is, we were actually fishing across the lake from where they’d released ‘Big Al’ on the video. There were about four boats sitting in a spot about the size of this room and we were just laughing that all those boats over there fishing for ‘Big Al,’” Pete Clark said.
Pete Clark hooked the fish, saw the tag on the fish after it was boated at about 9:30 p.m., and knew then it was “Big Al,” based on photos he’d already seen of the bass.
“I was in the front of the boat and just ran the dip net,” Jessie Clark, from Bonnerdale, said of his contributions. They won $170 for winning the tournament, and they mom, Phyllis, said they would split the prize money for landing “Big Al.”
“Those boys were raised on Remmel Dam, fishing there,” said dad Tommy Clark, discussing Pete and Jessie’s fishing background. Both had aspirations for pro fishing but, Jessie said, “now have real jobs.” Pete Clark said he’d use part of the money to pay off his truck.
Steve Arrison, CEO of the Hot Springs C&VB/Visit Hot Springs, said prize-winning fish worth as much as $5,000 are still in either Lake Hamilton or Lake Catherine as part of the Challenge, which concludes at 5 p.m. Friday, June 30.