Dardanelle memories

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The first time I ever heard of Dardanelle Reservoir was when my uncle, Lee Baker, moved here. He was one of my favorite uncles because he fished, for bass even.

I was about 14 years old when he showed my brother, Keith, and me how to fillet fish. This was before Ray Scott even thought of catch and release of course, and we ate most of the fish we caught. I had heard of this method of cleaning fish, but most of the ones we caught were more like "pan-sized" anyway so there was little need to fillet them. As a matter of fact most were fried with just the head and guts removed and they fit easily into a pan, usually a rather small one at that.

When he came to visit, Uncle Lee made me insanely jealous by telling me of the great bass fishing in the new reservoir at Russellville, Ark. I always wanted to visit him to sample the fishing here, but between girls, cars and other distractions, the opportunity never arose. I did however, become pretty adept at filleting fish thereafter thanks to his tutelage.

The next time I took interest in Dardanelle was in 1985, when Tammy entered the arena of competitive bass fishing. She entered the Bass'n Gal tour, which included a stop that summer at the D. With a couple days of practice she and I found spots that seemed to hold enough fish for her to be competitive.

And competitive she was. She finished 13th, but might have won the event if a bass had not broken her line (and heart) down in a brush pile. She got the strike on a plastic worm during one final stop near the weigh-in site. The bass down in the woodpile left her disappointed, to say the least. It always hurts to lose a big fish, but in a tournament it really leaves a mark. We were good friends with Charlie and Vojai Reed, and afterwards Tammy sat in the Reeds' boat with Vojai, who tried to console her.

Tammy only got to fish two of the five events on the Bass'n Gal tour that year. It turned out she was pregnant with the twins and was unable to finish the season. In spite of her shortened season, she was named Rookie of the Year because of her three money finishes. We are very proud of her rookie year on the tour.

The arrival of Hunter and Tanner the following January put at least a temporary end to her competitive angling career. She is still one of the most naturally talented anglers I have ever encountered. I can only imagine how far she might have gone down the tournament trail under a different set of circumstances. She thinks outside the box of conventional angling wisdom and finds unusual (which is a nice way of saying weird) things that work when bass don't bite the standard stuff.

I do know this: Hunter and Tanner have definitely been worth the change of plans. They are on their way to making positive changes in the world. Their aspirations in the medical field are a tremendous blessing to all, especially their proud parents.

This week, I finally get my opportunity to compete on Dardanelle. I will give my best effort in hopes of finishing as well as Tammy did on her first try. Maybe Uncle Lee is watching and can show me some of his old honey holes. I will be definitely be looking.

Click here to read the next installment as Ken Cook blogs about his final season on the Elite Series.

For more information about Ken Cook's career and and his Tarbone Ranch, go to >KenCookOutdoors.com