Ricky Cantrell landed the winning fish on Day One of the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza

NORTH LITTLE ROCK— Challengers came from all over the state. “Big fish” were coming to the scales, people said, all hoping to knock off the giant hauled in by 37-year old Dumas police officer Ricky Cantrell in the opening hours of Day One. A 6.05-pound fish weighed in from Pine Bluff, and the lead held. A 6.23-pounder found its way in from Lake Dardanelle, and the lead held again. A hulking 6.62-pounder came in from Little Rock, and still the lead held.

By the end of three high-pressure fishing days at the Simmons Bank Big Bass Bonanza, Ricky Cantrell’s 6.76-pound bass weighed the most, and the father-to-be from Dumas, Arkansas was hoisting a $50,000 check.

“I’ve got a baby due in three weeks,” Cantrell says. “I’m pretty excited about that, but this is crazy. I didn’t even imagine winning when I signed up. Winning is a pretty big thing. I just tried to come out here and just go fishing and win some hourly money.”

Cantrell braved the tail end of Tropical Storm Cindy as it swept through the southeastern portion of the state on Friday morning, landing the winning bass not far from the Dumas boat ramp. “To be honest, I was pretty happy about the rain,” he tells. “I love fishing in the rain. The wind was blowing outrageously out there, but that helped me out because when it got calm and clear the fish out there pretty much shut off.”

The 11-year Dumas Police Department veteran fished all three days of the 2017 Simmons Big Bass Bonanza, but says he couldn’t replicate Friday’s success later in the weekend. He didn’t need to. The winning fish came early, though the nervous Cantrell had to sweat out hourly weigh-ins all weekend; the winning lure was a 3/8 oz. crappie colored Jig Sooie swim jig.

Cantrell says he plans to donate part of his winnings to the church. The rest, likely, will go towards raising his new baby girl, who will join a growing family of two daughters and a son.

Four other anglers took home $10,000 checks for weighing the largest fish in their pool. The final $10,000 pool winners are:

Pool 1/Fort Smith — Brandon Rudolph, 5.76 lbs.
Pool 2/Lake Dardanelle — Erik Adland, 6.23 lbs.
Pool 3/North Little Rock — Justin “Buck” Buchanan, 6.62 lbs.
Pool 4/Pine Bluff — Steve Henderson, 6.05 lbs

The $1,000 Willow Leaf Award, given to the parent/child or grandparent/grandchild duo with the largest fish was won by Brandon Rudolph and his son Matthew for their 5.76 lb fish out of Fort Smith.

Academy Outdoors + Sports awarded Duane Fears of Forth Smith a $300 gift card for landing a fish weighing exactly three pounds during the third hour of weigh-ins.

Youth 6-8 Grade Winners are:

1st —Luke Hackney, 4.43 lbs
2nd—Haley Rodgers, 3.95 lbs
3rd— Matthew Higby, 3.1 lbs

Youth 9-12 Grade Winners are:

1st —Brandon Ward, 5.53 lbs
2nd—Daniel Shopher, 4.5 lbs
3rd— Scout Echols, 4.45 lbs

Complete results for all anglers are available at ArkansasBigBass.com/results.

The yearly tournament spans more than 300 miles of eligible fishing waters on the river inside the state’s borders.  The event is divided into five pools. The five weigh-in sites were: Pool 1 – Clear Creek Park, Fort Smith; Pool 2 – Dardanelle State Park/Russellville side; Pool 3 – North Little Rock/Verizon Ramp; Pool 4 – Regional Park/ Pine Bluff; and Pool 5 – Pendleton Bridge/east of Dumas.

Major sponsors of the tournament are, Simmons Bank, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and Hardee’s Saddle Peak. Other sponsors include Raymarine, St. Croix Rods, BUFF®, LIVETARGET Lures, BaitCloud, Heart of Arkansas, North Little Rock Visitors Bureau, Pine Bluff Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Russellville Advertising & Promotions.