Although Nicholas Warden of Beebe had fished in the Arkansas Big Bass Bonanza the past two years, he had not planned to compete again this year.
However, his step-dad talked him into going to Dumas to fish with him and now Warden is sure glad he did.
His 6.62-pound bass that he reeled in on Saturday morning, June 26, held up as the overall leader in the three-day tournament and Warden, 30, took home $50,000 for his efforts.
Warden beat out 1,754 other anglers to win the grand prize.
Warden said he really had had nothing but bad luck with the tournament the past two years.
"Last year I fished in North Little Rock and my truck was broken into while I was fishing and some of my gear was stolen," Warden said. "The year before, I fished at Dardanelle and someone drove over my boat trailer. But I finally had some good luck this year. I think I'm ahead now."
He said he hooked the winning bass about 7:30 a.m. Saturday below Pendleton Bridge where the canal goes into Moores Bayou.
"I had fished that area before (although not in the tournament) and thought I might get lucky and catch a 3- or 4-pounder to get in the hourly prize money," he said. "On my first cast, the bass hit my peanut butter and jelly jig. As soon as he came out of the water, I knew it was a very good fish. Then when I got him in the boat, he came off the hook and I had to lay on him to keep him from jumping out of the boat."
First-place winners in each of the other pools were:
* Russell Pryor of Greenwood (5.36) -- Fort Smith pool
* William Menz of Ward (6.23) -- Dardanelle pool
* Andrew Smith of Alexander (5.81) -- North Little Rock pool
* Brent Ward of Pine Bluff (5.83) -- Pine Bluff pool
The top catch in each of these four pools was worth $10,000 in prize money.
Victor Scrivner and his son Britt, of Pine Bluff, took home $1,000 cash and the Willow Leaf Award, which goes to the parent/child or grandparent/grandchild pair weighing the biggest fish.
Scrivner's bass tipped the scales at 4.39 pounds.
During Sunday's competition, Calvin Ashcraft of DeWitt weighed a 3-pound bass at the third weigh-in hour in Dumas to win a $300 gift card from Academy Sports and Outdoors.
Randy Staggs of Atkins won a $400 gift card for catching a 4-pound fish at the fourth weigh-in hour in Dardanelle.
For more information on the tournament and complete results, visit www.arkansasbigbass.com.