Jeff Fletcher's 64 1/2-pound striped bass at Beaver Lake

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February 19, 2002.

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Jeff Fletcher's fishy story has some truth to it: He caught a 64 1/2-pound striped bass at Beaver Lake a while back.

By Charlie Farmer, Springfield News-Leader


Jeff Fletcher (left) and an unidentified helper hoist Jeff’s 64-pound, 8-ounce striped bass. The current state record for Arkansas, it was caught below Beaver Lake dam just weeks after a previous state record fish was brought out of Beaver Lake above near Rogers.

On April 28, 1999, Jeff Fletcher, an avid tournament bass fishermen, caught the bass of his life. The fish weighed 64 1/2 pounds on certified scales of the Arkansas Game & Fish Department.

The bass Fletcher caught was a striped bass, a species introduced to area waters.

William L. Pflieger, author of “The Fishes of Missouri” writes, “The striped bass inhabits a variety of habitats. In marine waters it occurs along shores, bays, and estuaries of both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. These striper populations ascend coastal streams to spawn, sometimes going as far as 100 miles inland.

“A land-locked population that completes its entire life cycle in freshwater occurs in the Santee-Cooper Reservoirs of North Carolina. Offspring of this population have been used to stock reservoirs elsewhere in the United States, including Missouri and Arkansas.”

Larry Martien, fisheries management biologist in the southwest regional office, said the only pure striper stockings in Missouri now are at Lake of the Ozarks. Every five years, 165,000 two-inch stripers are stocked. Hybrid stripers are also stocked in some waters.

Fletcher and a friend were fishing for white bass that day back in 1999. They had plenty of action casting Shad Rap Rapala lures. They ended up with 17 hefty whites and were ready to call it a day when Fletcher’s friend saw a large fish surface in low water. Several lakes like Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Beaver Lake were extremely low that year due to lack of rain. The area where they were fishing was near Beaver Lake dam. They could easily hear the drone of traffic above them over busy U.S. 62.

On closer inspection, the men were astounded. The huge fish turned out to be a striped bass, the biggest striper they had ever seen. Fletcher was using his dad’s boat that day while his was in the shop. He knew the flimsy spinning rod spooled with 4-pound test line they used that day for white bass would not work for landing the striper.

Thanks to Fletcher’s dad, J.D. Fletcher, a well-known fishing guide from Golden, Jeff Fletcher found a casting rod in the rod box spooled with 12-pound test line. He quickly tied on a Smithwick Clown-colored Rogue.

Fletcher knew there were brown trout along this stretch of water. And he surmised the big striper may have been feeding on trout in the shallows. The Rogue lure could very well mimic a trout.

His first cast was about 35 feet beyond the fish. Fletcher reeled the lure slowly. The fish turned and inhaled the Rogue. He gave the striper some slack and slowly made his way to the edge of the shore. When he was close enough to the bank, he pushed the huge fish up on the bank.

What seemed like an easy catch took 30 minutes. Fletcher told his partner it felt like hours. The length of the fish was 51 inches; girth, 33 1/3. The world record for freshwater stripers stands at 67 pounds. Fletcher’s catch puts him in fourth place among freshwater anglers.

Bass Pro Shops rewarded the angler $5,000 for the fish. He also received a replica mount of his striper. A week or so after the striper catch, Fletcher was heading to Alabama for a black bass tournament. A lot of his Missouri fishing pros were also heading that way.

Fletcher turned the radio on. Paul Harvey was on the air talking about a big fish caught in the tailwaters of Missouri and Arkansas. Harvey was telling his audience about a huge fish that almost made a world record.

Fletcher had no clue.

“The fisherman,” said Harvey, “Is a man named Jeff Fletcher who lives in the Ozarks in Missouri, not far from the Arkansas border. Almost, but not quite, a new record.”

As the commentator waxed eloquent, several of Fletcher’s tournament buddies were also tuned in to the same station. Word got around in Alabama during the bass tournament. Fletcher, a modest man with a wife and two young boys, just shrugged his shoulders over the national exposure.

On Norfork Lake, Darrel Bink, a noted striper guide, finds the fish throughout the year. Bink uses artificial lures and flies when guiding his clients.

Other guides or anglers commonly use fresh or cut shad for enticing bites.

Bink’s anglers use spin fishing gear most often. However, those who prefer fly fishing for big game stripers have that choice.

The guide breaks down his seasons this way. March, April and May are best with topwater lures. June, July, August and September the fish are down deep and jigging spoons work best. During November and December the guide recommends stick baits.

Bink prices his guiding days this way. A half-day trip for two anglers costs $165 and a full-day trip for two is $250. He can also reserve accommodations for clients who need them. Bink can be reached by phone at: (870) 499-7384.

For more information call the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism. Phone: (501) 682-7777. And the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. Phone: (501) 223-6300.
 

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