Perched above the Little Red River near Heber Springs, Lobo Landing serves as a sweet spot to land for any family looking to make memories while catching an abundance of trout.
The quaint, refined resort with alluring cabins, many overlooking the trout haven, has grown into one of the prime spots on the river for anglers around the country and even worldwide.
And if you are looking for a guided trip, Lobo's Jerry Poplin is tough to beat. Originally from Blytheville, Poplin has been scouring the river for 40 years and guiding for 20 of those. I've had three other guides on our family's annual July fishing trip, but none compared to Poplin.
Poplin is an ambassador to our community. He recently took a group of wounded army veterans out fishing, not for profit, but for fun. “You don't realize what they [soldiers] have been through until you see them and hear their stories. Many of them just need to get out and reacquainted with society,” said Poplin, who later mentioned that he also enjoys taking out disabled children ¬ free of charge.
Personally, I have always had much more success catching trout, both in numbers and size, on the White River near Cotter. But, that all changed this past Monday morning, when Poplin took me, my dad, my brother-in-law from Boston, my daughter Olivia and my nieces Mary Scott and Frances out on one of Lobo's patented pontoon boats.
Just a short ride below Lobo Landing to Mossy Shoal, Poplin anchored down in a hole that served up several nice size rainbows. I wore them out, catching one on every cast, while my dad and brother-in-law got off to a bit of a slow start. We had no intention of cooking these beautiful fish, therefore, we got them back in the cold water as soon as possible.
After an hour of non-stop action for this scribe, we moved from Mossy Shoal back toward Lobo near a portion of the river known as Lower Brushey, and I continued to hook 'em on nearly every cast.
This is where my dad and brother-in-law started to find some luck. I only had a couple casts come back without a fish from this hole, while my brother-in-law began to gain a little ground.
Following another hour of live action, Poplin said, “I love to watch kids catch fish. It's a real treat to see them smile.”
With five children back at the resort's swimming pool ranging from ages 6-1, Poplin offered to pick up the older ones at the dock on the way back up stream. So here comes my daughter Olivia with two of her cousins, Mary Scott and Frances, down to the dock ready to catch their first fish. Well, Olivia, being from Heber Springs, had caught a few before, but not from a boat.
Page 2 of 2 - After short ride upstream from Lobo Landing we anchored down again and just like the first two holes, the fishing was awesome.
All three girls helped reel in three fish and Olivia nearly caught two on one retrieve when I hooked what I thought to be a medium size rainbow, soon-to-be five-year old Olivia began pulling it to the boat. It took a little longer than usual, but once to the boat, a 6-8 pound brown suddenly appeared near the surface.
Poplin missed netting the brown by mere inches as the rainbow tried to escape both the hook and the brown. We nearly had a two-in-one. Once the brown trout was spooked by the net, it shot off to the bottom as Olivia pulled the rainbow in the boat, giving me and my sweet little daughter a thrill we will forever share.
“Man I can't believe I missed that brown,” said Poplin. “That's happened before but not often. It's still quite a story I am going to have to share when we get back,” he added.
By the time the morning was done, all three girls were beaming with joy, having caught several fish while “helping” Poplin keep the wax worms from escaping the container.
Although the kids may have been more of a hindrance than a help, Poplin's calm, cool demeanor made everybody feel at home. “They are loving this,” boasted Poplin.
My dad, a cancer survivor, then caught a chain pickrel, which Poplin said is a nuisance fish. We didn't release it back into the river as we did all the trout.
As a child I used to love fishing with a guide named Smokey, who used marshmallows and wax worms to catch trout out of Stetson's Resort on the White River. Poplin, who prefers wax worms topped with power bait, is my new Smokey. He proved the Little Red can be every bit as enticing for a trout fisherman as the White River.
Only 15 minutes from my house, fishing with Poplin on the Little Red at Lobo Landing will forever be one of my greatest memories. He even offered to take my two-year old boy Spencer out next time along with three other kids. I am looking forward to that date!
Poplin guides some of the biggest movers and shakers around the state and country, but on this day he showed some average guys and young gals a great time, one that will be cherished a lifetime.