FLW put on a fantastic show in Hot Springs, Arkansas for the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. The 58 best Professional Anglers and Co-Anglers of the 2011 FLW Tour Season fished for the coveted tittles and $500,000 on the professional side with 50,000 up for grabs on the Co-Angler side. This was a four-day event with the field on both sides being cut to the top twenty for the third day, Saturday, and only the top ten Professional Anglers fishing on Sunday. While watching the weigh-in’s each day, I was not only keeping track of the weights, but also taking notes. Each day anglers would give out little pieces of the puzzle to catching bass on Lake Ouachita in the middle of summer. First lets cover the final standings, taken from the press release from FLW Outdoors:
“National Guard pro Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., crossed the stage with a five-bass limit weighing 14 pounds, 5 ounces Sunday to claim the title of Forrest Wood Cup champion on Lake Ouachita. Martin, with a four-day total of 20 bass for 61-1, won by a 4-pound, 10-ounce margin over EverStart pro Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., who caught five bass weighing 15-1 for a four-day total of 20 bass weighing 56-7, which was good for $100,000. Sunday’s final weigh-in marked the finale of the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup, which featured 58 of the world’s best professional bass anglers. Martin won $600,000 plus a $1,000 Power-Pole bonus.” Rounding out the top 10 pros for the Forrest Wood Cup are:
3rd: National Guard pro Mark Rose, Marion, Ark., 20 bass, 50-15, $60,000.
4th: Chevy pro Luke Clausen, Spokane, Wash., 18 bass, 48-10, $55,000.
5th: Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 17 bass, 47-5, $50,000.
6th: Todd Auten, Lake Wylie, S.C., 19 bass, 46-2, $45,000.
7th: Cody Meyer, Grass Valley, Calif., 20 bass, 44-7, $40,000.
8th: Andy Montgomery, Grover, N.C., 17 bass, 42-11, $35,000.
9th: Castrol pro David Dudley, Lynchburg, Va., 18 bass, 42-7, $30,000.
10th: Diet Mt. Dew pro Jason Christie, Park Hill, Okla., 15 bass, 42-3, $25,000.
I found it to be interesting that many of the anglers caught shallow bass. Each weigh-in there would be a couple of anglers that would say, “there are big bass cruising the shallows, but to get one to bite was tough.” This wasn’t just one or two anglers but what seemed like half the field talked about how shallow the fish were. Most of us think of summer fishing and associate it with deeper water, creek channels, points and off shore humps, while this is normally the case there was a phenomena going on at Ouachita during this event call the “Bluegill Spawn”. According to Brent Ehler, the bluegill were spawning all over the lake. This had the bass shallow and feeding. Ehler went on to say, “next week it will be a totally different lake.”
Justin Lucas, a quickly rising young angler, said that fishing was not that difficult but, you had to cover a lot of water. Justin caught all of his weigh fish on a super spook, “I was just trying to cover as much shallow water as possible.” Justin admitted that two of his weigh fish on the last day were just luck; while travelling from one area to another, he had seen a school of fish. Driving towards them, he shut off his motor and never put the trolling motor down. First two casts were keeper bass, and the third cast was a striper.
Another common theme among the anglers was braided line for casting distance with topwater baits. Several different brands were used; however, Jay Yelas put in a pretty good testimonial for the new Berkley Nanofil, saying “this new line is fantastic and will increase your casting distance. Staying way off the fish was very important to keep from spooking them, and Nanofil allowed me to do that.” Yelas went on to say that Nanofil was the perfect spinning rod line with no memory, and it glides off the spool well.
The weather was very up and down or good and bad depending on the pattern you were counting on. Day one had some storms move across the area bringing heavy rains and strong winds at times. The second day was sunny with a very slight over cast and got very hot, like a typical summer day in Arkansas. Day three started cloudy and proceeded to rain off and on most of the day. Then the final day opened with foggy conditions but quickly turned to sunny skies.
Those that were not throwing topwater baits were throwing swimbaits. However, just like the winner Scott Martin, to get the big limits you had to mix it up some to include a little bit of drop-shotting. Co-Angler champion Paul Mueller said, “Because of the weather constantly changing, and the water conditions changing, you had to adapt in order to say on the bigger fish. Force feeding one pattern didn’t cut it.”
This tournament was no different from any other multiple-day event. An angler had to be versatile and take advantage of bass as they presented themselves. While it fashioned like a spring bedding event, with a good set of polarized glasses as an important part of your arsenal; bass were not locked on beds, and you had to be careful not to spook them. As weather conditions changed, you had to be able to adjust from shallow and deep patterns. The faster you would adjust to conditions, the larger your limit of bass would be.
Long casts with topwater baits, to bass feeding on bedding bluegill, was the primary pattern of most anglers. As Scott Martin proved, there were definitely some deeper water bass to be caught. I would have to say the field was split 50/50 as to anglers that were on fish. There were several anglers that had trouble catching a 5 fish limit, and there was really no talk about being plagued by under limit fish. The majority of the fish that were brought to the scales on the pro side were 3 pound class fish. Pro’s only bringing in three keepers still weighed in the 8-10 range.
On day two, Scott Martin weighed in just 11 pounds of bass, while his co-angler brought in a limit that weighed 18 pounds 4 ounces (there was a dead fish penalty, so his official weight was 8 ounces less). To me this is a huge testament to the sport, it’s great people, and why competitive fishing is something I truly love. With half a million dollars on the line, Scott still put his co-angler in a position to catch bass.
Congratulations to the winners and good luck in the coming season!