Scott Martin, Team Evinrude and National Guard Professional Angler, caught 20 bass over four days totaling 61 pounds 1 ounce, to win his first Forrest Wood Cup tournament by nearly 5 pounds on Lake Ouachita. Scott has been fishing with FLW since 1999 with several tournament wins to his credit, but this is the first Cup. I asked him how it felt in caparison to the other wins, “This is huge, the competition was tough, the trophy’s bigger, the press coverage is bigger, it’s like winning the Super Bowl of bass fishing.”
Something I find amazing, as a tournament angler myself, is how the professionals of our sport not only find quality bass but manage them to a point that bringing a limit to the scales is possible over a four-day tournament. Scott said that every event is different depending on how aggressive the fish are. He went on to say, “This event was a difficult bite, we were not catching that many fish, so I would catch my limit and then back off them for the day.” He said on day one that he had a solid limit by 9 am and felt comfortable enough with it that he started fishing waters he had found in practice that didn’t produce as well, but he felt should hold quality fish.
With most other anglers covering a lot of water, I asked Scott if he had was doing the same? Scott replied, “I was covering quite a bit of water but caught 70 percent of my fish from just one area about the size of a football field. I would start their every morning to catch a couple quick fish. After the morning bite, I would check out brush piles around the lake until about 11, then hit it again for about an hour. Finally, I would finish up the day there.”
Scott said that he only caught six to eight fish a day, but had a limit by noon all but the first day. On day two, Scott’s co-angler bested everyone on the lake with a limit of bass that weighed 18 pounds 4 ounces. I asked Scott how difficult it was to pass up quality fish. Scott responded, “It was tough and I was happy for him at the same time. However, I was really concerned that he was burning fish I would need for the rest of the event.” I questioned him about what was different between his presentation and his co-anglers. Humbled Scott replied, “I was trying to get my swimbait bite going as it had been producing better fish, he was casting a worm. I switched to a worm and caught my limit.” Scott’s limit on this day was just over 11 pounds and enough to make the cut to day three.
As with so many of these bass fishing tournaments, to come out on top you need a combination of baits to win. Scott had a three bait approach to his winning strategy. First was a 7/16 or a 1/2 ounce swimbait fished on 10 pound Seaguar. Scott said that making long casts and the lighter line was vital to his bites, “the lighter line helped with the baits action, while allowing it to reach the strike zone and stay there over the long retrieves.” Scott said that he didn’t give the bait much action, mostly just a steady retrieve.
Second in his bait line up was a 10 inch ribbon tailed worm fished on 12 pound Seaguar line with a 3/8 Eagle Claw Tungsten weight and a 5/0 Trokar Flipping Hook. Scott said the flipping hook is great because of the keeper that prevents the big worm from sliding down the hook. I probed to find out how he was working this big worm, “Just your standard worm presentation, I was just slowing crawling it across the bottom.”
Finally, when it got tough, Scott would switch to a Drop Shot. Using 10 pound spider wire with an 8 pound Seaguar leader, he would work it vertically in the brush piles he had found in practice. Scott said he was using a 5 foot leader and would dip the tail of his worm in chartreuse. I asked him why the chartreuse figuring that it had something to do with the depth he was fishing or the cloud cover that was moving in and out. Scott said that a bluegill has a chartreuse tail, and this really helps mimic them. Scott went on to say that his Garmin 740 played a vital role when he went to the drop shot, “you can see the fish and drop your bait right on top of them.”
Generally the pattern on the lake was chasing shallow bass around bluegill spawning grounds, with many anglers catching top water fish throughout the day. Scott said his pattern was fishing creek channel swings and points, also finding deeper brush piles inside the pole timber of the lake. Scott found the majority of his fish around the 25 foot depth. When asked why he didn’t use the shallow water pattern he replied, “I didn’t find it, I looked for it; but just didn’t put it together. Now I’m glad I didn’t. I really had the deep-water pattern to myself. I could see anglers fishing behind each other the whole tournament. One would move into a pocket, and just as they left, another would fly in.” Scott mentioned he kind of stumbled on the deep pattern, after idling out of a pocket he had just come on pad when he seen bait on his Garmin. Turning around, he quickly caught a couple fish.
Scott felt the deeper fish were feeding on shad in the 4-5 inch range making the swimbait and the big worm great choices. I pushed to find out how he knew the size of the bait, “Well, you could see them on your electronics. Plus every once in a while a bass would chase one to the surface, and you could get a good look at it.” He went on to say that he caught a sand bass on a swimbait that was perfect eating size as well, so there was plenty of food in the area for the bass.
I asked Scott if at any point during the last day did he feel like he had a good shot at winning this tournament. He told me that he had caught a three pounder fairly quick on his honey hole and followed that up just a few casts later with a 4 pounder. “After four days of fishing, everyone’s fish are getting tougher to catch, and the ones you catch are generally smaller. But I have two very solid fish in the boat already.” He continued, “Yes I would say at that point I felt very strong about winning this one, I still needed to finish my limit, but the way this lake had been fishing, and I already had my kicker fish, I felt really good.”
Scott has been a Nation Guard Pro for the last four years and is extremely proud to be helping spread the pride of a nation across the country, “The National Guard isn’t a sponsors to me, they are a partner”. Scott asked if he could say something on their behalf, “I’d like to thank the men and women of all the services for protecting our freedoms and ensuring we get to fish. If it were not for these brave people, who knows where we would be, thank you!”
I asked Scott if he had called his dad yet to rub it in a little bit. Scott said, “Actually he was there and I’d like to put out a special thanks to Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops for making sure he was there.” With Scott doing well and looking at a win, Roland had made arrangements at home to be at the final weigh-in but needed a ride. Johnny Morris was able to get Roland Martin to the weigh-in just in time.
I finished up by asking Scott if there is one thing that he could put his finger on that helped him along the way to, and during, the FLW Cup. “Each event boils down to the areas and baits you use, however, your equipment also plays a vital role. If not for my Ranger Boat Z520 and my Evinrude 250 HO I can’t say that I would be here to win it. All season long they have performed flawlessly and should I have had a problem at any time this past year I may not have cumulated what I needed to be here.”