BassFans watched last weekend as Scott Suggs won the Forrest Wood Cup (and $1 million) on Arkansas' Lake Ouachita his home lake.
Suggs' win hinged on a few things. One was the suspended-fish bite in deep timber. He threw a spinnerbait and big worm for fish suspended 20 to 30 feet down over 40 to 80 feet of water.
On the final day, he was forced to abandon that pattern and he picked up the winning fish from a spot where he'd had some history.
What follows is a look at how the rest of the Top 5 caught their fish.
2nd: Darrel Robertson
> 5, 14-14
> 5, 11-10 (10, 26-08)
> 5, 11-00
> 2, 6-01 (7, 17-01)
While Suggs fished timber, by far the most popular pattern in the field was fishing the deep hydrilla. The lake's filled with it, and the deep edge varies, but is typically somewhere between 16 and 20 feet.
Robertson fished the grass specially, the deep edges in 12 to 20 feet of water with a 10-inch worm. He also fished areas with a mix of grass and standing timber.
Also notable was he had to fish slowly so slow he couldn't really expand his areas or scout when those dried up. Also, his best bites came after 3:00 the first 3 days.
Clark Wendlandt felt the fish were feeding on bluegills and shellcrackers, and that was the key to his shallow pattern.
> Worm gear: 7' medium-heavy rod, Abu Garcia Revo casting reel, 10- and 12-pound fluorocarbon line (10-pound in grass, 12 in timber), 4/0 Gamakatsu hook, 3/8-ounce tungsten weight, 10" unnamed worm (blue-flake and plum, both with some red hues).
> Main factor in his success "I think the Good Lord blessed me with a couple of right fish at the right times. On 3 different days, I caught nearly a 4-pounder in the last 15 minutes."
> Performance edge "My electronics. You can't fish these grasslines without your electronics."
3rd: Clark Wendlandt
> Day 1: 5, 9-10
> Day 2: 5, 14-10 (10, 24-04)
> Day 3: 1, 3-04
> Day 4: 3, 6-13 (4, 10-01)
Clark Wendlandt worked a common one-two punch he fished shallow topwater early with a propbait, then moved out to deep hydrilla.
"I threw the topwater pretty darn shallow around bream beds on the real shallow grassline in 1 to 3 feet of water," he said. "That kind of went away toward the end (of the competition). I think the reason was they'd dropped the water a little. It was already shallow, and it just got too shallow."
About his deep pattern, he said: "I was flipping hydrilla anywhere from probably 10 to 14 feet. It was mainly on grass edges, but I kind of keyed on the thicker grass. I couldn't catch much in the real thin stuff."
> Propbait gear: 6'9" light-action Falcon Lowrider Topwater Special rod, Pflueger President casting reel, 15-pound Ande mono, Brian's Bees Prop Bee 3 (baby bream).
> Flipping gear: 7'2" extra-heavy-action Falcon Cara Pro Grass rod, same reel, 65-pound braid, 5/0 Owner straight-shank hook, 3/4-ounce tungsten weight, 10" Gambler Ribbon Tail worm (Bill's blood).
> Main factor in his success "It was probably realizing that bream is one of the main forage items here. This lake has more bluegills and shellcrackers than just about any lake I've ever seen. That's what a lot of these fish were feeding on."
> Performance edge "That heavy-action Falcon Pro Grass rod. It's an 8-power, the heaviest they've got, and that rod will just get them out of anything."
After an hour shallow, Mike Surman moved out to deep grass humps with a big worm.
4th: Mike Surman
> Day 1: 5, 9-08
> Day 2: 5, 14-13 (10, 24-05)
> Day 3: 2, 4-14
> Day 4: 3, 5-00 (5, 9-14)
Mike Surman's strategy was nearly identical to Wendlandt's. He fished topwater early with a propbait for the first hour, then moved deep with a Gambler worm.
Surman noted that he fished deep humps ringed with grass. "I had six or seven humps where the water would go from 10 feet, and drop down to 18 to 20," he said. "That was where the big ones seemed to be hanging."
> Topwater gear: 6'8" medium-heavy All Star rod, Pflueger President casting reel, 15-pound Berkley Big Game mono, small handmade propbait (bluegill).
> Worm gear: 7'6" All Star flipping stick, Pflueger President casting reel, 20 pound Yo-Zuri HD Carbon fluorocarbon, 3/0 Tru-Turn Brute hook, 1/4-ounce Gambler Florida-rig weight, 10" Gambler Ribbon Tail worm (redbug).
> Main factor is his success "I think the main factor was fishing slow, and fishing deep. With the 10-inch worm, I was getting a few of the right bites. The fishing was tough, but if you could catch a 3- or 4-pounder, it went a real long way. On the second day I had three fish over 3 1/2 pounds, which really helped."
> Performance edge "One of the biggest things was the Lowrance depthfinder. Getting to these little, specific spots with the GPS and depthfinder was a really important factor."
Bryan Thrift rode his topwater bite longer than anyone in the Top 5.
5th: Bryan Thrift
> Day 1: 5, 15-07
> Day 2: 3, 10-05 (8, 25-12)
> Day 3: 2, 2-12
> Day 4: 2, 7-00 (4, 9-12)
Rookie Bryan Thrift was an anomaly in the Top 5, because he largely relied on his shallow topwater bite. He routinely tried to stretch it until about noon, and was rewarded with some big bites.
He led day 1, caught a strong bag on day 2, stumbled on day 3, but came back with the third-heaviest sack on day 4.
Notable too was that he threw the same propbait as Wendlandt.
"I was throwing that topwater bait until about 11:00 or 12:00 trying to run shady banks and throw it as long as I could," he said. "After that I was flipping the grass edge out in 18 to 20 feet of water."
> Worm gear: 7' medium-heavy spiral-graphite rod (out of production), same reel, 17-pound fluorocarbon, 4/0 Gamakatsu hook, 1/4-ounce Tru-Tungsten worm weight, Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed worm (green-pumpkin).
> Main factor in his success "The topwater bite. There were a lot of people fishing deep, but I was just putting the trolling motor on high and burning down the bank, trying to show it to as many fish as I could. What few were up there I was trying to get them to bite."
Performance edge "The Minn Kota trolling motor. I was running at 100% for almost half the day cutting up grass, and chopping trees, and going everywhere I could."
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