Before the recent Ouachita FLW Tour started, Scott Suggs was pegged as the one to beat. It's his lake. He won the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup there, knows it better than anyone else in the field, and routinely enhances his chances by planting brush in strategic places prior to the off-limits (a practice that's perfectly legal under FLW Tour rules).

What Suggs didn't count

on were flood conditions and a horde of fish still in the shallows. Winner Brent Ehrler and the rest of the Top 5 all took advantage of those shallow fish, while Suggs, who eventually finished 2nd, worked deep trees in the morning, then out-of-sight bream beds once the sun got up. Suggs had the opportunities to win, but lost fish ultimately cost him the victory.

Ehrler, meanwhile, worked a topwater all day long over the final days – a pattern he never discovered until midway through the event.

The details of Ehrler's winning pattern can he found here. What follows is an examination of how Suggs and the rest of the Top 5 caught their fish.

2nd: Scott Suggs

> Day 1: 5, 17-11
> Day 2: 5, 17-02
> Day 3: 5, 10-13
> Day 4: 5, 11-01
> Total = 20, 56-11

Each morning, Suggs ran what he calls "breaking holes" – areas in the deep trees where schooling fish feed in lowlight hours. He threw a topwater some, but a Berkley Hollow Belly swimbait worked better, he said. He caught most of his day-1 weight on it, and his initial limit the first 3 days.

"In the Cup, I'd tried other things that weren't really the Berkley Hollow Belly – other swimbait things – but they didn't want it," he noted. "They wanted an erratic bait and I could take that spinnerbait (at the Cup) and jerk it and pop it. Late summer they like that best, but (in spring) they want the Hollow Belly."

He worked his brushpiles with a Spro Little John crank.

"I planted most of my brush is 12 feet on shellbeds," he noted. "The lake coming up scared me, because now the brush was in 13 to 20. But the bream still bedded around it. The reason I put brush there was the grass was gone in those areas and I knew the bream would change their place of bedding, so I put in something to hold them there. They weren't inside the brush – they were outside – but it gave them an escape in case stripers or something came after them."

> Hollow Belly gear: 6'8" medium-heavy All Star rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier casting reel, 12-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon, homemade weighted jighead, 4" Berkley Hollow Belly (Tennessee shad).

> Crankbait gear: 7'2" All Star cranking rod, same reel, same line, Spro Little John (nasty shad).

  • Main factor in his success – "Knowing where all those breaking holes were. That just takes years of experience. They break in totally different places from August into the fall. I knew where all those post-spawn breaking holes were, so I could go and get a limit pretty early, then hunt better fish and relax doing something different."

  • Performance edge – "My Lowrance electronics – I owe it all to them. I was able to see these fish and I could tell when I pulled up if they were catchable or not. All I had to do was make one pass and look and I could tell."

    FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson
    Photo: FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson

    David Dudley relied on light line and spinning gear to catch his fish.

    3rd: David Dudley

    > Day 1: 5, 12-08
    > Day 2: 5, 12-12
    > Day 3: 5, 18-13
    > Day 4: 5, 12-01
    > Total = 20, 56-02

    David Dudley caught the heaviest bag on each of the final 2 days, but it wasn't enough to overcome a slow start.

    He focused on main-lake bream beds, which he worked with a finesse presentation.

    "Some of the fish I caught were in wolfpacks, but some were just in areas of bream beds," he said. "I might catch some between bedding areas, or cruising down a gravel bar, but basically, they were all relating to bluegill."

    He cited one example to illustrate the importance of bluegill. He caught a 4-pounder on day 3 that he assumed was a random fish. On day 4 he returned to the area and, because the water had dropped overnight, he could see there was a bream bed there.

    > Bream-bed gear: Fenwick Elite Tech Shaky Stik rod, Abu Garcia Soron SX40 spinning reel, 8-pound Trilene 100% fluorocarbon, unnamed hook, 7" Berkley Powerbait Heavy Weight Sinkworm (watermelon).

    > He noted that the Sinkworm's so heavy, "You don't need a Flick Shake head – it gets down there." He wacky-rigged it.

  • Main factor in his success – "That Soron spinning reel. There were three or four times when, if I didn't have such a smooth drag, I would have broke them off on the light line."

  • Performance edge – See "main factor" above.

    FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson
    Photo: FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson

    Keith Monson fished small main-lake points and little points off islands.

    4th: Keith Monson

    > Day 1: 5, 16-00
    > Day 2: 5, 15-02
    > Day 3: 5, 13-00
    > Day 4: 5, 7-12
    > Total = 20, 51-14

    Keith Monson started the tournament flipping bushes, but as the water receded, he retreated and finessed to the outside of the bushes.

    His main areas were main-lake points and points off little islands with flooded sycamore trees and bushes in 3 to 5 feet of water. The key was there had to be 7 to 8 feet of water around, and a shallow taper was critical – the points couldn't be too steep.

    "Early in practice you could flip and catch them everywhere, then they backed out in front of all that stuff," he said. "That's when I went to a little worm and they really bit it good. I was catching anywhere from 12 to 15 keepers a day the first 3 days. The last day I only caught five. And I didn't catch many short fish."

    To break it down, on day 1 he caught four of his weigh-fish, and two of his better ones, flipping. From day 2 on, he didn't flip.

    Spooky fish were also a factor. Once they pulled out of the bushes, he stayed back and made long casts, because "if they spotted you it was over."

    > Flipping gear: 7'6" heavy-action G. Loomis GLX flipping stick, Abu Garcia Revo SX casting reel, 20-pound Berkley Trilene XT mono, 5/0 Lazer Trokar Magworm hook, 3/8-ounce Tru-Tungsten Worm weight (pegged), Zoom Brush Hog (green-pumpkin and green-pumpkin/blue-flake).

    > He also flipped a little with a Shimano Curado.

    > He usually flips with a Gamakatsu hook, but bought some Trokars and was impressed. "Whoa – they're the deal," he said. "They're a little pricey, but they're the sharpest hooks I've ever seen."

    > Worm gear: 6'10" medium-heavy G. Loomis GLX spinning rod, Shimano Stradic 2500 spinning reel, 8-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon, 1/8-ounce Tourney Jigs football shakey-head, Zoom Trick worm (green-pumpkin/blue).

  • Main factor in his success – "Just being persistent. The fish would bite early then slack off. Sometimes I'd go an hour or two without a bite. I'd just keep grinding and once they turned back on, I'd catch them. And I moved around a lot trying to run into a school. Staying on the move and being open-minded were key."

  • Performance edge – "The spinning rod and reel with 8-pound line. As the water went down, it got clearer and clearer. With that light fluorocarbon, I got a lot more bites."

    FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson
    Photo: FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson

    Ish Monroe used his Navionics software at night to find new water to fish the next day.

    5th: Ish Monroe

    > Day 1: 5, 14-05
    > Day 2: 5, 13-11
    > Day 3: 5, 14-02
    > Day 4: 5, 9-04
    > Total = 20, 51-06

    Like Ehrler, Monroe threw topwater throughout the event. Interestingly, he worked a frog into the mix, but his main bait was a walking bait from Paycheck called the Repo Man.

    "I was fishing everything," he said. "The Repo Man was up under overhanging trees in the shade, across secondary and minor points. You had a lot of little points in the backs of pockets that had grass, and the fish were relating to the grass. I was just covering a lot of water.

    "Brent and I shared some water. He got a 6-pound bite (on day 3) and that's basically what it boiled down to – he got a 6-pound bite."

    The frog was a factor early in the event, before the water started to fall out of the bushes.

    Repo Man gear: 7'2" medium-heavy Daiwa Steez Fle-X-Lite rod, Daiwa Zillion casting reel, 40-pound Daiwa Samurai braid, Paycheck Repo Man (clear with greenish hue).

    > He swapped out the stock hooks for No. 3 Gamakatsu trebles.

    > Frog gear: 7'4" medium-heavy Daiwa Steez SVF-XBD Frog rod, same reel, 70-pound Samurai braid, Snag Proof Ish's Phat Frog (sexy Ish).

  • Main factor in his success – "My equipment. All my equipment played a huge key. My Cocoons eyewear let me see all the fish around – I caught some on topwater that I could see. And the Navionics chip and NavPlanner."

  • Performance edge – "The Navionics chip and NavPlanner. I had the chip in my unit and at night I could find more pockets on my computer that had deep water in the middle of shallow flats where there were a lot of bushes, then go fish them the next day. The best two pockets I found, I found the night of day 2 and uploaded them onto the chip."