By Todd Ceisner
When Brandon Cobb competed in the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup, he admittedly suffered from a case of bright-lights syndrome.
He fished too fast. He lost a few fish that certainly would’ve helped his cause. He got caught up in the atmosphere surrounding his first Cup.
“It was a lot of unforced errors,” Cobb said. “There was nothing wrong with my equipment. I was just rushing in a situation I wasn’t used to being in.”
You’d think he finished dead last, hearing him recount his missteps. He finished 3rd! Still, when he looks back on it, he sees it as a (giant) missed opportunity.
“My first time at Ouachita was probably my best chance to win because it was my first Cup, but I reacted how anyone typically would in their first big event,” he said. “Back then it was another deal, but now I’ve gotten used to the bigger stage and it’s just another tournament.”
It’s hard to argue with him. He’s competed in three Cups overall and each time, his name has wound up among the top 10 finishers, including another 3rd-place result last year at Lake Murray.
In two weeks, he’ll be back at Ouachita for another dose of high-stakes tournament fishing in August as the Cup returns to the Ozark Mountains for the fourth time in the 22 years the event has been held.
Solid, But Not Spectacular
Cobb earned his fourth Cup invite by finishing 12th in FLW Tour Angler of the Year points for the second straight season. While his 2017 docket included six finishes of 51st or better, including two top-10s, the 2018 season was a picture of consistency.
He lacked the top-end results – his best showing was a 15th at Kentucky Lake – but his worst finish (83rd at Lake Okeechobee) still put him in the top half of the field. Cobb saw it as a ho-hum season that could’ve been so much more.
“In my mind, to finish 12th in points, I felt like it was a lackluster season,” he said. “I never did phenomenal, but I never did poorly. My bad finishes were just outside check range and my good finishes were just inside the cut. It wasn’t a highlight reel year. It felt like I had a knack for being on fish, but only was able to catch them one day instead of two or three.”
Still just 28, he knows he has plenty left to learn. He’s been duped twice now by Lake Cumberland, a lake he feels is right up his alley. He’s still getting his bearings on what it takes to have success at Okeechobee. One event he was particularly proud of, though, was Kentucky Lake.
With Jason Lambert and Randy Haynes grabbing the headlines by finding fish offshore, Cobb scratched his way to a top-20 finish predominantly beating the bank. In two previous Tour events there, he finished 78th and 55th so this was a sizable gain for him on the Tennessee River.
“I don’t usually do well there, but I was one of the only ones who survived shallow,” he said.
Back to Ouachita
Survival is usually a theme of the Forrest Wood Cup as the August timeframe usually is accompanied by tough, summertime fishing, regardless of location. While some struggle under such conditions, Cobb seems to thrive and he attributes that to fishing in South Carolina.
“I just enjoy August fishing,” he said. “I have a hard time during those pre-spawn slugfest tournaments when fish are moving. I’m not great at finding schools, but I’m good at finding a limit and a limit of bass in August is better than a limit in March.”
His penchant for fishing fast and covering water tends to work against him earlier in the year, but it is a valuable tool during the dog days of summer.
“In the spring, I tend to fish through schools and catch a couple, but don’t realize it’s a school,” he said. “That’s the nature of fishing here in South Carolina. It’s just the way I grew up. There are not real big schools anywhere. I grew up hunting for the next bite and that’s textbook August fishing almost anywhere.”
He expects a lot of variety at Ouachita next month.
“(In 2015), it was just random junk fishing,” he said. “I caught some out of the same creek (Brad Knight fished) and some off the bank on topwater. Looking at it now, I can see five or six ways it could be won so you have to pick what you’re comfortable with or what’s working at the time.”
With the amount of grass in Ouachita, those fish could be a factor. So, too, could schooling fish along with the typical deep bite and fish holding on standing timber.
“Even though I did well, I’m not confident I’ll catch them the same way again because I can see the potential those other ways have,” he said.
He also said last year’s Cup at Murray was another learning experience. Wise to the topwater bite around vertical cane piles, Cobb posted two 19-plus pound days and carried the lead into the third and final day, only to fall one fish short and slip to 3rd.
He said the format change to a three-day Cup took some getting used to – he’s more of a four-day grinder, he says – but he came away from Murray knowing he was on the winning pattern.
“What hurt me was that my local knowledge got me to where I was, but hurt me the last day,” he said. “My bad decision was running hundreds of piles. On the final day, they were schooling and were out around the cane, but I had so many places to fish. I should’ve waited them out. I don’t regret anything. I didn’t win, but I did everything right to win.”