August 5, 2007 by Rob Newell
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - A new chapter in the history of professional bass fishing was written Sunday at Summit Arena in downtown Hot Springs as Scott Suggs of nearby Bryant, Ark., became the first angler to win a million dollars in a single tournament at the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita.
The second Suggs grasped victory, Summit Arena erupted into a deafening home-state roar as the victor thrust his fist through a shower of confetti that rained down from above.
Suggs' family then rushed the stage to celebrate with tearful hugs.
Moments later Irwin Jacobs, chairman of FLW Outdoors, realized his own decade-long dream of awarding one angler $1 million for winning a bass tournament by handing Suggs a check with seven figures.
Of the thousands of fishing fans who turned out to witness the spectacle first hand, few were without goose bumps.
"My little girls are getting a pool!" Suggs announced abou the first place his momentous funds would be directed. "My daughters are 4 and 10 years old, and I promised them and my wife a pool if I won. This is a dream come true for all of us."
For the record, Suggs won the event with a two-day total of 17 pounds, 1 ounce.
It could be argued that the Folgers pro actually won the event on day three when he brought in 11 pounds to head into day four with a 4-pound lead. He defended that lead with just two bass today, but one was in the 5-pound class - and it was the one he needed to give him a 4-pound, 9-ounce margin of victory.
"All week I never got nervous, but when I boated that big one today, that was the first time my hands started shaking all week," he said. "That one got to me.
"I knew that I didn't have much weight today, but I also knew that this lake is absolutely brutal on summer weekends, and I think that's why these fish really didn't bite the last two days - the summer boat traffic really affects them.
"When I stopped on my first spot this morning, which has been one of my best spots all week, I never got a bite," he added. "I knew then that it was going to be tough."
Suggs used three key baits during the week, with a ¾-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait featuring a firecracker skirt and "hologram" blades delivering the bulk of his catch during the event.
His other two lures were big worms: a Berkley 10-inch Power Worm in plum and a Zoom worm in cherry-seed, both capped with 3/8-ounce Tru-Tungsten weights.
Suggs' key structure was standing timber. He concentrated on places where fish normally school in the fall after the water cools.
"I was fishing 40 to 80 feet of water, and the fish were suspended in the tops of flooded timber about 25 feet down," he said. "I'd take that spinnerbait, cast it out, count it down and roll it through those trees."
He also relied on a rich patch of milfoil that he found, which was located in about 16 feet of water.
"It's some of the greenest, prettiest milfoil I've found on this lake this year, and it was holding some fish," he said. "During the event, I probably weighed in four or five fish off that spot."
Suggs noted that his vast experience on Ouachita played a huge role in his win.
"I know where the fish usually school, and I know the specific trees they use in the hot summertime before the waters cools," he said. "Each day I ran a minimum of 25 places where those key trees are located."
Castrol pro Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla., won $100,000 for his second-place finish at the Forrest Wood Cup with a two-day total of 12 pounds, 8 ounces, but Robertson harbored zero regret about missing out on the million-dollar payday.
"It might be different if the deficit was like 2 ounces or something, but 5 1/2 pounds - there's not much else I could have done about that," Robertson said. "I was fortunate to catch what I caught all week. And three of the days I was blessed with a 4-pounder with 15 minutes left in the day - without those I'd have never made the top 10 anyway.
"I missed a bite or two during the week, but never did I feel like I had the fish on to win it. I'm tickled to death with $100,000 for second."
Robertson's primary pattern all week was fishing a mixture of timber and grass in 12 to 20 feet of water.
"During practice I was actually catching them pretty good off of just straight wood in about 28 feet of water," he added. "But during the tournament, I couldn't get those fish to bite, and I had to move shallower and get in the grass."
Wendlandt winds up third
Kellogg's pro Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas, finished in third place with a two-day total of 10 pounds, 1 ounce for $75,000.
Wendlandt alternated between two patterns all week.
In the mornings he fished shallow around bream beds with a Brian's Bees Prop B 3, and then he moved out deeper in the afternoons to fish grass edges in 10 to 12 feet of water with a 10-inch Gambler worm topped with a ¾-ounce tungsten weight.
"My better-quality fish came from the grass on the big worm," Wendlandt said. "The topwater pattern worked on and off and was real situational - I had to have a little breeze on the bream beds to make it work."
Castrol pro Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla., finished fourth with a two-day total of 9 pounds, 14 ounces, worth $60,000.
Surman also fished two patterns, which were similar to Wendlandt's.
In fact, Wendlandt lent Surman the Prop B 3 topwaters he was using.
"I only used the topwater for about an hour each morning, and then that bite died," Surman said. "Then I'd moved out and fish the grass with a 10-inch Gambler red-bug worm. One worm was rigged with a ¼-ounce weight and the other was rigged with a ¾-ounce weight.
"I used the ¾-ounce worm to pitch into the thicker grass on top of the humps in 10 to 14 feet of water, and I used the lighter-weighted worm to fish the outsides of the grass in 14 to 18 feet. For me, the outside of the grass was a little better, but I did catch a couple of my better fish up in the thicker stuff on top."
2007 Gain Rookie of the Year Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., finished in fifth place with a two-day total of 9 pounds, 12 ounces for $50,000.
Thrift also alternated between shallow and deep patterns during the week.
Interestingly, he, too, settled on the Brian's Bees Prop 3 for his shallow-water bite.
His lure of choice for deep grass was a Zoom Ultravibe speed worm in green-pumpkin with a ¼-ounce weight.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup:
6th: Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., two-day total of 9-8, $45,000
7th: John Devere of Berea, Ky., two-day total of 9-2, $40,000
8th: David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., two-day total of 8-14, $35,000
9th: Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., two-day total of 8-11, $30,000
10th: Jack Wade of Knoxville, Tenn., two-day total of 7-9, $25,000