UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

Cochran the contrarian

Wal-Mart pro George Cochran has made a lucrative fishing career by fishing shallow when bass go deep.

Editor's note: The following is an on-the-water account of George Cochran's second day of competition at the 2006 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship on Logan Martin Lake as he fished past Larry Nixon with a day-two catch of 11 pounds, 14 ounces. Outdoor writer Rob Newell fished with Cochran that day, as Newell had qualified for the championship as a co-angler. -------------------------------------------------------------- Given all of bass fishing's commonly accepted conventions, the one George Cochran of Hot Springs, Ark., likes to challenge best is the one which claims all bass go deep in the heat of summer. In August 1996, Cochran won the Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake in Alabama by fishing an extremely shallow bay ignored by other competitors who considered it too hot and too shallow for summer conditions. Last year at Lake Hamilton, a lake known for its deep brush piles, Cochran won the FLW Tour Championship by fishing topwaters along a shallow a bank in broiling conditions. And those are just two examples of Cochran's contrarian ways that have allowed him a handsome living in the sport of professional bass fishing. In fact, Larry Nixon, Cochran's good friend and round-one opponent in theGeorge Cochran championship bracket, refers to Cochran as a "mud dauber" due to his penchant for fishing shallow mud when the mercury soars into the triple digits. "That's just my style," said Cochran, as his trolling motor slurped up Logan Martin's muddy bottom during the second day of the 2006 FLW Tour Championship. "I grew up fishing places like this on the Arkansas River in the heat of summer, and it's still in my blood." Indeed, Cochran uses a wayward approach to catch wayward bass during the dog days of summer. As an example of just how committed Cochran is to shallow-water fishing, consider that he does not have a GPS on his boat, nor does he hardly ever turn his front depth finder on. "I had a GPS for about two years and never turned the thing on," he laughed. "And all the front depth finder does is blink at me, so I leave it off." Many of Cochran's primary fishing locations during the FLW Tour Championship on Logan Martin last week were silted-in creeks, expansive shallow bays and "nothing looking" pockets, where surface temperatures hovered just above the 90-degree mark. During the day, Cochran would occasionally ask me to read out the depth displayed on the rear depth finder. When I replied, "One-point-nine feet," he'd just smile and say, "Perfect." At one point, I noticed a depth-finder reading of 4 feet. When I reported this to him, he responded, "Yeah, I thought we'd try my deep fish for a few minutes." Even a small canopy of shade provides the kind of isolated cover George Cochran prefers in the heat of summer.Exactly what Cochran targets in these "nothing looking" places is any piece of isolated cover such as a single piece of brush, a single lay-down, a dock, a boat ramp, a small stretch of riprap, a culvert or even a small piece of shady water provided by a canopy of overhanging trees. Roiling up mud with the outboard for 10 minutes just to fish a single brush top in the back of a supershallow bay is standard operating procedure for his kind of fishing. "Most people simply aren't going to come way back here to fish something like this in August," Cochran said, as he flung a shallow-running, square-bill crankbait to a tiny twig sticking above the water. I watched with anticipation as his crankbait wobbled over one limb and then another before being enveloped into a rod-bending muddy boil. "Purr-fect," Cochran muttered in his soft Southern accent as he fought the fish. Seconds later, when I scooped up a chunky 2 1/2-pound largemouth in the net, I began to understand the method to his madness. "This fish has probably been living back here since March or April when it spawned," he said, putting his third keeper in the livewell. "Most fish do move out to deeper water in the hotter months," he continued. "That part is true. But a few stray fish, for whatever reason, will hang around back here in the mud all summer. They'll just take up residence in a little place like that brush top and make a living on whatever swims by - like my crankbait." Cochran also pointed out that bass are more prone to live shallow during the When itsummer in river systems. "Many anglers consider Logan Martin and Lay to be lakes, and they fish them like reservoirs," he added. "But I see these lakes along the Coosa system as one big river with plenty of flats and shallow bays. And as long as there is decent water color and baitfish back in these places, I just pretend I'm fishing a river system instead of a reservoir." Cochran's primary fishing tools for this kind of water are topwater poppers, buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and a variety of shallow-running crankbaits. On day two of the championship, he was using a Lucky Craft RC 1.5 crankbait on 15-pound P-line. "When shallow cranking during the hottest part of the year, I don't like rattles in my crankbait," Cochran noted. "This particular crankbait is silent - it has no built-in rattles - so that's why I'm using it." Throughout much of the day, Cochran kept just three rods out on his deck armed with the following: a pair of RC 1.5 crankbaits and a Texas-rigged, straight-tail worm that he occasionally pitched into places he couldn't access with the crankbaits. The only difference in the two crankbaits he used is that one sported red Eagle Claw treble hooks. Cochran has always been a big believer in red hooks, especially in dingier water. During the day we never saw another boat fishing the same areas as Cochran, probably because this type of fishing is hot, gritty work. Unlike the open main lake, which is blessed with a breeze every now and again, Cochran's dead-end pockets are stifling. Also, getting hung up a lot is par for the course with his style. Even though Cochran's casts are accurate, a crankbait's nature is to find something to which it can cling. Yet, Gentleman George never gets riled each time he has to concede to a snag and retrieve his lure. "It's all part of the process," he explained, as he patiently poked his rod tip into a brush pile to free his lure. "You have to put it in the right place to get the bite, and getting hung up is going to happen." The fruits of George CochranAlso, this type of fishing requires constant running and gunning. Picking up the trolling motor, zipping up the life jacket and cranking the big engine for a move is as routine as making a cast. And sometimes a 20-minute move is made just for the sake of five casts to one piece of cover. It was one such stop late in the day that produced Cochran's best fish, a 3-pound largemouth. "Ooh, that one is going to hurt Larry," I said, as he culled out a 12-incher. And with that, Cochran smiled and said, "Perfect."

Tags: post-tournament  rob-newell 


Top 10 Baits from the Ohio River

The Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River showed off a range of techniques – from traditional Ohio River patterns to smallmouth deals for the Tennessee River. In fact, if you followed the event hosted by the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City of Paducah you almost certainly have some new ideas about how to catch big smallmouths in the fall. READ MORE »


Top 10 Patterns from the Ohio River

Here is a closer look at how the rest of the top 10 fished in the Championship, which was hosted by the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City of Paducah Oct. 28-31. READ MORE »


Hanselmania 4.0

Saturday, in Paducah, Ky., on the shores of the Ohio River, Ray Hanselman rewrote history for the second time this season. After winning all three 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division events, which had never been done before, Hanselman came to Kentucky and won the Rayovac FLW Series Championship. READ MORE »


Hanselman on the Verge of Four-Peat

Day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River was fished primarily on the nearby Tennessee River and resulted in a major shuffling of the leaderboard. In the end, Ray Hanselman rose from second to first and will lead the top 10 into the final day with 30 pounds, 14 ounces. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Ohio River Day 2

After two days of competition, Ray Hanselman leads the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River, but as the leaderboard has reflected, the river’s hefty smallmouths are certainly capable of producing some fireworks and providing some surprises. READ MORE »


Barnes Blasts 21 on the Ohio

On day one of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River David Barnes Sr. of China, Maine, hauled exactly 21 pounds of smallmouth across the stage to take the lead on a day that was tough for many. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Ohio River Day 1

Shortly after David Barnes electrified the Rayovac FLW Series Championship weigh-in with his leading weight of 21 pounds of smallmouths, Ray Hanselman followed suit with an all-smallmouth limit weighing 19 pounds. READ MORE »


Chico State wins Western Conference Championship

A fast start and a strong finish by FLW College Fishing veterans Andrew Loberg and Travis Bounds of Chico State proved to be too much for the competition to overcome in the Western Conference Championship on Clear Lake Oct. 17-18. READ MORE »


Dallas Baptist Wins with Finesse

In fishing, there are some situations you can’t prepare for. Consider, for instance, what would likely happen if a boat breaks down on the way out from takeoff on the first day of a major competition. Figuratively speaking, at least, the anglers in it would be sunk. That was the potential nightmare scenario faced by Zackery Hines and Reed Foster of Dallas Baptist University at the FLW College Fishing Southern Conference Championship on Grand Lake Oct. 17-18. READ MORE »


Top 10 Patterns from Clear Lake

All week long the top competitors mixed things up – from deep to shallow. Almost everything was on the table as a valid option. Despite the amount of pressure from a number of large regional tournaments that have been held in recent weeks, the best in the field still managed to make Clear Lake show out. READ MORE »


Top 10 Baits from Clear Lake

The methods for catching fish in the Rayovac FLW Series event presented by Evirude on Clear Lake ranged pretty far and wide. If you’re headed to Clear Lake in the late summer or fall, you might want to consider what the top 10 pros threw. READ MORE »


Top 10 Patterns from the Forrest Wood Cup

If you don’t believe that summertime bass fishing in the dog days of August is all over the map, just take a look at the top 10 patterns from the best bass pros on earth at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Brad Knight captured the Cup by mining one small creek end for four days. But beyond that, the rest of the top 10 patterns ran the gamut, from targeting schoolers over 40 feet to wolf packs of bass on the bank to brush piles to grass to mud flats and everywhere in between. Here’s a rundown. READ MORE »


Knight Slays Ouachita

Lancing, Tenn., pro Brad Knight won the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart on Lake Ouachita with a four-day total of 51 pounds, 12 ounces. In front of a standing-room-only crowd at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs, Ark., Knight weighed in 11-07 on day four to surpass Jacob Wheeler, who started the day with a 12-ounce lead. Fishing in just one area all four days, Knight locked up the first win of his FLW career. He earned $500,000 for his victory and pushed his career earnings total to more than $688,000. READ MORE »


Wheeler Back in Front

Jacob Wheeler loves Lake Ouachita. It’s where he fished his first Forrest Wood Cup in 2011, and it’s where he’ll take the tournament lead into the final day of competition at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Wheeler, the 2011 Cup champion, led this tournament on day one and slipped a couple spots on day two. He now has a very slim 12-ounce lead over Tennessean Brad Knight. The anglers will square off tomorrow on Ouachita starting at 7 a.m. against the rest of the top 10 pros for the top prize of $500,000. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 3

Jacob Wheeler may have regained his lead in the Forrest Wood Cup on day three, but Brad Knight is right on his heels. Going into the final day, the two pros are separated by just 12 ounces. The margin is tight, and what’s going to make the final day fun to watch is the difference in the two anglers’ strategies. Wheeler is running a topwater pattern on the main lake, and fishing new water is part of his plan. Knight, however, has caught almost all of his weight from one 250-yard stretch of bass-rich creek channel. He literally knows every target he is fishing by heart. On the surface, Knight’s area looks to be the better bet. But he has shared the general area with Brandon Cobb and Mark Daniels Jr. for three solid days. And the bad news, at least for Knight, is that both Cobb and Daniels will be sharing the water with him again on the final day as both made the top-10 cut. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 2

At times, bass fishing can be a lot like real estate, where the three most important rules are location, location and location. The 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita presented by Walmart is starting to become a bit of a real estate game where location is the primary consideration in who climbs the leaderboard. And those mining the backs of creeks and tributaries are on the prime pieces of real estate. Consider that after day two, four of the top five pros are concentrating their fishing efforts in the back ends of creeks or rivers. All of these areas fit a classic late-summer, early-fall pattern where shad pack into the back of creek ditches that meander through shallow flats. READ MORE »


Wheeler Hunting History

It’s never been done before, and it hasn’t happened yet, but Jacob Wheeler is in prime position to become the first two-time Forrest Wood Cup champion in history. Wheeler, of Indianapolis, Ind., brought in a 16-pound, 2-ounce limit of Lake Ouachita bass on the first day of the Cup, which is presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. READ MORE »


Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 1

After day one of the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita, several things have come to light. For one, this event is not likely to produce a runaway win for anyone like it did when Scott Martin won here in 2011. Second, when the pros said Ouachita was going to be stingy, they meant it – only 29 of the 50 pros checked in limits today. Third, firm patterns are hard to come by on Lake Ouachita in August. Jacob Wheeler took the lead on day one in the event that’s presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. With the help of a 5-pound bass, Wheeler weighed in a limit of 16 pounds, 2 ounces, but he had to sample a lot of different areas for his catch. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »


Top 10 Patterns from Lake Dardanelle

Jason Lieblong, who won the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division event on Lake Dardanelle, devoted most of his time to fishing reed lines with a mix of chatterbaits, frogs and Texas-rigged worms. He also caught fish by dragging a Texas-rigged 10-inch worm past brush piles in 6-8 feet. Lieblong amassed a three-day total of 46 pound, 3 ounces. READ MORE »


Top 10 Baits from Lake Dardanelle

The top 10 at the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division finale on Lake Dardanelle used primarily a mixture of frogs, shallow crankbaits and soft plastics to get it done. READ MORE »