UPCOMING EVENT: Rayovac FLW Series - 2015 - Lake Erie

Abnormally Norman

Brian Travis of Conover, N.C., will be one of the local pros to watch at Lake Norman. He says Norman will be a different animal for FLW Tour pros this week.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For the last three years, the FLW Tour event on Lake Norman presented by the National Guard has been held at the exact same time of year: the last week in April. During those years, the FLW Tour pro field learned the spawn and postspawn habits of Norman bass so well that they knew what the bass were doing before the bass did. In years past, sight-fishing has been a key strategy for top finishers. Also, fooling postspawn fry-guarders with topwaters and lightly weighted plastics, such as shaky heads and wacky rigs, played a strong hand. This year, things will be different. The timing of the FLW Tour event has been bumped up a month to the final week of March, and the Carolinas are just starting to thaw out from an unusually cold and wet winter. As a result, Lake Norman is much muddier and colder than normal. Another wrinkle in the form of lower water levels has also contributed to Norman being abnormal compared to what FLW Tour pros are used to. As the practice round wound down Monday, pros were reporting plenty of fish biting, but the old practice of trolling around the bank with a pair of polarized sunglasses to visually locate cull-ups was not happening. Local pro Brian Travis of Conover, N.C., believes the timing of this year's event is falling right on that fine line of the first wave of bass coming to the bank to spawn. "Maybe, maybe not," Travis said of Norman bass dusting off nests this week. "I've seen some 65-degree water, but I have not seen any beds in practice. So if it happens, it's going to be during the tournament - maybe Friday or Saturday when we're closer to the full moon." Sight master Greg Pugh says he will not give up the search for bedding bass this week at Norman.Travis is not the only one who has struck out trying to spy on bedders in Norman's lower end, where the water is clearest. Some of the Tour's usual sight-fishing suspects - including Greg Pugh, Anthony Gagliardi and Clark Wendlandt - have all noted that bedding activity during practice was nonexistent. Only Greg Pugh, who has recorded three top-10s at Norman, is holding out hope that he will be able to sight-fish toward the end of the week. "I'm going to keep checking them," Pugh said. "Ideally, I'd like to just go fishing the first day or two and then by Friday maybe bust a big bag looking at them. But the warming trend we were having was interrupted by a much cooler, rainy day the second day of practice, so that kind of messed things up. It's going to take some strong sun and slick days over the next few days to get them to move up. But, hey, it's the end of March. All the pears and cherry trees are blooming, and I know what that means: any day now ... any day." The FLW Tour event on Lake Norman begins Wednesday. Be sure to catch all the action right here on FLWOutdoors.com, starting with the Live Page coverage starting at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Tags: pre-tournament  rob-newell 

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Smallmouth Slugfest on Tap at Erie

Florida pro Glenn Browne leads the race with 492 points, largely due to his win at the previous divisional event on Lake Champlain. Following well within striking distance are Canadian pro Cory Johnston (484 points) and Louisianan Gerald Spohrer (483), who found his way into the Northern Division quite incidentally. READ MORE »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

/news/2015-08-22-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-3

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 »

/news/2015-08-21-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-2

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 »

/news/2015-08-20-wheeler-hunting-history

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 »

/news/2015-08-20-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-1

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 »

/news/2015-08-19-boat-tour-of-lake-ouachita

Boat Tour of Lake Ouachita

The FLW media staff brought a few Rangers over to Lake Ouachita for this week’s festivities, so we decided to take one for a drive around the lake to get a feel for what the anglers will be facing this week. Here is what we found. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-17-scouting-with-stetson

Scouting with Stetson

“I don’t know where or how to win it yet, but I know this lake as good as anyone,” says Stetson Blaylock. “I might not be due, but nobody wants to win this as bad as I do.” READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-16-practice-with-zack-birge

Practice with Zack Birge

Zack Birge qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup twice – first by winning the Rayovac FLW Series Championship in the fall of 2014 and subsequently by crushing it in his rookie season on the Walmart FLW Tour. Regardless of how he got here, Birge figures to be a threat on Lake Ouachita. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-16-cup-practice-begins

Cup Practice Begins

Welcome to Hot Springs, Ark., and the Forrest Wood Cup. Today, Sunday, marks the start of the official three-day practice period for the 2015 Cup. Right now is when pros start to piece together the puzzle that is summertime fishing on Lake Ouachita. To find out how the pros are preparing for this championship event, I head down to Brady Mountain Resort way too early in the morning to pester a few of them before they back their boats into the lake. I find out that for some pros, this morning is the first time they’ve launched a boat in Lake Ouachita this season – or ever. For others that made pre-practice trips, it’s the first time they’ve seen the lake since it went off limits earlier this month. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-12-central-division-aoy-race-concludes-on-dardanelle

Central Division AOY Race Concludes on Dardanelle

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/news/2015-08-06-ouachita-pre-practice-report

Ouachita Pre-Practice Report

Lake Ouachita officially went off-limits to all Forrest Wood Cup competitors on Monday, Aug. 3. That means that from now until the official three-day practice period opens on Aug. 16, no Cup competitor can be on the lake and competitors may only gather information about Ouachita from publicly available resources and fellow qualifiers. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-01-a-country-music-festival-at-the-cup-

A Country Music Festival at the Cup

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FLW Anticipating Largest Expo of All Time

Bass fishing history and Arkansas walk hand-in-hand it seems. The Natural State was home to the first bass tournament. It’s where Ranger Boats was founded. And it’s hosted some of FLW’s most noteworthy events. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-28-previewing-champlain-

Previewing Champlain

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/news/2015-07-27-fishing-the-cup-for-a-cure

Fishing the Cup for a Cure

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College Fishing Rolls to the Mighty Miss

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/news/2015-07-21-shane-lehew-gets-his-chance

Shane Lehew Gets His Chance

In 2014, Lehew began his Tour pro career by capturing 24th place in the first event of the year on Lake Okeechobee. His performances on the Big O last year and at Lake Toho this spring reflect his preference for fishing shallow water with mixed cover. READ MORE »