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Diverse Ouachita awaits

Cloudy skies and thunderstorms greeted the 58 pros and 58 co-anglers who qualified for the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup, the richest championship in professional bass fishing.

ROYAL, Ark. - During each of the past two Walmart FLW Tour qualifiers, it was common knowledge that the tournament would be dominated on deep, offshore ledges. But as the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup gets under way on Lake Ouachita, several patterns have the potential to go the distance.

Although the water temperature is hovering around 90 degrees, there is significant activity in the shallows. Not only are the bream bedding with the impending full moon, but there are considerable schooling windows as well. And Thursday morning's cloudy, stormy weather should only help the skinny-water bite.

"If you can find the bream beds, there's a bass somewhere nearby," said OFF! pro Terry Bolton. "I'm going to start on the bank this morning, especially with the wind and clouds." Pro Terry Bolton plans to start the morning by throwing a Rapala X-Rap Walk over bluegill beds.

Bolton said a variety of prop and walking baits work for the bream-bed bite. His preferred topwater lure is a Rapala X-Rap Walk.

"The thing about bream-bed fishing is that you can catch them all day; it's not necessarily a morning thing like schooling. The guys that really found them in practice have a chance to do well. I found a few beds myself, but not enough where I can solely rely on it. Some of these bream are spawning in the same places they did last May."

When he eventually turns his boat offshore, Bolton said he won't be fishing Ouachita's plentiful standing timber.

"I'm actually trying to fish structure that doesn't have any timber. There might be some brush, but the fish aren't on the brush so much as they're just near it. And the grass looks good, but I never really got it going. I don't know if the bait left the grass or what, but it doesn't seem to be the deal anymore. I've got about 10 places out deep that I will try after the morning bite."

EverStart pro Ron Shuffield knows Ouachita well as a resident of nearby Bismarck, Ark. Shuffield believes that grass and timber are going to be the two dominant patterns in the year-end championship.

"I think those two are the main holding areas, but if you hit the right rotations you can catch them out of the brush. And these cool, cloudy conditions are extremely rare. I think this is the coolest night we've Local Bismarck, Ark., pro Ron Shuffield is one of a handful of pretournament favorites.had since June 21. So that really could change things."

Shuffield hasn't altogether dismissed the bream-bed bite. He's just found better quality fish elsewhere.

"I spent plenty of time looking for them," he said. "I just couldn't find any largemouth really chasing after them. I'm still going to start the day shallow and then move to deeper water."
All things considered, Shuffield expects both better and more diverse catches than in 2007.

"I still say we're going to have higher weights than when Scott Suggs won. It's not all that uncommon to catch 14 or 15 pounds from the grass. That's where the 2 1/2-pound fish live and occasional you'll get one 3 or 4 pounds. I'm leaning towards 52 pounds for the win."

Notable: The 2011 Forrest Wood Cup has a cumulative weight format. The full field will fish for two days and then be cut to the top 20 after day two. After day three, the field will be trimmed to the top 10 pros who will fish the final day of competition by themselves. Co-angler competition will conclude on Saturday (day three).

Logistics

Anglers will take off from Brady Mountain Resort & Marina located at 4120 Brady Mountain Rd. in Royal, Ark., at 6:30 each morning. Daily weigh-ins will also be held at Summit Arena & Hot Springs Convention Chevy pro Bryan Thrift is hoping to improve upon his fifth-place finish at the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita.Center located at 134 Convention Blvd., in Hot Springs beginning at 5 p.m.

Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Summit Arena & Hot Springs Convention Center prior to the final weigh-ins on Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first 1,500 kids 14 and under on Sunday will receive a free Zebco rod and reel combo compliments of US97. Fans can also register to win a fully rigged Ranger Z520 courtesy of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette which will be given away following the final weigh-in. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.

Curb Records recording artist Steve Holy will bring his unique blend of 50s rock/pop/country to Summit Arena on Sunday, Aug. 14, at 4 p.m. to kick off the Forrest Wood Cup's final weigh-in. Holy recently completed his third studio album, "Love Don't Run."

On the Web

For those who can't catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.

In addition to FLW Live, FLWOutdoors.com is offering real-time updates from the water throughout each day of the Forrest Wood Cup. Simply click on the "On the Water" tab from any of the home pages.

Thursday's conditions

Sunrise: 6:30 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 72 degrees
Expected high temperature: 93 degrees
Water temperature: 89-93 degrees
Wind: E at 11 mph
Maximum humidity: 61 percent
Day's outlook: scattered thunderstorms

Tags: brett-carlson  morning-story  2011-08-11-forrest-wood-cup-lake-ouachita 

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