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Practice Reports from Ouachita

Practice Reports from Ouachita

While many pros try to squeeze in some time to pre-practice before lakes go off-limits during the regular FLW Tour season, the Forrest Wood Cup is always the most heavily practiced tournament of the year. The increased rewards on the line and the gap between the end of the regular season and the off-limits period make it possible. This year, plenty did make the trek out to Lake Ouachita to put some time in before the off-limits period began on July 23.  

Here’s a bit of what they learned and were willing to share.

 

Current conditions

A large, clear and deep mountain reservoir, Lake Ouachita produces some good fishing. Of course, in August, the fishing will be tough, and 3-pounders are likely to be at a premium.

Currently, the lake is falling back down after a period of very high water in March and April. The lake is a little bit lower than it was this time of year in 2015, when Ouachita last hosted the Cup, but not so much lower that it will affect things that much.

The water clarity is normal. Most pros reported water temps in the mid- to upper 80s and the low 90s. It’s summertime in Arkansas and predictably hot.

 

The grass

One factor on the minds of many prior to practice was the grass in Ouachita. In years past, Ouachita had a fair amount of grass (hydrilla and milfoil), but it rarely factored into high tournament finishes. In 2017, that changed, and a lot of pros and pundits figured it’d play this time.

“I did see a lot more grass, but I didn’t even really fish it,” says Clent Davis, who also fished the Cup on Ouachita in 2015. “I looked at some areas that I’m going to go back and fish in practice, but I didn’t fish it right then. I did see a ton of bank grass, too, but there’s about 3 inches of it in the water.”

Alex Davis also looked at the grass, but he’s not in love with it, at least compared to what he’s used to back home on Guntersville.

“I heard there was grass, and I wanted to find every sprig of it,” he says. “I wasn’t impressed. It’s grass, so fish live in grass, but when I read about it and heard of how much deep hydrilla there was, I was really looking forward to that way of fishing. And it was mostly milfoil, but it doesn’t set up like Guntersville. On Guntersville it mats up shallower, and then there is a rim of clumps at the edges. On Ouachita it wasn’t thick. It’s more just scattered.”

Costa FLW Series Championship winner Bradford Beavers also wanted to be impressed by the grass.

“I read a lot about the grass, and I don’t have anything to compare to how it normally is, but there was less than I was expecting to find,” says Beavers, who made a trip out in June and another in July. “I fished it when I got around areas that I felt like looked good. This last trip I tried to fish mostly grass, but I just wasn’t very successful. But, I may focus on that in practice still. I feel like if you find the right area of grass it can last multiple days.”

 

Other practice notes

Brush has always been a big factor on Ouachita, and with that in mind, Alex Davis and others spent plenty of time searching for it.  

“You can learn more looking at a lake than you ever can fishing when the tournament is a month away,” says Davis, who only shut off his Mercury to swim when he was on the lake. “I’ve never seen fish stay in the same place for a month in my entire life. I wanted to get a feel for it – for instance, if I was catching them in a pocket, I wanted to know where other pockets are like that. I scanned a lot for brush piles and offshore stuff like that. I hate to waste time in official practice looking for specific targets. That stuff doesn’t move; it’s not like if you’re looking for schools of fish.”

Visiting the lake in June revealed some pretty good fishing for Beavers, but July was a lot tougher. Nonetheless, his early foray gave him some extra confidence in the quality of the lake.

“Fish bite pretty good in June. I learned what different areas of the lake have to offer. Certain areas seemed like they had more bream than other areas and things like that,” says Beavers. “I feel like it helped. To me, in June, it set up a lot like Lake Murray. I was Googling to make sure there weren’t blueback herring in that lake. If the weather were to get cooler, I think it would get good. But I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”

Coming back for his second Cup on Ouachita, Clent Davis wants to be more prepared to be diverse. He finished 32nd in 2015.

“The last time I fished mainly brush,” he says. “That time of year it’s been won out of brush, but more or less I think you have to have a couple things going. I think from 2011 to now, guys have gotten so much better with their electronics, and not just Tour guys. I think the game has changed on that nowadays. So I prepared for August junk-fishing in pre-practice.”

With four days of official practice before competition takes place Aug. 10-12, there is sure to be a lot more discovered about Ouachita. Perhaps someone has already found the winning pattern, but as has happened many times before, the winner probably won’t know what he’s got until sometime in the afternoon of the final day.

 

Tags: jody-white  pre-tournament  2018-08-10-forrest-wood-cup- 

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