UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Pickwick Lake

Deep or Shallow on Ouachita?

Deep or Shallow on Ouachita?

As far as fishing patterns go, the biggest decision in front of the 56 pros who qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita is whether to look deep, shallow or both in the four days of official practice leading up to the main event Aug. 10-12.

If history tells us anything about Ouachita, which has hosted three Cups already, it’s that without a doubt good sacks of fish can be caught offshore and on the bank. More money has been won on the deep bite at Ouachita thanks to Scott Suggs (2007) and Scott Martin (2011) both winning Cup titles offshore. However, the most recent Ouachita Cup, in 2015, was won by Brad Knight in the back of a creek from 2 to 3 feet of water.

So, what pattern will prevail this time around? Will it be won offshore with schooling bass or fish relating to deep brush and structure? Or will a shallow-water specialist tap into a big-bass pattern in the creeks?

No one has a better idea of how it’ll go down than the locals who call Ouachita home. We checked in with a couple of them to get some insight on how the biggest tournament of the year might unfold.

 

Skinny-water potential

Based on the fishing reports, Ouachita has been fishing strong throughout most of the year. Suggs, who won the Cup on Ouachita back in 2007, lives just up the road from the lake, and he agrees that the lake is in great shape.

“There are more bass in the lake right now than there ever has been before,” Suggs says. “The lake is fishing better this year since the spawn than I can remember in the last 15 years.

“Before the spawn it was taking 24 to 27 pounds to win tournaments [on Ouachita]. Since the spawn, 17 to 19 pounds has been kind of the norm. Of the eight major tournaments I know of, six of them were won up shallow.”

Despite such high praise for the shallow-water prospects, Suggs is skeptical about the ability of the bank bite to support a winning bag for three days in a row in mid-August.

“There isn’t as much grass up in the creeks as there was the last time the Cup was here,” Suggs continues. “It seems like you need to weed through a lot of little ones before you run across a good fish. But, the grass has grown up a lot better out on the main lake, and you can find some better quality out there.”

Size might be hard to come by in the backs of the creeks and pockets that line the lake, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of food up shallow to encourage big bass to live there, says local guide and T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League competitor Chris Darby.

“For the last few days I have seen a lot more bluegills up on the bank; more than usual,” Darby says. “I’ve also been seeing a lot of shad in the backs of the creeks with fish busting on them. The problem is that you may go half a day before you catch a fish. You need to cover a lot of water up shallow and hope to run into wolf packs of bass.”

Aside from sparse clumps of hydrilla, wood – mostly laydowns – is the primary cover for bass up shallow. There aren’t many docks since the vast majority of the lake is undeveloped.

Whether or not the shallow bite stays viable through the tournament could also hinge on the water level. The lake has been slowly falling.

“We’ve had some really hot days down here over the last few weeks, and because of that they have been pulling water to generate electricity,” Darby explains. “I’d say the lake has fallen a foot or so in the last couple weeks. The lake generally falls an inch or two per day when they generate.”

 

Offshore heating up

Darby and Suggs agree that the offshore bite has been growing stronger with each passing day.

“I really feel like the lake is setting up perfectly for the first time since I won the Cup for someone to catch them out in the trees [standing timber],” says Suggs. “Those fish that suspend out over the flooded trees can be so hard to figure out, but these guys are good enough to do it. I think this will be the first in a long time that the main lake itself plays a big role.”

Suggs won the 2007 Cup fishing flooded timber in 40 to 80 feet of water by rolling a spinnerbait across the tops of the trees about 25 feet down. He also dragged a big worm. In 2011, Martin won his title with the help of a 1/2-ounce Fish Head Spin paired with a swimbait for suspended bass and a 10-inch worm he worked through brush piles. Two different years, two different anglers and one simple formula: Find pods of fish relating to offshore structure and bait, and you can get right quick. That’s why Darby spends most of his time taking clients out offshore because that’s where the numbers are best and the average size is stout.

“I’m starting to see more fish out deep,” Darby adds. “The deep trees are definitely going to be a factor, and brush piles will be a huge thing, too, especially for big fish.

“I’ve also been seeing a ton of 3-pound spotted bass this year. There are a lot of good-sized spots in Ouachita now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone catches 15 pounds of spots.”

 

The consensus

According to the locals, the offshore bite is gaining momentum and could be the way the tournament is won. Yet Suggs and Darby also know that good bites can be had up shallow too. A mix of both might be the real winning recipe.

“If I was fishing in this event, I would start my day running the bank, and after the sun got up I’d have a milk run of brush piles to hit,” Darby says. “I really do think whoever wins will fish shallow and deep throughout the tournament.”

Suggs agrees.

“There are fish to be caught both ways,” he says. “I think the winner will know when to go shallow and when to go deep. There are certain conditions that make each approach better, and whoever can adjust day to day and be the most versatile will win.”

Tags: kyle-wood  pre-tournament  2018-08-10-forrest-wood-cup- 

The BFL Returns on May 30

The BFL Returns on May 30

After a nearly two-and-a-half-month hiatus from fishing tournaments, FLW is excited to get back to business with the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League season. The action kicks off again on May 30 with the Volunteer Division on South Holston. From there, the BFL season will waste no time getting back in the swing of things with a full slate of tournaments scheduled nearly every weekend from the beginning of June through October. READ MORE »

Pickwick Will Produce in a Big Way

Pickwick Will Produce in a Big Way

The second stop of the Toyota Series Central Division ought to be a really good one. Set for Pickwick Lake in late May, the offshore bite ought to be in full swing, with plenty of shallow fish as well. READ MORE »

Pros’ Favorite Shad Spawn Baits

Pros’ Favorite Shad Spawn Baits

With the bass spawn winding down across the South, it’s time to capitalize on the shad-spawn bite. Shad spawn patterns usually don’t last long into the day, but fishing the shad spawn can be a fantastic way to catch a pile of fish and some big ones to boot. READ MORE »

Mark Rose’s Greatest Hits

Mark Rose’s Greatest Hits

FLW is looking forward to getting back on the water once it’s safe to come together and fish tournaments again. In the meantime, we’ll be offering a little retrospective on some of the all-time greats who’ve fished with FLW through the years. This time around we’re shining the spotlight on Mark Rose. From his Angler of the Year title to winning multiple FLW Tour events and even joining the bass-fishing millionaire club, it’s easy to see why the Arkansas pro is one of the best to have ever fished with FLW. READ MORE »

FLW’s Top April Moments

FLW’s Top April Moments

From 1995 to 2019, FLW held nearly 580 tournaments in April across all levels of competition. With so many tournament memories to sort through – from wins to tournament firsts and cool fish catches – here are a handful of the most memorable things to happen over the years in the month of April. READ MORE »

Canada Back on Track

Canada Back on Track

Among the many new anglers climbing the ranks of professional bass fishing nowadays is Alabama’s Jon Canada. At 40 years old, Canada might be a little older than some of his fellow “new faces” in the sport, and he’s not really all that new, considering he’s been tournament fishing for nearly half of his life. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that Canada qualified to fish the FLW Tour and compete at the pro level. READ MORE »

FLW Live Schedule for Lake Martin

FLW Live Schedule for Lake Martin

The Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit's third stop goes down this week at Lake Martin in Alexander City, Ala. Here's how you can watch the action live. READ MORE »

Practice Report: Lake Martin

Practice Report: Lake Martin

March in Alabama can be boom or bust in terms of weather, but luckily this week’s forecast calls for mostly gorgeous springtime weather for the third stop of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit at Lake Martin. READ MORE »

Lake Havasu Midday Update – Day 3

Lake Havasu Midday Update – Day 3

It was another slow morning on Lake Havasu at the Toyota Series Western Division opener. Though, that was to be expected. Most of the top 10 pros have had their best luck in the middle of the day and early afternoon. Mornings have been tough. READ MORE »

Bank Battle Set for Lake of the Ozarks

Bank Battle Set for Lake of the Ozarks

When it comes to prespawn in the Ozarks, there may not be a better place to catch a giant bag of bass in the spring than on Lake of the Ozarks. And though the weather has been a little up and down over the last several weeks, things are setting up for a solid start to the Toyota Series Plains Division season March 26-28. READ MORE »

An Okeechobee Slugfest Could Happen

An Okeechobee Slugfest Could Happen

Pre-tournament optimism can be hard to find, but this year, if the weather holds, the fishing might be really good for the Toyota Series Southern Division event on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

College Open Prize Pool Bigger than Ever

College Open Prize Pool Bigger than Ever

The annual Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open returns to Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in mid-March for the sixth consecutive season. This time around, however, the stakes are even higher, as teams compete for a brand-new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat, 20 spots in the 2021 National Championship and 20 spots in the all-new Major League Fishing College Faceoff presented by Wiley X in Raleigh, N.C., later this spring. READ MORE »

Volunteer Division Starts on Douglas

Volunteer Division Starts on Douglas

The kickoff event of the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Volunteer Division takes place on Douglas Lake on March 7. One of the most scenic lakes in the country, Douglas promises some good prespawn fishing. READ MORE »

Red-Hot Spawn Bite Expected at Havasu

Red-Hot Spawn Bite Expected at Havasu

Spawning bass and spring break will be the story lines at the Toyota Series Western Division opener at Lake Havasu in mid-March. Well, OK … the spawning bass will certainly be the main focus of the anglers. But dealing with traffic from pleasure boaters will definitely contribute to the pros’ decision-making, particularly on the weekend.  READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from the Harris Chain

Top 10 Patterns from the Harris Chain

In past FLW events on the chain, the grass was best in Griffin and Harris, but this time Dora, Beauclair, Eustis and Harris provided most of the top bags. Targeting hydrilla, eelgrass and hard spots, prespawn and postspawn fish were the focus for the vast majority of the top schools. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from the Harris Chain

Top 10 Baits from the Harris Chain

Between cold fronts and pressure, the Harris Chain has been a tough nut to crack, yet the top teams in the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship presented by Lowrance got it done with a combination of plastic and hard baits. Certainly, the teams learned a thing or two from the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event held the week prior on the chain, but you still can never go wrong with a Texas-rigged worm, vibrating jig or lipless crankbait in Florida. READ MORE »

SFA Wins National Championship

SFA Wins National Championship

After an exciting final weigh-in, the Stephen F. Austin team of Hank Harrison and Ethan LeGare were crowned champions of the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship presented by Lowrance on the Harris Chain. Due to an inadvertent violation of Rule 12, the leading McKendree University team of Nathan Doty and Jacob Louis had their final-day weight disqualified. Weighing the biggest bag of the day at 20 pounds, 8 ounces, Harrison and LeGare totaled 56-5 to win. READ MORE »

McKendree Cruises Ahead on Harris

McKendree Cruises Ahead on Harris

After two days on the Harris Chain for the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship presented by Lowrance, McKendree University’s Nathan Doty and Jacob Louis backed up their 22-pound, 10-ounce performance from day one with another 20-2 today to take the lead. READ MORE »

Sam Houston Leads with 24-11

Sam Houston Leads with 24-11

Day one of the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship presented by Lowrance on the Harris Chain certainly didn’t disappoint. The consensus from many of the teams during practice was that the chain was fishing tough, yet would kick up some solid bags on Tuesday. With 10 bags over 18 pounds and six over 20, it’s safe to say the Harris Chain is living up to it’s potential. READ MORE »

College Championship Kicks Off on Harris

College Championship Kicks Off on Harris

Championship week for any sport is as exciting as it gets and it’s no different for the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship presented by Lowrance this week on the Harris Chain. Competing for a $30,000 prize package, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower outboard, 162 college bass fishing clubs will have free range of the chain to vie for the title. READ MORE »