It would have been easy for Scott Martin to listen. At blast-off, in the bag line, onstage, all the talk was about the topwater bite. Wolfpacks were roaming the shallows, competitors were losing 4- and 5-pound fish in inches of water and most of the Top 10 were fishing skinny.

Not Martin. He whacked a 19-pound opening-day bag at Arkansas' Lake Ouachita

and led by a few ounces. He stumbled on day 2 with 11 1/2 pounds while his co-angler hauled in 18 and posted one of the strongest catches in either division across the 4 days.

But Martin never wavered. He returned and attacked the deep bite the next 2 days and won the Forrest Wood Cup by a 4-plus-pound margin.

There was no doubt his bite had started to dwindle. He saw less and less bait and felt his fish were slowly moving toward the bank to feast on bedding bream. But those shallow fish were ultimately pressured and shared by too many competitors, and Martin's decision to stay deep was the right one.

Here's an in-depth look at how Martin practiced and fished to win the Forrest Wood Cup.


Martin spent time as a youth on Ouachita – waterskiing and fishing bluegills, he said. His mother used to guide here and his grandmother was baptized in the Ouachita River.

He slipped over for a few days of pre-practice immediately following the Pickwick FLW Tour Major. He "caught them pretty good," he said, and was excited about the deep bite.

When he arrived for official practice, his immediate goal was to develop that deep bite, so he began to ride the lake in search of bait. He crossed a nondescript area on plane and the screen lit up with bait, he said.

"There were giant clouds on my Garmin for maybe 30 yards. I turned around and idled back through it and saw the bait again, with solid marks under it. I made 10 casts around in there and caught three nice fish – probably 3-pounders. I got right out of there and planned to come back in the tournament. At that point I wasn't thinking of starting there. I didn't realize how good of a spot it was."

Throughout the rest of practice, he marked and logged deep main-lake brushpiles on points, then returned to his hotspot the third practice day to check it again. He bent his hooks in and shook off three swimbait fish. That's when he knew he'd start there.


> Day 1: 5, 19-02
> Day 2: 5, 11-09
> Day 3: 5, 16-01
> Day 4: 5, 14-05
> Total = 20, 61-01

Martin started at his hotspot, caught 19 pounds by about 9:00 and knew he had his primary area. He left it and scouted much of the rest of the day.

Notable about day 1 was it marked the break of a long and brutal heatwave. The day was cloudy and moist with some wind and temperatures struggled to stretch out of the 80s. It was a perfect day for the swimbait and that's what they ate.

Day 2 was the complete opposite. It was post-frontal with high skies and still winds. Martin switched to plastics – a big worm and dropshot - and struggled to boat 11 1/2 pounds. He caught most of his fish on the dropshot. His co-angler, meanwhile, roped an 18-pound limit fishing behind him, which is one of the dangers when fishing deep. The bank-runners weren't necessarily threatened by co-angling, due to boat position, but Martin was fully exposed.

Day 3 delivered different conditions again – this time similar to day 1. Martin threw the swimbait in his primary area, ran deep brush with multiple presentations and weighed a stout 16-pound bag to regain the tournament lead.

On the final day, Martin's primary area was clearly dwindling. He had about 12 pounds and on a whim, turned in to briefly try a topwater. He only had one topwater in his boat – an old bait with rusted hooks, he said. It caught him a 3-pounder, which gave him 2 pounds on the cull. It was at that point when he finally thought he may have won, because his closest competitors would now need to catch 18 pounds.

According to Martin, his main area was a trough within a flat that was peppered with brush.

Winning Pattern Notes

Following are some detailed quotes from Martin about his main area, his secondary brush pattern and his overall strategy.

  • "My main area was on what I'd call a nothing bank. It didn't look good on the map. If I ever told you to open a map of Ouachita and go fish, you'd never pick this spot. It just makes me think, How many times are there mega-bags of fish where they shouldn't be?"

  • "That main area was the neck-down of a trough out on a flat with some islands around. The way the wind had been blowing all through practice, it was really pounding the bait into that bank and that trough was a little bit of a funnel. It came from a good 35 or 40 feet of water and kind of petered out in 8 or 10 feet. I fished about 20 to 27 feet."

  • "When I slowed down on day 2 and really started fishing around in there, I found it had a lot more brush than I ever realized."

  • "I didn't notice any boats idling around out there, like you would at Kentucky or Pickwick, where it looks like a big circus. I never saw anybody slow down and graph and that gave me the confidence that I wouldn't have pressure on my stuff that was out deep. I knew I may not get as many bites as I would shallow, but I decided to roll the dice and stay out deep."

  • "The bigger shad were out there and that was key. You could find schools of smaller shad by running around, but these were the big 3- and 4-inch shad. They were the same size as the swimbait I was throwing."

  • "The area did have enough cover to hold fish there, like they were residents. I started noticing on day 2 that the bait was going away, and on the morning of day 3 I didn't see a lot of bait at all. I think the bass were starting to leave and go to the bank to feed on bluegill."

  • "My secondary stuff was all main-lake brushpiles on points and swings from 20 to 28 feet deep. Again, there had to be bait nearby. I had probably 30 brushpiles that had fish in them, but the brushpile bite was definitely dying off as the moon got fuller."

  • "My 10-pound line was the perfect size – it kept the swimbait just above the cover but didn't lift it up out of the strike zone. The fish were suspended sometimes 5 feet off bottom."

    BassFan Store
    Photo: BassFan Store

    Martin credited 10-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon – he said the diameter's thinner than other 10-pound fluorocarbons and was the perfect match for the depth he was fishing the swimbait.

    Winning Gear Notes

    Martin threw two different swimbaits – a Gary Yamamoto swimbait and an unnamed hollow belly-style swimbait.

    > Yamamoto gear: 7'6" medium-action Kistler custom Z-Bone rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier casting reel, 10-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon, ½-ounce Sworming Hornet Fish Head Spin (white), Gary Yamamoto 3 1/2" swimbait (blue-pearl/silver-flake).

    > Hollow belly-style gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Kistler Z-Bone rod, Revo Premier casting reel, 10-pound InvizX fluorocarbon, 7/16-ounce wedge-style jighead, unnamed hollow belly-style swimbait (shad).

    > Big worm gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Kistler Z-Bone rod, Revo Premier casting reel, 10-pound InvizX fluorocarbon, 3/8-ounce Eagle Claw tungsten weight, 5/0 Lazer Trokar TK130 straight-shank hook, glass bead (red), 10" unnamed ribbontail worm (plum).

    > Dropshot gear: 7' medium-action Kistler Z-Bone rod, Shimano Stradic CI4 spinning reel, 10-pound Spiderwire UltraCast FluoroBraid, 8-pound InvizX fluorocarbon leader, 1/0 Trokar TK130 hook, 5/16-ounce tungsten dropshot weight, 4" Roboworm (morning dawn) and unnamed finesse worm (watermelon-candy).

    The Bottom Line

  • Main factor in his success – "My confidence level. I've been in this sport a long time and watched my dad win so many tournaments. I've been fortunate enough to win some over my career. Every time I look back, it was confidence. When you grasp that and get a hold of it and take ownership and decide you're going to do something good in a tournament, things work out more times than not. So really, for me, my focus and my confidence level was at an all-time high this week. That was a big part of my success."

  • Performance edge – "It was definitely my Garmin GPS and graph. I'll tell you, I've never broken a unit. The unit I used is 6 or 7 years old now and I've won $1 million on it. Everyone knows Garmin has the most accurate GPS on the planet – it's incredibly precise – and when you're fishing isolated stuff and trying to make precise casts with that swimbait, having that Garmin on the front of the boat with an internal antenna was absolutely critical. It's a very fluid unit and allowed me to make more casts directly in the strike zone than if I had used something else. And like I said, they never break, ever."

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