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.
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).
> 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
Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here.