On day one, Knight used a black 1/4-ounce Boogerman buzzbait to pluck the unpressured “low hanging fruit” from the area and sack up 14 pounds, 4 ounces to start the event in fifth place.
“The first day was easy pickings,” Knight says. “The fish were green and unpressured and pretty easy to catch.”
On the second day, the fishing started to get a little tougher, mainly because fishing pressure and boat traffic had begun to impact the area. Not only had Knight found the fish in the back of Big Blakely, but so had Mark Daniels Jr. and Brandon Cobb, and they were catching plenty of fish, too. Daniels opened the event in ninth, and Cobb in third.
With spectators and media out in full force on day two, the fragile area became even smaller.
“Once the easy ones had been caught, things tightened up in there pretty quickly,” Knight says. “I knew the meat and potatoes lures were not going to work anymore.”
With that in mind, Knight dug into his bag of tricks from another one of his home lakes: Old Hickory.
“On Old Hickory, the bottom is so silted that bass get conditioned to traditional lures that sort of punch into the silt and disappear into the bottom,” he says. “So we pitch a drop-shot on even the shallowest targets there. Instead of disappearing into the muck, that worm just suspends there right next to the object, giving the bass a different look. And that’s exactly what I did here. I caught a lot of my fish off logs and root wads that were as shallow as 2 feet on a drop-shot.”
Another key component to Knight’s success in the back of Big Blakely was marking waypoints on underwater targets as he fished.
“As the sun got higher those first two days, I would discover submerged logs, brush and especially root wads that I couldn’t see until I got right over them,” he details. “I would mark those objects on GPS so the next time through I could cast to them before getting on top of them, and that made a huge difference as the tournament went on. I basically added another 12 to 15 targets to my area that way, and some key fish came off those submerged pieces of wood.”
Though fishing pressure seemed to be the one thing that might sink Knight’s chances at winning the Cup, the fish replenished enough each day for him and his nearby competitors.
On days two and three he weighed in 14 pounds and 12 pounds, 1 ounce, respectively, putting him in second place going into the final day – 12 ounces behind Jacob Wheeler.
“It was pretty amazing how I could fish a piece a wood, catch one off it, come back an hour later and catch another off it,” he says. “All week long I kept fishing the same targets over and over, and they kept producing.
“I really don’t know why that is, either,” he continues. “I don’t know if the falling water pulls them to those places. I don’t know if there is a school of them living on each log. I don’t know if every time I catch one, another one moves up there. All I know is they kept replenishing on those same targets.”
Knight wrapped up his week with a final-round effort of 11 pounds, 7 ounces for a four-day total of 51 pounds, 12 ounces. He won by nearly 4 pounds.
“I’m physically and emotionally drained out,” Knight adds. “I’m sure I’ll sleep good tonight and maybe even have some more good dreams.”
Here are the Top 10 Baits.
1. Brad Knight used a few lures throughout the week, but his bread and butter was a 6-inch straight-tail worm on a drop-shot.
3. It was his first time in the Forrest Wood Cup, but that didn’t stop Brandon Cobb from taking full advantage. Cobb threw a Zoom Horny Toad alone and on a buzzbait a lot, but he also caught fish on Lucky Craft Gunfish and Sammy topwaters.
4. Jacob Wheeler nearly became the first to win the Forrest Wood Cup twice before falling just short on the final day. The Indy pro used a Storm Arashi Top Walker and an under-spin with a Keitech swimbait for schoolers. For his shallow fish, Wheeler mixed the Top Walker with a Reaction Innovations Vixen and a buzzbait.
5. Scott Martin was also hunting a second Cup at Ouachita with a program very similar to Wheeler’s. Martin used a Fish Head Spin with a 3-inch Tightlines UV swimbait for schoolers, a River2Sea Rover for shallow bass and a Strike King 6XD for some oddballs up the river.
6. Bryan Thrift is convinced he’s never going to win the Cup, but he’s come awfully close in recent years. This time around, Thrift targeted schooling fish with a Damiki Backdrop spoon and deep fish with a Damiki DC 300 crankbait. He caught the majority of his weight around brush on the final day with a Texas-rigged Damiki Sneak grub.
7. Veteran pro Larry Nixon mixed things up all week. He did some of his damage with a worm and a Yamamoto Pro Senko in a deeper grass bed, some with a creature bait that he flipped in grass and some with a Popper on the final day.
9. Capping his season on Circuit Breaker in grand style, Mark Daniels Jr. relied on a drop-shot Roboworm for most of his tournament catch.
10. Carolina pro Chris Baumgardner worked a Hawg Caller spinnerbait and a Z-Man ChatterBait for fish keying on wood and mixed in a buzzbait rigged with a white or bubblegum Zoom Horny Toad for bank-oriented bass.