Stetson Blaylock loves Lake Ouachita and the Forrest Wood Cup.
Living a mere hour from the Arkansas fishery, he considers it his home body of water. He has fished it a lot and knows it well. There might not be a more beautiful lake in the country to him, nor one with more prime habitat. Grass, standing timber, ledges, loads of baitfish – the lake is exactly what most would want if designing a bass fishery.
Meanwhile, the Forrest Wood Cup is the reason Blaylock fishes every season. It’s the tournament, and the one he wants to win more than any other to solidify his career. Only a select few ever get the chance to hold the Cup, and he knows that doing so means that angler earned it more than in any other tournament.
“It [winning the Cup] is life-changing,” says Blaylock. “For me to get to hold that trophy over my head, I wouldn’t say I’d quit the sport, but I’d be satisfied with my career no matter what else happened. It’s pretty special.”
Then again, Stetson Blaylock hates Lake Ouachita and the Forrest Wood Cup.
Blaylock says Ouachita is the “trickiest” lake in the country. Even when he’s felt like he was on a solid pattern he’s had his teeth kicked in more times than he’d like to admit by the fishery. There is a ton of baitfish for the bass to eat instead of lures. At the Cup, the water temperature will likely be in the mid-90s. And right now bass are scattered everywhere from a foot to 30 feet deep in all of that cover and structure.
“It’s a tough lake, and we’re going there at the toughest time,” Blaylock admits. “If you don’t have your ‘A game’ on that lake it’s going to beat you.”
Blaylock was just happy to be there when he got his initial shot at the Cup. In recent years, he’s focused more on winning it. He’s even fished two Cups on Ouachita – as a co-angler in 2007 and as a pro in 2011. In five Cup appearances as a pro, however, his best finish was 27th place last season on Lake Murray.
“It’s not just the pressure,” says Blaylock. “It’s just the Cup. You fish differently because you know you only have one shot every year. And I have struck out every time.”
All of this has and will be going through his mind when he makes another run at Ouachita and the Cup. While someone with as much experience on the lake as Blaylock might opt not to pre-fish, Blaylock has done quite the opposite, knowing full well that Ouachita doesn’t offer much in terms of a local advantage. It’s too fickle a fishery.
Instead, he spent as much time as possible fishing and pre-practicing before the off-limits period began on Aug. 3. He’s pre-practiced with a single goal in mind: Find the one thing that will set him apart.
“It’s going to come down to the guy who figures out that one little deal no one else does,” Blaylock says. “That’s what I love about that lake – trying to figure out that one thing. It’s the perfect place for a championship, and I’m ready to hold up that trophy.”