Pundits’ Cup: Lake Ouachita - Major League Fishing
Pundits’ Cup: Lake Ouachita
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Pundits’ Cup: Lake Ouachita

Simmons wins regular-season bragging rights, leads top six into finals
Image for Pundits’ Cup: Lake Ouachita
FLW Outdoors presents Pundits' Picks
July 30, 2007 • MLF • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

Welcome to the final round of 2007 Pundits’ Picks. Like the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, the pundits’ regular season is done, the field has been cut in half, and the top six Cup qualifiers are left to pick the final showdown at Lake Ouachita. Top score from this one wins the coveted 2007 POY title. (That’s Pundit of the Year, for the uninitiated. And, unlike other coveted titles in fishing, this one will not be worth a million dollars to its winner. Maybe closer to 37 cents, all told, but the bragging rights alone are priceless.)

For the record, rookie Jennifer Simmons led all pundits in the six-event regular season with a 5-1 record and 4,266 points. Veteran Gary Mortenson was close behind at 5-1 and 4,232. Both of them picked from the Staff Division.

The top pundit from the Pro Division was Clark Wendlandt with a 3-3 record and 4,361 points. The only other pro to make the Pundits’ Cup was David Dudley at 3-3 and 4,349.

Here’s how the final standings stood at the end of the season (the top six pundits, in bold, qualified for the Pundits’ Cup):

Jennifer Simmons: 5-1, 4,266

Gary Mortenson: 5-1, 4,232

Rob Newell: 4-2, 4,276

Clark Wendlandt: 3-3, 4,361

David Dudley: 3-3, 4,349

Brett Carlson: 3-3, 4,142

Carl Svebek: 3-3, 3,986

Randy Blaukat: 3-3, 3,651

Patrick Baker: 2-4, 4,282

Jeff Schroeder: 2-4, 4,136

Art Berry: 2-4, 3,952

Dave Lefebre: 1-5, 3,908

Tournament site

Lake Ouachita is shaping up to be one tough customer this week. The height of summer has brought a normally decent bass bite to its knees, driving most of the fish into suspension and into the deep grass in the clear mountain impoundment. So it will be a struggle for some Cup pros to catch just a couple 2-pounders a day. Still, there are big bass to be had in Ouachita, as 20-pound sacks are not uncommon at other times of the year. To that end, it would appear that anglers with a little old-fashioned Ouachita experience should be able to track down the odd big fish here and there, so it’s no surprise that the Arkansas locals are being played up as heavy favorites here. There’s not a whole lot of FLW Tour history to go on with this lake, save the 2002 tour stop won by Wesley Strader here in 2002. However, that event was held in February, and it was a completely different fishery in various ways back then. So cross-referencing the top guys from that tourney with this week’s tournament field might not exactly be the best method for coming up with your picks. Keep in mind that there are also a lot of lesser-known pros fishing this one, and it will be exciting to see which one or two of the qualifiers from the Stren Series, Ranger Owners Tour or The Bass Federation decide to make a splash at this one. Besides, this is the Forrest Wood Cup and all of these guys are top-flight anglers. That, combined with the notion of fishing for a cool million dollars – the sport’s biggest payout ever – has a tendency to level the field substantially.


Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop No. 7

Forrest Wood Cup

Lake Ouachita, Hot Springs, Ark.

Aug. 2-5

FLW write Jennifer Simmons Jennifer Simmons

Record: 5-1
Points: 4,266

1) SHINICHI FUKAE.Don’t kick a gift horse in the mouth. Fukae has been my solid pick all year and I see no reason why I should get off this train. Also, I am starting to become convinced there is no lake too big, too small or too tough for Shin to master. He’s the man, and he may soon be a millionaire.
2) MARK DAVIS.I count myself among the large number of people who have a great deal of respect for this Arkansas pro, and I know that he is heavily favored to win. I hope he does well and earns me some pundit points and himself some big bucks, though I admit I will be disappointed if I don’t get to see one of the Ranger guys win a million. Therefore, he’s my No. 2, not my No. 1, choice.
3) DAVE LEFEBRE.Like Fukae, this is another guy who stands to win a million, and he’s one of the guys I’d most like to see get it. He’s an awesome fisherman, a great ambassador for the sport, and he handed me my most enjoyable pundit victory during the regular season. Besides all that, I hear that he knows how to fish that deep grass found in Lake Ouachita. I predict a good finish for the Keebler Kid.
4) BUD PRUITT.My secret pundit weapon has informed me that Lake Ouachita is deep and favored by guys who know how to drop-fish the deep grass like they do in Texas. This secret weapon told me to watch out for Pruitt here. This is my stick-my-neck-out pick because I don’t really know this guy, but I do know my secret weapon, and he’s right about this stuff quite a bit.
5) LARRY NIXON.He really wanted to win the last time the Forrest Wood Cup was in Hot Springs, although that was on a different lake. Not that Nixon would ever need a confidence boost, but if he did, he probably got it when he won on Lake Norman a few months back. It would be cool to see The General take that momentum and translate it into a big victory, though like Davis and Pruitt he is unfortunately not gunning for a million.
Gary Mortenson

Record: 5-1
Points: 4,232

FLW writer Gary Mortenson
1) LARRY NIXON.Despite the fact that we’ve had young guns walk away with bass fishing’s top prize in two of the past three years (Luke Clausen in 2004 and Brent Ehrler in 2006), I’m going old school for the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup. And it doesn’t get any more old school than Nixon. Nixon – who finished 11th at the Lake Hamilton championship in 2005 and is once again fishing on his home turf – should be able to take a page out of George Cochran’s handbook and ensure that a veteran is once again back atop the winner’s podium in `07.
2) DAVID DUDLEY.When it comes to fishing big-money tournaments, there is arguably nobody better at handling the pressure than Dudley. To be sure, the Manteo Machine has been fishing well in `07 and already has a 16th-place finish (2002) at Lake Ouachita on his resume. But more importantly, Dudley is that rare breed of angler who isn’t afraid to pull out all the stops during crunch time. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dudley arrive at the marina with his boat loaded down with a custom-made chainsaw, pulley, ropes, vice grips, duct tape, a Magic-8 Ball, WD-40 and anything else imaginable that will guarantee him passage into every nook and cranny on Ouachita. Now, if that’s not determination, I don’t know what is.
3) MARK ROSE.A resident of Marion, Ark., Rose has been salivating over the prospects of qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita for the better part of two years now. During the last FLW Tour stop here in 2002, Rose turned in a fifth-place performance, so he knows what needs to be done. And assuming he doesn’t fold under the pressure of fishing on his hometown lake, Rose has all the goods to make a strong run at the Cup title.
4) SHINICHI FUKAE.As pointed out on numerous occasions, Fukae heads into each and every tournament better-prepared than 99 percent of the field. And because Fukae qualified for the Cup in 2006 as a result of his strong finish in the FLW Series, he’s had more than ample time to scope out Ouachita in detail. In fact, it’s my guess that Fukae’s handwritten notebooks, multiple GPS units and cerebral cortex are brimming over with more relevant data points than a NASA supercomputer. And that, my friends, makes Fukae more dangerous than ever.
5) JAY YELAS.The 2007 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Angler of the Year really needs no introduction but obviously, the new Oregonian is on quite a roll right now. In short, Yelas is a wily veteran who won’t wilt under pressure, he can catch fish in the toughest fishing conditions (which could easily materialize), and he’s got plenty of experience on Lake Ouachita, to boot. Could Yelas be the first angler to capture the AOY and championship crown in one season? Stay tuned.
FLW writer Rob Newell Rob Newell
Contributing editor
FLW Outdoors

Record: 4-2
Points: 4,276

1) MARK DAVIS.Davis has probably logged more hours on Ouachita than the rest of the field combined, so there’s no explanation needed here.
2) GEORGE COCHRAN.“Deep, deep, deep” is the pre-tournament talk for Ouachita. It kind of reminds me of when the Forrest Wood Cup went to Lake Hamilton and deep was the pre-tournament prediction, but Cochran won it shallow, shallow, shallow. Plus, Cochran is a championship event performer. He closes the deal in the big ones.
3) CLARK WENDLANDT.Wendlandt has a great deal of deep grass flipping expertise locked away in the recesses of his fishing brain from his early days in Texas. If there is a deep grass bite on Ouachita, he should dial it in. Plus, I’m pretty sure he agreed to give me 15 percent of the million if he won, so I can’t really bet against him.
4) SCOTT SUGGS.Suggs knows a great deal about Ouachita, as well.
5) RAY SCHEIDE.I’ve got a feeling Scheide’s going to rock in Hot Springs.
Clark Wendlandt
FLW pro
Cedar Park, Texas

Record: 3-3
Points: 4,361

FLW pro Clark Wendlandt
1) JIM TUTT.Jim is from East Texas and knows how to fish deep grass. My fellow Kellogg’s pro will be tough to beat at Ouachita.
2) BUD PRUITT.Bud also has East Texas ties. I have fished against Bud for 20 years on all of those grass lakes out there; I know he will do well this week.
3) JAY YELAS.Jay might have just moved to Oregon, but he used to live at Sam Rayburn. He also has momentum from his Angler of the Year win. He has a great history of winning big tournaments.
4) MARK DAVIS.This is one pick that everyone else will probably have. Mark is undeniably one of the top three fishermen in the country. He has won AOY titles and the Classic. It is his home lake and a tough time of year. We will all be looking at the leaderboard to see what Mark has in his bag.
5) CLARK WENDLANDT.I haven’t been picking myself lately, but this is the championship and I really want to win. I can’t pick myself to win, though, because it’s too much pressure. That said, I’ll only be happy with first.
FLW pro David Dudley David Dudley
FLW pro
Lynchburg, Va.

Record: 3-3
Points: 4,349

1) DAVID DUDLEY.I’ve had a top-20 here before, and I’ve been working hard. Plus, there’s big money on the line.
2) MARK DAVIS.A no-brainer pick. A man who’s watched every tree grow up around the lake is sure to do well on Lake Ouachita, not to mention that he was a guide on this lake for countless years.
3) SCOTT SUGGS.He’s funny every time I talk to him. Suggs has also has seen the trees grow up around the lake and will have enough of them set out in the lake to make the top 10 in the end.
4) SHINICHI FUKAE.This being a slow-paced tournament, I think Shin and his slow, methodical process will be able to talk enough bass into his boat to the make the top 10.
5) GEORGE COCHRAN.This is George’s home water, too, and he will have a mixed arsenal of shallow and deep fish to finish in the top 10.
Brett Carlson

Record: 3-3
Points: 4,142

FLW editor Brett Carlson
1) MARK DAVIS.With $2 million on the line, the Forrest Wood Cup is no time to mess around with sleepers. Davis lives on the lake and, other than his buddy Yelas, no one has had a better 2007 season. I expect to see that big Cheshire cat smile once again from the Mount Ida, Ark., pro who has spent half his stage time this year talking up this event.
2) JAY YELAS.I’m pretty much assuming Yelas knows everything Davis knows about the largest lake in Arkansas, which is a lot. All Yelas has to do now is catch them, something he did all season en route to his second AOY title. Will the swimbait work on Ouachita? Stay tuned.
3) RAY SCHEIDE.Scheide came painfully close to winning a half-million last year on Logan Martin, and this tournament is only two hours away from his Russellville, Ark., home. Take away the smallmouth fest in Detroit (there are very few brown fish in Ouachita), and Scheide has made the cutoff in his last two FLW Tour tournaments.
4) RON SHUFFIELD.Other than Davis, perhaps no one is looking forward to the Cup as much as Shuffield, another high-profile local. Plus, the seven-time BASS winner is probably sick of hearing how well his son Spencer is doing from the back of the boat. Maybe it is time for Dad to show the young one a few tricks.
5) ANTHONY GAGLIARDI.This last pick was tough for me. I tossed around Nixon, Fukae and Wendlandt before finally settling on the 2006 Angler of the Year. I don’t have much to go on other than a fifth-place finish on Lake Hamilton in 2005. One of the best in the game, the Folgers pro will finish off a quiet, yet successful 2007 season with his first top-10 finish of the season.


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