For the last decade, Brad Knight has had the same recurring dream at night. Although the dream has varying versions, scopes and backdrops, the theme is always the same: He is in contention to win a big bass tournament.
“It’s not so much that I win the tournament or that I catch a big bass or anything like that,” he said Saturday afternoon. “It’s more that I’m in contention to win. I’m in a good position, I feel good about what I’m doing and I know exactly how I’m going to catch them. It’s not a nervousness but an anticipation – a good anticipation …”
And then he wakes up to his normal life as a part-time manager of Wartburg Pharmacy in Wartburg, Tenn., and all the intense feelings of anticipation are chased into the shadows by reality.
Knight again experienced that same dream on Saturday night. Except this time when he awoke, it was reality: He really was in contention to win a big tournament, the biggest of its kind – the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup.
“When I woke up, the first thing I said was, ‘If I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me up. I want to know how this ends,’” he added.
On Sunday afternoon, Knight stood before a packed house in the Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs, Ark., hoisting a Forrest Wood Cup over his head. He now knows how his dream ends.
“I’ve dreamed about this moment for 15 years,” Knight said on stage. “And if I’m dreaming now, please don’t wake me up.”
Knight’s dream manifested into reality on Lake Ouachita in the very back end of Big Blakely Creek. For four days he seined a 250-yard stretch of creek ditch that snaked out of the woods and through a vast, shallow flat. As the small creek channel meandered through the flat, it brushed up against the bank in several areas, creating classic channel-swing banks that were sweetened with laydowns, logs and pieces of brush. The bottom of the creek ditch was about 8 feet deep, and the shallow flats around it were 2 to 3 feet deep.
Knight started the tournament in Big Blakely Creek because it reminded him of the creek ends on his home lake, Watts Bar, and it’s the place where he got the most bites in practice.
“I just felt comfortable in there,” he says. “It looked like one of those typical deals back home where resident bass live but don’t get fished for all summer because everyone is fishing deep.”
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.”
Knight’s shallow-shotting rig consisted of a 6-inch straight-tail worm on a straight-shank hook fished on a 10-pound-test Gamma fluorocarbon leader tied to 10-pound-test Gamma Torque braid.
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.”
For more information about Brad Knight, visit his angler profile page.
Top 10 Pros
1. Brad Knight – Lancing, Tenn. – 51-12 (20)
2. Ramie Colson Jr. – Cadiz, Ky. – 47-13 (18)
3. Brandon Cobb – Greenwood, S.C. – 47-11 (20)
4. Jacob Wheeler – Indianapolis, Ind. – 45-13 (18)
5. Scott Martin – Clewiston, Fla. – 45-4 (18)
6. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 45-0 (20)
7. Larry Nixon – Bee Branch, Ark. – 44-10 (18)
8. Zack Birge – Blanchard, Okla. – 43-11 (20)
9. Mark Daniels Jr. – Tuskegee, Ala. – 37-12 (19)
10. Chris Baumgardner – Gastonia, N.C. – 37-9 (16)