The Challenge of Winning Twice - Major League Fishing

The Challenge of Winning Twice

Will this be the year someone hoists the Cup for the second time?
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Jacob Wheeler Photo by Gary Mortenson.
August 3, 2016 • Jody White • Archives

“Winning just one, everything has to go just right. You have to have the best fishing day of your life and then back it up with three more great days. It’s tough, especially with all the media, lights and glamour. It’s bound to happen, though. I’m shocked it hasn’t happened yet.”

Jacob Wheeler made that statement back before the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray. He was talking about how nobody has managed to win the Cup twice. Since then, Wheeler has finished in the top 10 at the Cup two more times and led going into the final day at Lake Ouachita last year. This is the 20th year the Forrest Wood Cup has been held, and in 19 tries, somehow nobody has managed to win it twice.

Since the first Cup in ’96, past champions have fished again 68 times. The biggest year was 2007 on Lake Ouachita, when eight former champs took a shot at another title, but Scott Suggs topped them all. This year, David Dudley, Brad Knight, Scott Martin, Darrel Robertson, Scott Suggs and Jacob Wheeler will all take another shot at becoming the first to hoist the trophy twice.

Can it be done?

With another chance at a double approaching, we called up a few pros – past champs and not – to get their thoughts on why it’s been so hard to win two and to find out whether or not they believe someone will do it this year.


Scott Suggs holds up his first-place check worth $1 million for winning the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita.

Scott Suggs (won in 2007)

It’s been incredible that the Classic got started with repeat winners pretty quickly. I guess Rick Clunn was the first and then Bobby Murray, and it’s happened several times over since then. And now for the Cup we’re going on 20 years without a repeat. I think it says so much about the competition and the technology. I think it used to be easier to repeat than it was before the graphs and the maps got so good, and these young anglers got in the game and learned to use that stuff so well.

“I think we could have it happen this year. If we were at another Tennessee River lake I’d say it would be dominated by the better ledge fishermen, but this place is going to fish so much smaller than a typical ledge tournament. I think it opens it up more for different techniques. I really like fishing Wheeler [Suggs has a pair of top-10 finishes there], and I may go over there and finish last place. I think it sets up really well for Jacob Wheeler’s and David Dudley’s style, and hopefully myself.


Brad Knight

Brad Knight (won in 2015)

It’s so hard to win in general, and there are so few people that have won, but I think it will happen eventually. I wouldn’t mind being the first one here at Wheeler. I can go ahead and tell you that. The competitor in me thinks I’m going to win every tournament I fish in, but realistically you look at the past results and the odds aren’t that good. These tournaments are fun to me because no matter what you get a paycheck. I could sit on the front deck and eat crackers and drink Coke all day and I’d still get paid. And there are no points involved or trying to get a good finish so your stats look better on the website. It’s all about going for the win.


Darrel Robertson, winner of the Ranger M1

Darrel Robertson (won in 1999)

Who’s going to win two? You’re talking to him. How about that? I’ve come about as close as anybody. I think I’ve got a fifth a second and a first. I tell you what I’d like to do; I’d like to get that second win or just finish third or fourth and call it quits.

I’m willing to say that David Dudley is probably the best fisherman of any of us that have fished in the championship. He hasn’t proven it this year, but he’s proven it in the past. If I had to place a bet on anyone besides myself to win a second it’d be him.


Scott Martin proudly displays his trophy after claiming victory at the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup.

Scott Martin (won in 2011)

You’ve got the best of the best each year, and it’s not the same group of people each time. The guys who can consistently qualify for a tournament like that, they always step up their game. There’s a lot more “will to win” in it than in any other tournament in the year.

The other thing is the summer. It’s such a challenging time to fish. Depending on where we are in the country, it can be tough to figure out a bite. So, no one guy with one skill set can dominate year over year.

For this one here, outside of myself, I like Jacob Wheeler, and I like Dudley. I like Wheeler’s chances a lot, just because of how the lake is setting up. I think if you can find something special you can run away with it.


Boom, new leader. Ramie Colson Jr. took control of the 2015 Cup on day two.

Ramie Colson Jr.

It’s a tough bout just to make the Cup, and it’s a little different each year as far as the lake. It’s hard to put it together in such a short time. Even though you do go pre-fish in these deals, it’s hard to duplicate it because we go to different locations each year. I think that’s the main reason. Last year it was in Arkansas, and the year before it was in South Carolina. For me last year, it was about the mindset. I just had to stay with one little deal, and I got close [second place], but I don’t think I could have gone back to the same thing this year and had it work. Patterns can be the same, but there’s always a little difference and change year to year.

Brad Knight would be a pretty good candidate this year if he doesn’t overthink it. He knows the conditions and the situations for finding areas where you can catch fish and be consistent. He’s sort of from that area, and he knows a lot about the Tennessee River system, and he’s got a lot of experience this time of the year. I think he’ll be there at the end. My second guess would be Dudley. Dudley is one of those people who don’t try to cover the whole field. He just fishes how he likes to fish and doesn’t get in too big a hurry.


Brian Latimer (24th, 28-3)

Brian Latimer

It’s hard not to mention the competition. I feel like there is always a new wave of good anglers getting into it. It’s a complex subject, but no matter how you go about it, I think it goes back to the competition and how stout the group of anglers is. The Cup is four days too, and shallow fishing for four days in the summertime is really hard. We always talk about going on the fly, but over four days it gets hard to fly with those resident fish.

There’s no doubt that Jacob Wheeler is the one to watch this year. He’s really good at picking off those single fish in the deep summer. And I’m sure Dudley will figure out how to catch some on a wacky rig or a shaky head too. Those are my top picks without even thinking of it.