Running miles in the heat is one way pro angler Greg Bohannan of Bentonville gets ready for a championship bass tournament.
Temperatures could reach triple digits at Lake Murray in South Carolina where Bohannan will compete with 52 other anglers in the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup, the championship of the FLW Tour. The tournament is Aug. 11-13 at the 50,000-acre reservoir near Columbia, S.C. The winner gets $300,000.
Bohannan has been running four miles a day in the middle of the afternoon so he’ll be ready to fish for hours in the August heat and humidity. This is the fifth time Bohannan has qualified for the FLW championship. He just wrapped up his 10th year competing on the FLW Tour. FLW stands for Fishing League Worldwide.
Qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup is Bohannan’s top goal when an FLW season starts, usually in January. That wasn’t a concern this year. He’d already qualified by finishing fourth in the Costa Series Championship in November 2016 at Table Rock Lake. The strong finish came with an automatic berth in the Forrest Wood Cup.
Catching bass at Lake Murray may be as challenging as fishing in the heat.
“The water is clear. It’s August and it’ll be hard to get many bites,” Bohannan said.
Forrest Wood Cup contestants get a four-day practice period before competition starts on Aug. 11.
He’ll prepare the same for the championship as he does for regular season FLW events.
“The difference is I have to be physically ready to be in the heat for several days straight,” he said. To figure out how to catch bass, he’ll work the water at all depths.
“I’ll start shallow with a buzz bait and a square-bill crank bait, then go deeper with a lure like a jig and pig,” Bohannan said.
Lake Murray is like a big version of Loch Lomond reservoir in Bella Vista, he said. There are a lot of docks, grassy shorelines and underwater vegetation.
While threadfin shad are the primary bait fish for black bass in Ozarks lakes, blue herring is the main forage for bass at Lake Murray. Skirmish Baits of Hindsville is one of Bohannan’s sponsors and the company is painting some swim baits for him that look like blue herring.
The main difference in the 2017 FLW championship compared to the first four is that Bohannan feels more relaxed. He’s eager for a shot at the six-figure prize and other perks that winning the tournament brings.
“Winning it puts you in a different class of fisherman. There have only been 18 Forrest Wood Cup winners and no one has ever won twice,” he said.
“I’d like to win it most of all for my family and my sponsors, some who’ve been with me for my whole career,” said Bohannan, whose main sponsor is Old Spice. “If you win, you’re on every bass fishing web site there is and you’re on the cover of bass fishing magazines.”
No doubt Forrest Wood Cup competitors will face tough summer fishing, but that’s part of why the championship is held in August, said Joe Opager with FLW.
“August is widely known to be one of the toughest times of the year to catch fish. It provides the perfect opportunity for our anglers to showcase their skills in a tough, grinding event,” Opager said.
“The FLW season runs January through June so it makes sense to have the championship at the end of the season, like other sports,” he added.
August is also a time when lots of families plan vacations, Opager noted. It allows more families of the fishermen to come to the Forrest Wood Cup. That includes the Bohannan clan.
His wife, Holly, and son Brock will be there. So will aunts and uncles.
“We all rent a big house together and have a really great time,” he said.
He and other FLW pros will do some outreach work at the event.
“About five of us are going to do a hospital visit. We’re taking some gift bags to a children’s hospital.”
There’s family, fun and fishing for the pro from Bentonville. Hopefully this year, fifth time’s a charm, Bohannan said.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 08/01/2017