The Forrest Wood Cup is coming to Lake Ouachita, August 20-23.
Fifty of the best bass anglers in the world will converge on Hot Springs, Aug. 20-23, to participate in the Forrest Wood Cup, the championship event for the FLW bass fishing tour. Aside from local amenities for fans and anglers to enjoy, Hot Springs has a lot to offer in the way of its fisheries.
Lake Ouachita boasts more than 970 miles of shoreline from the upper reaches of the Ouachita River to Blakely Mountain Dam. Ravines, islands and creeks add plenty of nooks and crannies for anglers to get away from crowds and find a few hidden gems. More than 40,000 acres of clear, blue surface water cover rocky bluffs, flooded forests of 100-foot tall trees and submerged vegetation.
“A lot of anglers who have fished here before will remember the deep aquatic vegetation,” said Brett Hobbs, district fisheries supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “But the vegetation saw a large die off about six years ago.”
Hobbs said the vegetation is beginning to come back in some areas, particularly the Rabbittail and Cedar Fourche areas on the north shore of the lake.
“Both of those areas have a pretty good mix of hydrilla and Eurasian water milfoil,” Hobbs said. “Big Blakely Creek on the far northeast side of the lake has a lot of hydrilla and some coontail, as well.”
These aren’t the only possible areas to find vegetation and anglers who locate a patch or two away from the crowd may have found a gold mine.
In addition to all the natural cover and structure, the AGFC worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Arkansas Black Bass Coalition to place dozens of brush piles throughout the lake in prime locations to congregate bass, crappie and other sport fish. Anglers can visit www.agfc.com
, click the interactive map link to zoom into Ouachita and locate the blue fish attractor icons. GPS coordinates are available to download through the map’s tools icons in the top right corner of the screen.
“Most of those brush piles were cedar trees placed in the North Fork arm and around mid-lake,” Hobbs said. “I fully expect a few tournament fish to come from some of these deeper brush piles.”
How deep is too deep? Hobbs has some advice about that, too.
“I recently completed a dissolved oxygen profile on the lake, and across the lake, once you hit 21 to 22 feet, there isn’t enough dissolved oxygen to sustain many fish,” Hobbs said. “Black basses should be holding near the thermocline, but may be located early in the morning feeding in the shallows or chasing shad at the surface at any time.”
Other than submerged vegetation, the Rabbittail area might have another X-factor for anglers – a little boost of Florida bass genetics. As part of a strategic management plan, Florida-strain largemouths were stocked from 2007 to 2014 in this area of the lake.
“This was something black bass anglers requested,” Hobbs said.
While the jury is still out on whether the stockings will have any effect on Lake Ouachita bass, it’s worthy to note that the first of those stockings are now seven years old.
“It will be interesting to see if we were able to get some of those Florida-strain genes in the bass population at Ouachita,” Hobbs said.
The lake isn’t just an angling paradise, it’s a great destination for wildlife watchers as well. The Lake Ouachita Vista Trail offers 45 miles of mountain biking and hiking paths on the south side of the lake, stretching from a trailhead at Avery Recreation Area below Blakely Mountain Dam. There’s also a special 1.25-mile watchable wildlife loop with an elevated boardwalk that is Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible at Denby Bay. For more information, visit www.lakeouachitavistatrail.com