Six MLF Pros Gear Up for 2018 Forrest Wood Cup
Rose, Meyer, Birge, Neal, Lambert, Kenney will compete on Lake Ouachita for the largest FLW competition of the year
By Joel Shangle
August 8, 2018
HOT SPRINGS, Arkansas – Central Arkansas in August can be a challenge for bass anglers: water temperatures hover in the upper 80s to low 90s, summer thunderstorms can be heavy (and frequent), and fish are sluggish and hard to pattern.
Such is the playing field this week as MLF Select Anglers Mark Rose, Cody Meyer, Zack Birge, Michael Neal, Jason Lambert and J.T. Kenney finish up practice for the Friday kickoff of the 2018 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita.
“It’s pretty tough,” Meyer admitted on the final day of official practice. “Normally when we come to Ouachita, the bluegill are spawning and you can find a strong bank bite, but there are very few fish on the bank right now. It’s just super tough to even get a bite. We’re in the dog days of summer – it’s just a tough, tough time to catch fish.”
It’s a familiar set of conditions to most of the field: Meyer, Rose and Kenney have each competed in two FWCs on Ouachita; both Neal and Birge fished the Cup when it last came to Ouachita in 2015.
Relief on the way?
Weather forecasts for the week call for a cool front to settle in over much of the Razorback State, which could provide some much-needed relief from daytime temperatures in the high 90s and water temperatures in the low 90s.
“Practice has been brutally hot and brutally tough – I’m looking forward to the changing weather pattern we have coming,” Birge said.
Here’s a look at the six MLF pros vying for the Cup, and its $300,000 payday:
Mark Rose: Rose has already had a landmark 2018 season, taking home the FLW Tour Angler of the Year title and adding two Top 5s to his impressive list of 49 career Top 10s. The Arkansas pro finished third the last time he fished a Cup on Ouachita (2011).
Cody Meyer: Of the six MLF pros fishing this week, Meyer has been the most consistently competitive in championship events held on challenging summer fisheries: he finished third in the 2009 Cup on the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, second in 2010 on Lake Lanier, and seventh in 2011 when the Cup was contested on Ouachita.
Michael Neal: Even though he’s one of the youngest anglers in the field of 56, Neal already has three Top 10 finishes in the Cup: he was sixth in his rookie year in 2013, second in 2016 and sixth again last year on Lake Murray.
Zack Birge: Birge finished eighth in the 2015 Cup held on Ouachita, and is coming off his highest finish in AOY points (9th) in his four years on the FLW Tour.
J.T. Kenney: A four-time FLW winner, Kenney notched a Top 10 in the first Cup he fished, but has yet to claim another Top 10 in the nine he’s fished since then.
Jason Lambert: The 2014 Costa Series Champion comes into the Cup after his highest finish in AOY points since his rookie season, and is just two months removed from his record-breaking performance in the FLW Tour event on Kentucky Lake