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For the second consecutive year, and for the fifth time since 2005, Hot Springs will host the FLW Cup on Friday through Sunday at Bank OZK Arena.

The FLW Cup, formerly called the Forrest Wood Cup and before that the FLW Championship, will be held on Lake Hamilton. It will feature 52 of the top anglers from the various FLW circuits, including the 40 top points leaders from the FLW Tour, the 2018 FLW Cup champion and the 2018 FLW Tour Angler of the Year. Also competing will be six divisional champions from the Costa Series, the 2018 BFL All-American champion, the 2019 The Bass Federation boater champion and both 2019 College Fishing National Championship winning teammates.

Only two Arkansans qualified for the championship: Larry Nixon of Bee Branch and Bill McCaghren of Mayflower.

Some of the greatest moments of the FLW championship have occurred in Hot Springs. The most notable was in 2007 at Lake Ouachita, when Scott Suggs of Bryant became the first angler to win $1 million in one tournament. It has happened only twice: Michael Bennett also won $1 million in 2008 on Murray Lake in Columbia, S.C.

The only other time the FLW championship was held on Lake Hamilton was 2005, when George Cochran of Hot Springs won the event and $500,000 fishing within sight of his lakeside home.

I have attended a lot of big-time sporting events and concerts. The atmosphere at the 2005 Cup was one of the most electric things I have experienced.

Nixon, 68, is the only angler in the field who competed in the 2005 championship.

Covering only 7,200 acres, Lake Hamilton is a curious venue for a tournament of this size and stature. With scores of boat docks, it resembles a miniature version of Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks. Its intense recreational boat traffic also resembles Lake of the Ozarks.

On the other hand, Lake Hamilton has countless brush piles that crappie fishermen have created, as well as a wide range of shoreline cover, bridge piers and other structures.

One significant change since 2005 is the emergence of offshore fishing. Modern sonar containing features such as down scan imaging and side scan imaging enable anglers to find and identify deep water cover that eluded earlier generation electronics. Anglers can now target and catch big bass in deep water seeking refuge from the heat and boat traffic. That means it will probably take much heavier weights to win this tournament than it did in 2005, when Cochran weighed in 26 pounds, 3 ounces over four days. That averages to 6 pounds and change.

Beau Browning of Hot Springs demonstrated this trend, as well as Lake Hamilton's potential for big summertime weights, when he won the Commissioner's Cup tournament on June 9 by catching 10 largemouths in two days that weighed 30.21 pounds. He scored big on the second day using a drop shot in deep water. Deep water techniques will probably knock bank-oriented anglers out of contention.

Also notable is the fact that Lake Hamilton produced the biggest bass for all BFL events in 2019. It weighed 6 pounds, 3 ounces and was caught by Randall Clark in April.

Lake Hamilton also produced the heaviest one-day, tournament-winning weight and the heaviest one-day limit across all FLW competition. Brady Gentry weighed in 16 pounds, 5 ounces to win the 2017 High School Fishing Open. Adam Wright weighed in a five-fish limit of 17-3 in a 2018 Arkie Division BFL.

Weigh-ins will be held daily at Bank OZK Arena. Admission is free. A free concert by Trace Adkins will precede the final weigh-in next Sunday. Fans who have boats may also observe their favorite anglers on the water.

In conjunction with the tournament will be the FLW Expo at the Hot Springs Convention Center. It is an expansive fair featuring products by all of FLW's major sponsors, as well as many other vendors selling tackle, lures, boats, motors, apparel, sunglasses, kayaks, batteries and chargers, electronics and a universe of other fishing-related accessories.

The expo is free and family friendly.

Sports on 08/04/2019

Print Headline: Lake Hamilton, Hot Springs ready for FLW Cup


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  • Jfish
    August 7, 2019 at 3:35 p.m.

    Too bad they changed the venue from Lake Ouachita to Hamilton. Ouachita is much more scenic and challenging but as you know, it's more about the money and trying to draw large crowds to sell more stuff rather than the scenery and actual fishing.