Friday, August 12, 2011

Forrest Wood Cup 2011 Day 1: Martin Off and Running

National Guard pro leads 2011 Forrest Wood Cup with 19 pounds, 2 ounces
by Brett Carlson
Day 1 leader, Scott Martin
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – With a breeze, periodic showers and overcast skies, day one of the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup provided a rare reprieve from the oppressive summertime heat. And as many predicted, Lake Ouachita responded favorably, churning out several sacks in the upper teens. The biggest came from 10-time Cup qualifier Scott Martin.

Martin managed most of his 19 pounds, 2 ounces within the first two hours of the morning. And the bulk of it came from one area. That’s quite a way to start the richest tournament in professional bass fishing.

“Coming in, I had a great prepractice and then a great practice,” recalled Martin. “And that momentum just carried over to today. I told some of my friends that I should be able to catch 15 pounds from my best spot and I did. I feel like in the area I’m fishing I can catch another bag like the one I caught today or even a third-day bag like that. I feel like there’s the opportunity for that.

“That being said, I have quite a few more areas that had fish in them that I didn’t even get to today. I’m not out of fish and I’m not out of spots to look for them. I’m excited to be leading; it feels great. But I’m more excited that I was able to conserve so much water.”

Martin said he caught eight or nine keepers on the day. He vaguely described his pattern as mid-depth. He’s catching them on a couple different lures, some that he works fast, and others that are slower.

The Clewiston, Fla., native said he’s completely by himself, never once feeling the pressure of another boat. That fact combined with his successful practice has him feeling uber confident.

“The way everything has been going I have a funny feeling this could be the winning spot. But at the same time I’m expecting some adversity. This is just the first quarter and I know I still have three left. But I’ve been doing this for a long time and I want to win. I still think 15 pounds a day will be what it takes to win this tournament.

Christie stunned with second-place sack

In second place is Park Hill, Okla., pro Jason Christie, who caught a limit of largemouths worth 18 pounds, 1 ounce. A noted shallow-water fisherman, Christie was extremely thankful for the change in weather.

“It played right into my hands,” said the Lake Hartwell champion. “I had one of my worst practices ever. But today I was able to just go fishing like I do back home. When you get wind and rain on a clear lake like this, they bite.”

Christie described his pattern as junk-fishing. He threw topwaters quite a bit, but that wasn’t his only bait.

“I fished both deep and shallow. Now I know what I’m looking for, but I don’t know where they’re at. As soon as I get home I’ll be looking at a lake map.”

While several pros struggled with keeping fish buttoned up, Christie never lost one.

“I didn’t catch a lot of fish, but I got the right bites. But to be sitting in second, I’m as shocked as anyone.”

Coulter third

Regardless of the weather, Knoxville, Tenn., pro Brandon Coulter planned to throw a topwater in the shallows. With today’s stormy conditions, Coulter sacked an 18-pound limit, good enough for third place. But Coulter thinks the weather may have actually hurt his bite.

“I throw topwater a lot and lightning does something to them; they won’t commit to it,” he explained. “During the stable weather we had during practice they would commit, even if the sun was out. And today the best bite was during the brief windows of stable weather.”

Coulter caught a keeper on his fifth cast of the day. But the next five jumped off. At 11 a.m. he finally boated his second keeper. At noon, when the weather stabilized, he caught back-to-back 5-pounders.

“I’m fishing bream beds, but I’m also targeting cruisers or wolfpack bass that are chasing perch. Today they bit better in the afternoon. I think sometimes it just takes a little longer for them to get hungry when they’re eating so much at night.”

Yelas fourth, Tharp fifth

The last time the Forrest Wood Cup was held on Lake Ouachita, Chevy pro Jay Yelas didn’t fare so well. This time he was intent on reversing that and thus practiced with a two-pronged approach.

“I really tried to find enough fish to last for four days,” said the 2007 Angler of the Year. “I have some good shallow stuff, but I’ve also got some deeper brush piles. Today I fished shallow and caught eight keepers. I did better than I thought I’d do so I’m pleased. But I knew the potential was there.”

Yelas’ best five weighed 17 pounds, 5 ounces, which placed him fourth after day one. Like Martin, he said the lake is spreading out nicely and that he never saw another boat.

“This lake is really healthy now. But at the same time I know it’s notorious for running out of fish. So I prepared with that in mind and did my homework.”

While Yelas was pleased with his opening-day performance, EverStart pro Randall Tharp was anything but. Despite sitting in fifth place with 16 pounds even, Tharp was disgusted after missing some key bites.

“Today was a trainwreck; it was horrible” said the Gardendale, Ala., native. “I broke off my first bite, caught the second one and missed the next five. And all of these were 3- to 5-pounders. Then I lost another big one at 11 a.m. I did get two key bites in the last 30 minutes of the day, which saved me. But I’ve never lost so many big fish before. In a tournament like this, you need to capitalize on every bite you get.”

With all the action he received, Tharp was understandably tight-lipped about his presentation. He said he fished shallow and is trying to key on places where they move up to feed.

In practice, Tharp had a day where he caught well over 20 pounds. And he would have surpassed 20 today if he could have converted all his bites.

“This place has got ’em in it. I know there’s a 20-pound bag out there.”

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the Forrest Wood Cup after day one:

6th: Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 14-14
7th: Jon Strelic of El Cajon, Calif., five bass, 14-12
8th: Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, Ind., five bass, 14-10
9th: Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., five bass, 14-9
10th: Cody Meyer of Grass Valley, Calif., five bass, 14-2

Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. Eastern time from Brady Mountain Resort & Marina, located at 4120 Brady Mountain Rd. in Royal, Ark

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