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Sunday, August 12, 2012
2012 Forrest L. Wood Cup Day 3: Wheeler Commands for Another Day!
Indianapolis pro widens lead at Forrest Wood Cup
11.Aug.2012 by Brett Carlson
(FLW Outdoors Press Release)
DULUTH, Ga. – Despite being a 21-year-old rookie pro, Jacob Wheeler implements and executes a game plan like a savvy veteran. After whacking a huge stringer on opening day, day two of the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier was all about getting a limit. On day three, he planned to push the pedal a little more in hopes of catching a bag in the mid-teens. Thus far, Wheeler is batting three for three and with one more successful day he’ll become the youngest pro ever to claim the Cup.
Fishing wood with heavy equipment is Wheeler's game plan. (Photos: FLW outdoors)
Wheeler started day three just like the first two – running up the Chattahoochee River in search of quality largemouths. The bite was steady, but unspectacular until a mini-flurry around 10 a.m. brought a 3-pounder and then a 4-pounder 15 minutes later. Wheeler saw Jay Yelas leave the area about an hour earlier and decided enough was enough – he wasn’t going hammer anymore.
With a limit already in his Ranger livewell, he ran 45 minutes down the lake to one particular stretch of bank he was saving. He pulled out an X-Rap Prop and almost immediately caught a 2 ¾-pound spot that culled out a 1½-pounder.
“That fish was the first one I’ve caught below the Brown’s Bridge all week,” Wheeler explained. “I knew that fish was there in pre-practice and I’ve been saving her.”
He then hit another down-lake area and had a 5-pounder inhale a shaky head only to spit it before Wheeler could set the hook. He finished the day with his five best keepers weighing 14 pounds, 7 ounces.
“Today I caught a lot of them flipping up the river with a Trigger X Goo Bug (green pumpkin) and a Trigger X Flippin Tube. I also used a vibrating jig some, but the overnight rain really had the current running and flipping those current breaks was really good.”
Wheeler said those eddies could be anything from rock piles to stumps to trees. Earlier in the week his main pattern was targeting bluegill beds with topwaters.
“I call it Indiana fishing. You use a bunch of different baits and slowly work them out one at a time. I think I’ve caught fish on seven or eight baits this week and I really haven’t caught more than one fish off of any piece of cover.”
Wheeler nearly regained all of the 6-pound lead he held on day one. With one day remaining, his cumulative weight sits at 48 pounds, 2 ounces.
“There’s so much to be distracted by, but I’ve just got to fish. I’m trying to treat this like a Wednesday night tournament, but that’s just about impossible with $500,000 and that Cup in the background. But once you start putting a few fish in the boat, it just relaxes you and you can fish.”
When asked what he thinks he’ll need to secure the Cup tomorrow, Wheeler winced.
“I don’t want to think about it, I really don’t. If I can get a limit early then I’ll go looking for one big bite. But I’d be happy with around 12.”
Canterbury grinds back up to second
Straight Talk pro Scott Canterbury returned to second place after catching a 13-pound, 5-ounce limit Saturday. Canterbury hasn’t been getting many bites, but he’s clearly on the right-sized fish.
“I caught two largemouths this morning on a buzzbait and the rest of my fish came on a double drop-shot rig,” he said. “It was still a grind but I got more bites today than either of the first two days.”
While Canterbury says the buzzbait is key for the big largemouth bites, the double drop-shot rig is interesting. He fishes it over the standard offshore brush piles, but the presentation allows for one bait to go above the pile and the other to go in it.
“I think it’s something those spotted bass haven’t seen out there.”
Canterbury said he nose hooks a Jackall Cross Tail shad on top of the drop-shot and then has a Flick Shake below it. Like many others, he’s covering an insane amount of water. The physical toll is wearing on Canterbury as he suffered through a minor bout of dehydration this afternoon.
“I’ve been blessed every day so far with a big bite and I got blessed again today. Maybe tomorrow I will be blessed with four or five of those big bites.”
Thrift rises to third
Chevy pro Bryan Thrift continues to quietly climb the leaderboard. Today he caught a 12-pound, 8-ounce limit and moved from sixth to third with a total weight of 39 pounds, 15 ounces.
Thrift is around some big fish, but getting them to bite is extremely difficult. As the North Carolina is wont to do, he is covering tons of water – oftentimes making a single cast in an area and then leaving.
“I saw 25 pounds of largemouths today,” he said. “My first two bites of the day were 5-pounders, but neither of them got the bait. I know where they live so I’m fired up for tomorrow.”
Some of the areas Thrift is fishing have spawning bluegills. But he’s covering so much water he’s sampled both rivers and is also fishing the main lake. Most of his pattern consists of throwing topwaters in shallow water, specifically a Damiki D-Pop 70 and a Barry’s Prop Bait, which he and Andy Montgomery designed for The Great Outdoors in Cherryville, N.C. Today he also mixed in a shaky head.
“I only caught seven keepers but I had so many of these fish just swat at the bait. I did catch some fish off some deeper stuff earlier in the week. It’s the same place I fished back in 2010. But I think I’ve got to go exclusively for largemouths tomorrow. There’s so much potential there and if you can get a bait over to a bass before it sees you, it will at least show some interest if not bite.”
Scott Martin weighed his smallest limit of the week Saturday, bringing a 10-pound, 7-ounce stringer of spots to the scale. The defending Forrest Wood Cup champion called it a survival day.
“I caught plenty of fish, but never any big ones.” said the National Guard pro. “I still think a big bag is possible tomorrow.”
Martin’s weight would have been ever lighter if not for a 2 ½-pounder caught with two minutes left in the day. On day one, Martin caught several schooling fish, but the last two days he’s been mainly drop-shotting a Bruser Baits finesse worm and casting a Sworming Hornet Dude with a 4-inch swimbait. Martin said roughly half his keepers on day two came from the Dude and half from the drop-shot. Each day he rotates through roughly a dozen down-lake areas, all of which are located south of the Brown’s Bridge.
“I’m back a little bit, but I’m glad I’ve got the opportunity to defend my title.”
Martin’s total weight sits at 39 pounds, 11 ounces.
Yelas ran up the Chattahoochee River this morning eager to duplicate his 18-4-ounce bag. At 9 a.m. with no fish, he retreated and headed south to an area where he caught some schooling spotted bass on day one. That wasn’t all that productive either so at noon he decided to run all the way back up the river. That’s where he caught his 6-pound, 10-ounce limit of spotted bass.
The power game didn't work as well for Yelas. He slipped down to 5th.
“It’s disappointing to come in with just five little spots,” said Yelas, who is aiming to become the first angler to hit the proverbial grand slam and win bass fishing’s four major titles (BASS AOY, Classic, FLW Tour AOY, Cup). “Those little fish came from the area as the 18-pound sack.”
Yelas has done most of his damage this week flipping a Berkley Gripper jig with a Chigger Craw trailer. Like Wheeler, he’s basically flipping to anything piece of structure or cover that breaks the current. Thus far, the pattern has worked to the tune of 15 bass weighing 37 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I think the river is finally getting fished out. I may hit it for a couple of hours tomorrow but if that doesn’t work out, I will probably run up the Chestatee because it has similar qualities. I think some sun would really help out the flipping bite.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the Forrest Wood Cup after day three:
6th: Luke Clausen of Spokane, Wash., 37-0
7th: Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., 36-14
8th: Troy Morrow of Eastanollee, Ga., 36-7
9th: David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., 35-7
10th: Dion Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Mo., 35-3
Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. Eastern time from Laurel Park, located at 3100 Old Cleveland Highway in Gainesville, Ga.