COLUMBIA, S.C. – During practice for the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray earlier this week, several pros mentioned seeing packs of large bass cruising the shallows.
In fact, local pro Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., even predicted that if an angler could get around one of those packs of bass and figure out how to make them bite they would “get well in a hurry.”
Well, Gagliardi’s words rang true on day one of the Forrest Wood Cup as the two leading pros found just such a situation.
Leading the event is Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., with a five-bass limit weighing an astounding 20 pounds, 2 ounces. And no one was more surprised with such a bassing boon than Rose himself.
“I had a terrible practice here,” Rose said after taking the lead by nearly 3 pounds. “I never caught more than three keepers a day. But in the last hour of practice, I pulled into a shallow area that looked right. I fished it for about 30 minutes and never caught a fish, but I saw a couple of big ones blow up in the area.”
That area stuck out in Rose’s mind, especially when the rains fell during the off day on Wednesday.
“In big tournaments like this, you just have to fish by instincts and make decisions on the fly,” Rose continued. “And that’s exactly what happened: I saw that rain and figured it would muddy up the water just enough to get some bigger fish moving to the banks to feed. I ran to that place I found in the last hour of practice, hoping to catch a single 4-pounder this morning. In an hour and a half I caught a 7-pounder, a 6-pounder and a 5-pounder. I was up on the bank fishing and just ran into them – it was really a blessing.”
Rose indicated that the big bites had little to do with lures or technique; he simply was at the right place at the right time.
After the three big fish were boated, he rounded out his limit with two smaller keepers, giving him just five keeper bites for the day.
As for tomorrow, Rose said ideally he would like to return to the big-fish spot, get just one big bite, leave and collect a few more keepers elsewhere to lock himself in the top 10.
“It’s pretty scary though,” Rose added. “The way this lake is fishing right now, I might not get a bite tomorrow.”
He boated seven bass and his five best weighed 17 pounds, 5 ounces to start the event solidly in second place.
“I found these fish several days ago, and I told my good friend Chip Harrison that if I could figure out how to make them bite, I’d be a millionaire,” Vida said. “They are cruising fish and they are huge, but the problem is all they do is follow my lures. I’ve thrown everything in my tackle box at them during practice, and they just won’t bite.”
“Things went much better than expected today because I actually got four of them to bite early – things actually worked out for a change,” he continued. “These are visible fish, and if they see me before I see them, it’s over – they won’t bite. It’s so weird because it’s like springtime fishing in the middle of August.
“It makes me so mad to see these giants following my bait and they won’t eat. I probably saw 30 of them today and some are 5- and 6-pounders.”
Vida says he hopes to avoid the visible-fish area tomorrow.
“I’d like to just run up the river and catch a few keepers to keep me in (the top 10) without having to go in there and pressure those fish,” he added. “I’m telling you, I’m looking at a million dollars’ worth of fish, if I can get them to bite.”
Travis lives about three hours from Murray and has fished the lake since he was 12, but most of that experience has been in the springtime, not summer.
“I do not consider myself a local, but I am familiar with the lake, and I’m just trying to use that to my advantage by fishing everything I know here,” Travis said. “I’m not really on any kind of solid pattern; I’m junk-fishing wide open, from the launch site up to where the rivers split.”
“I only made three moves today and spent about three hours on each spot,” Pruitt said. “I’m fishing slow and methodical and keeping it pretty simple. I don’t want to get caught up in running around too much.
“Two of my areas are very similar in terms of the type of cover I’m fishing; the other is different, but I’m catching fish off all three.”
Interestingly, Pruitt noted that his fish bite best when boats run through his area.
“Both my partner and I noticed it at about the same time today,” Pruitt said. “When boats run by, the fish start snapping. If I start struggling tomorrow, I might just fire up that Yamaha and start doing 360s just to get the fish going.”
Rounding out the top five is PTSI pro Ron Shuffield of Bismark, Ark., who weighed in five bass for 13 pounds, 9 ounces.
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray after day one:
6th: Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., five bass, 13-2
6th: Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., five bass, 13-2
8th: Carl Svebek of Siloam Springs, Ark., five bass, 12-12
9th: Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, S.C., five bass, 12-8
10th: Michael Bennett of Lincoln, Calif., five bass, 11-5
Day two of the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray will begin at 7 a.m. from Lake Murray Marina and Yacht Club located at 1600 Marina Drive in Irmo, S.C.