GAINESVILLE, Ga. – He hails from the California town of Truckee and J.R. Wright made the locals proud by driving right past his competition to secure a hefty day one lead at the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier. Bagging a limit weighing 12 pounds, 5 ounces, Wright sits a comfortable 3 pounds ahead of his nearest competitor.
Wright achieved his position by wisely giving a certain undisclosed bait a second chance. Seems he threw this bait in practice with pro and fellow Californian, Cody Meyer (fourth place, 14-3) and it failed to impress many fish. Nevertheless, the 2-inch bait held enough promise for Wright to show it to the fish on game day.
“I threw this one little bait every day in practice and caught one fish, so I didn’t have much confidence in it,” Wright said. “But I threw it today and I was watching how (pro partner Greg) Pugh was working his bait. His was a totally different bait, but he was fishing for suspended fish, so I changed my presentation a little and they ate it. I got four bites (on this bait) and they happened to be the quality bites.”
Wright said that altering his retrieve speed was the change he needed: “(Initially) I was just throwing it out there and reeling it back, but now my cadence has changed a little bit and that’s what the bites are coming on.”
Once the fish started biting Wright’s bait, he would have been happy to close out his day with this rig. However, fate crashed his party – at least temporarily.
“Luckily, they ate this bait – the only problem is, I only brought one hook,” Wright lamented. “It’s a special hook and I broke it off around 1 o’clock. But I had four on it and then I caught my fifth fish on a drop shot with a Margarita Mutilator Robo Worm.”
Fortunately, Meyer has plenty of spare hooks and Wright has a good supply of the baits.
Hunter hunts his own structure for second
Co-anglers fishing with pros focused on specific structure can often feel like they’re (unintentionally) left of the party. Such was the case for second place co-angler Brandon Hunter of Benton, Kentucky when his pro put the nose over brush piles and launched a tightly focused assault.
Balancing respect for his pro’s right to chose the approach with his own ambitions, Hunter worked a dropshot – as much for catching fish, as for a manual bottom recorder.
“It’s really tough as co-anglers to get bites behind these guys because we’re fishing so deep – 30 to 40 feet of water sometimes,” Hunter said. “When (my pro) is fishing an individual brush pile, he’s got the nose of the boat right over that brush pile, vertically fishing and watching the fish on the graph. The guy in the back is just kind of dragging around.
“I had an idea of where the brush was, and to stay out of his way, I just stayed back doing my own thing and luckily, it worked out. I just tried to feel where some of that older, broken up brush was and when I felt something, I would work the spot more with the dropshot.”
“It’s not my style of fishing,” Hunter admitted. “I live on Kentucky Lake and I’m used to throwing big baits – crankbaits and big worms – so using a spinning rod is just not something I do all the time, but it worked out for me.”
Rodgers downsizes and takes third
Like many of his fellow co-anglers, Dearal Rodgers of Camden, S.C. fished a dropshot to catch his third place limit of 8-15. Rodgers, however, took his finesse game to another level by downsizing his tackle and fishing a Robo worm on 6-pound line and 3/16-ounce weight.
Essential to the dropshot game is spinning gear and Rodgers said he nearly found himself ill-equipped. While preparing for the Forrest Wood Cup, he realized that he could not locate his spinning rods. Fortunately, serendipity smiled and he found himself back in the game.
Fourth place Divis trades power for finesse
Paired with legendary California pro Mike Folkestad, fourth place co-angler Frank Divis Sr. of Fayetteville, Ark. knew it would be a day of contrasting styles. However, adapting a little enabled him to sack up a trio of fish that weighed 8-12.
“He’s a west coast guy, a finesse fisherman, and here I am from Arkansas and I’m a power fisherman,” Divis said. “But I picked up a drop shot and caught my first fish on it. I’ve made most of my money on a football head jig and I figured, if I’m going to crash and burn, I’m going to do it with a football head. I picked up a ¾-ounce PJ’s finesse football head jig and just started dragging it.”
Notably, Divis caught his biggest fish of the day on a dropshot.
Niedosik fan casts into fifth
With his pro focusing on brush piles, John Niedosik of Avondale, Ariz. decided to make the most of his positioning and fan cast the surrounding water with a Texas-rigged worm and a shaky head worm – both in green pumpkin. His strategy produced three fish weighing 8-7 for fifth place.
“I just wanted to cover some ground instead of drop shotting,” Niedosik. “I didn’t catch my first fish until 10:30, the second fish was at 1:30 and the third fish came at 2:30.”
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the Forrest Wood Cup were:
6th: Gayle Janes of Bermuda Dunes, Calif., 8-0
7th: Taylor Thompson of Half Moon Bay, Calif., 7-14
8th: Kevin Koone of Greenbrier, Ark., 6-12
9th: Paul Mueller of Southbury, Ct., 6-11
10th: Jeff Grant of La Mirada, Calif., 6-9
Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. Eastern time from Laurel Park, located at 3100 Old Cleveland Hwy. in Gainesville, Ga .