GAINESVILLE, Ga. – For competitive anglers, “culling” means replacing a particular fish with a larger one. So, then, it may seem odd to hear of a Forrest Wood Cup competitor taking the opposite approach. No to worry, co-angler Dearal Rodgers of Camden, S.C. knows what he’s doing and he implemented a selection strategy that led him to the top spot on Lake Lanier.
Moving up two spots from third on day one, Rodgers fished dropshots and caught one of only two co-angler limits – a 9-pound, 1-ounce bag that boosted his opening weight of 8-15 to an even 18-pound total. His tackle selection was intrinsic to his success.
“I went out there today with more dropshots; different varieties of weight and colors of worms and it paid off,” Rodgers said. “I’m using darker colors in the morning and lighter colors in the afternoon. I’m culling my (terminal tackle) also – that’s a very important point.
“Once the sun gets out, the fish are reacting to the line – I can tell that. They’re reacting to the weight and they’re reacting to the size hook you use. So, as the sun gets higher and higher, I start downsizing. I even have 4-pound line that I could go to if I had to.”
As Rodgers noted, having multiple tackle levels ready to go helped him avoid the mental trap of thinking a spot was dead when, in some cases, the fish had simply become too wary.
“Once you sit over a brush pile and you fish it, fish it, fish it; the fish don’t leave, they just quit biting after you catch a couple,” he said. “I just realized in my mind that the fish were still down there and I just kept downsizing until I got one to bite.”
Divis improves to second
On day one Frank Divis Sr. of Fayetteville, Ark. placed fourth and trailed Rodgers by 3 ounces. Today, he also gained two spots, although the gap widened to 12 ounces. Pairing 8 pounds, 8 ounces with his day one score of 8-12 gave Divis a 17-4 total.
Divis worked a dropshot and found a certain color of Zoom finesse worms that the fish couldn’t resist. The law of supply and demand nearly squashed his hopes for continued improvement, but help from a friend has Divis optimistic about the co-angler finale.
“There’s s certain color that Zoom doesn’t make anymore and I had four worms (in this color),” Divis said. “On my first cast, I caught one about 3 pounds. The next cast, I catch another one; the very next cast, I catch my third one.”
Divis said that after this flurry of activity, his pro partner Ish Monroe insisted that partners share baits. So, pro and co-angler shared the four worms the Divis had and caught all of their fish on that quartet. By day’s end, Divis was down to a single battle weary worm, but pro Greg Bohannan, who missed the top-30 pro cut, found a bag of the exact color Divis needed.
“Greg Bohannan saved the day,” Divis said. “With (these worms), I can win tomorrow.”
Divis said he caught his fish by working the perimeter of the brush piles Monroe targeted. “I forced myself to fish a little deeper away from the brush piles. I think the bigger fish feed around the brush piles and I think it’s the smaller fish that are in (the structure).”
Wright catches the right “one”
He led the co-angler division on day one, but J.R. Wright of Truckee, Calif. managed only one fish today and slipped two spots to third. Pairing a 2-pound, 8-ounce fish with his day one limit catch of 12-5 gave him a 14-13 total.
Wright caught his day one fish on a dropshot with a Robo Worm (margarita mutilator) and an undisclosed bait that he used to target suspended fish. His day one pro, Greg Pugh fished slow and methodically, parking over brush piles for lengthy presentations. Day two found Wright struggling with a much different approach.
“I fished with Andy Morgan today and he was fishing the fastest of anyone I’ve ever fished with,” Wright said. “We’d pull up, two or three drops and he was gone. I never had the chance to throw the bait that worked (best) yesterday. I had to go with a drop shot and a heavier weight.
“I caught my one fish and that was it. But it was a pleasure to fish with (Morgan). That’s fishing – it could happen to anyone.”
Pipkens makes big move into fourth
“I only had four, but we caught big fish today,” he said. “I had a 4 ½-pounder in the first 10 minutes. I got four bites and caught four fish.”
Paired with FLW legend, Larry Nixon, Pipken caught his fish by dropshotting over scattered brush.
Hunter hauls in hefty spot for fifth
Typically, following a second place performance with a one-fish day would send a competitor tumbling down the standings. However, Brandon Hunter of Benton, Kentucky can attest that the right fish can minimize the loss.
Fishing a Zoom Baby Brush Hog on a Carolina Rig, Hunter hauled in the largest co-angler fish thus far – a plump 4-pound, 6-ounce spot that paired with his day one weight of 9-5 for a fifth place total of 13-11.
“I only caught that one fish, but 4-6 is like catching two or three fish here,” Hunter said. “I wasn’t getting the bites on the dropshot today. I just wasn’t feeling it, so I changed it up a little bit, threw the rig and got a bigger bite.”
Notably, John Niedosik of Avondale, Ariz., also had a one-hit wonder kind of day. His only catch weighed 3-7 and landed him in sixth place with 11-14.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the Forrest Wood Cup were:
7th: Alan Hults of Gautier, Ms., 11-2
8th: Brad Roberts of Nancy, Ky., 11-2
9th: Gayle Janes of Bermuda Dunes, Calif., 10-12
10th: Matt Peters of Gainesville, Ga., 9-15
Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. Eastern time from Laurel Park, located at 3100 Old Cleveland Hwy. in Gainesville, Ga.