GAINESVILLE, Ga. – There’s a fine line between the hometown advantage and the hometown curse, with experience generally deciding the difference. That’s the premise local pro Tom Mann Jr. is counting on for day three of the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier.
Twelfth place is probably not where Mann would have envisioned himself at the tournament’s outset, but with 40 years of Lanier knowledge, the Buford, Ga. pro knows that second half favors those who know the waters best. This will be especially important as the lake’s supply of brush piles – the primary targets since day one – yields increasingly fewer untouched spots.
“From what I saw yesterday, it seemed like a lot of guys’ fish were running out on them,” Mann said. “A lot of guys that caught them the first day didn’t catch them yesterday. The little advantage I have is that I have so many spots I never run out of somewhere to go. I’m just running all day to different spots and I don’t have to go back to a place.”
Complicating matters, Mann noted that this is the last weekend before public schools reopen. “The big factor out here is going to be the boats. School starts Monday morning, so everyone who owns a boat is going to be out here and it’s going to be horrible after about 11 o’clock. That doesn’t make the fish stop biting, but it just makes it so hard to get around. We’re all trying to get to a lot of different spots and (the boat traffic) is really going to hinder everyone trying to get around the lake. All you’re doing is fighting big wakes.”
Leading the pro field with 27-6, California pro Cody Meyer makes his second Forrest Wood Cup appearance. He holds a 1-pound, 4-ounce lead over the veteran Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., who’s fishing his 12th Cup. With a field dominated by anglers half his age, Nixon’s also banking on the experience factor.
“It’s me against the fish – I can’t worry about what the young guns are doing,” he said. “I have to rely on my knowledge of what bass do every day and hopefully figure out what they’re going to do today.”
Third place pro Jason Christie, who favors dropshotting a Yum Dinger, said much of the week’s fortune amounts to right place, right time. “It’s all a matter of luck in where you pull up. If you miss it by a little bit, you may get nothing, but if you get it right, you could catch a bit bag.”
Taking a look at the top five, with Meyer, Nixon and Christie followed by local pro Jason Menninger (25-1) and day one leader Kevin Hawk (24-15), it looks like all in this group sit well-positioned for a run at the event’s $1 million prize. However, peeking farther down the line, a few names draw particular attention. Brent Ehrler, the 2006 Cup winner is having a stellar year with a pair of FLW Tour victories and an FLW Series win. The Redlands, Calif. pro is alternating his dropshot worm colors to trigger bites when the fish play hard-to-get.
Eighth place David Dudley, fourth on the list of FLW all-time money leaders took home the Cup in 2003. In 11th place, North Carolina pro Bryan Thrift won the 2010 Angler of the Year title, and anyone counting Mann out of contention is simply naïve. Do not be fooled by Mann’s 12th place position. As the grind continues, his deep well of fishing spots could become the game changer.
“I think anyone from where I’m at certainly has a legitimate chance to still win this tournament,” Mann said. “Today will be the key – you have to get into the top 6 to have a chance. But there are plenty of big spotted bass in Lake Lanier and you just need to get luck and make the right stop where one of those 4-pounders bites that worm instead of those pound-and-a-halfers.”
Mann said 12- to 13-pound stringers for the next two days would put him where he needs to be. Christie said he’s expecting Lanier to eventually reveal its true potential.
“I think someone’s going to need to catch a 4- or 5-pounder to win,” he said. “I think you are going to see a 15- to 17-pound bag in the next day or so.”
The 2010 Forrest Wood Cup will have a cumulative weight format. The full field was cut to 30 after day two. After day three, the field will be trimmed to the top six pros who will fish the final day of competition by themselves. Co-angler competition will conclude on Saturday (day three).
Leading the co-angler division, Dearal Rodgers of Camden, S.C. holds a 12-ounce margin over Frank Divis Sr. Rodgers made his way to the final round with meticulous dropshotting. He’s varying his rigs – worm, weight, hook and line size – based on fish reaction. He generally downsizes his tackle later in the day.
Pairing with Meyer is a good break for Rodgers, as his pro partner’s affinity for patient finesse tactics should provide the right platform. If Meyer locates good fish, Rodgers could find himself with a runaway opportunity.
Daily takeoff ceremonies will be held at Laurel Park, located at 3100 Old Cleveland Hwy. in Gainesville, Ga., each morning from 6:30 to 7 a.m. Takeoffs will commence at 7 a.m. Weigh-ins will be held daily at 5 p.m. at The Arena at Gwinnett Center located at 6400 Sugarloaf Pkwy. in Duluth, Ga.
The FLW Outdoors Expo will be held in conjunction with the Forrest Wood Cup at the Gwinnett Convention Center on Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. FLW Outdoors Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, angler seminars, the opportunity to meet professional anglers, see and test the latest outdoor equipment, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.
On the Web
For those who can’t catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.
In addition to FLW Live, FLWOutdoors.com is offering real-time updates from the water throughout each day of the Forrest Wood Cup. Simply click on the “On the Water” tab from any of the home pages.
Sunrise: 6:51 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 77 degrees
Expected high temperature: 93 degrees
Water temperature: 89-93 degrees
Wind: ENE at 7 mph
Maximum humidity: 70 percent
Day’s outlook: cloudy, isolated thunderstorms