DULUTH, Ga. – Pro leader Jacob Wheeler knew day two of the Forrest Wood Cup would be a balancing act. On one hand, he needed to be consistent after whacking an unthinkable 21-pound, 15-ounce limit on day one. On the other, he didn’t want to fish too conservative with a $500,000 payout on the line.
While both Wheeler’s weight and his lead were trimmed in half, he was pleased with his performance.
“Obviously I didn’t get any big bites, but I wanted to make sure I got five and was consistent,” said the 21-year-old, who officially caught 11 pounds, 12 ounces. “I knew with a lead like that you’ve got to be careful.”
Wheeler shed some more light on his pattern after weighing in. He’s junk-fishing up the river – throwing an X-Rap Prop, a Rapala DT Fat (size 3) and a vibrating jig. The topwater pattern is focused mainly around bluegill beds. The bluegills started spawning with the recent full moon and there are still enough up to attract the attention of both largemouths and spotted bass.
Yesterday Wheeler had his success with a smaller prop bait, but today the X-Rap Prop did most of the damage. He also stops and flips isolated targets from time to time.
“It was an all-day grind today. I had to put a few distractions behind me and just fish the moment. I ended up with about 10 keepers and I weighed four spots and one largemouth.”
While the moon is definitely waning, Wheeler is pleased with how the bluegill pattern is replenishing.
“I caught a 2-pounder off a bluegill bed and then I came back an hour later and I saw another 2 ½-pound spot there, although it wouldn’t bite. Its funny how certain beds never have any bass on them and certain ones continue to be productive.”
Wheeler’s two-day total weight sits at 33 pounds, 11 ounces. With a 3-pound, 3-ounce lead, he’s halfway to becoming the youngest angler ever to win the Forrest Wood Cup.
“If I can catch one more 15- or 16-pound bag tomorrow, I think 11 pounds would be enough the final day.”
While he likes the potential of his up-the-river area, Wheeler has fish located down-lake that he hasn’t touched.
“I think I’ll stick to my shallow-water guns. I learned how important it is to fish your style this year on Tour.”
Yelas soars to second
After a productive practice, Jay Yelas brought a two-pronged approach to Lake Lanier. He had some down-lake schooling fish located as well as some shallow-water largemouths up the river. On day one he started on the schooling fish and caught a steady 12-pound, 4-ounce limit. On day two, he ran up the river and returned with 18 pounds, 4 ounces, the heaviest stringer of the day.
“After weigh-in yesterday I was really regretting not running up there,” said Yelas, who is attempting to be the first angler to hit the proverbial grand slam and win bass fishing’s four major titles (BASS AOY, Classic, FLW Tour AOY, Cup). But now that I know there are other people up the river I’m sure I’ll need those mid-lake fish. So that’s good to know, because I’m pretty dialed in on those mid-lake fish; they’re just not as big.”
Yelas explained that two years ago the largemouths were a no-show because there was simply so much cover for them to hide. Now that the water has rescinded, they’re holding on isolated cover – mainly wood.
“I’m flipping a Berkley Gripper jig with a Chigger Craw trailer. Yesterday I used topwaters, swimbaits and finesse worms, but today it was mainly flipping.”
Yelas weighed three largemouths today and two spotted bass. His kicker largemouth weighed approximately 6 pounds.
“I’m definitely not going to go up river tomorrow and just die up there. If it isn’t going well in one area, I have confidence to go to the other area but there is a timing factor to it. My fish down-lake don’t seem to bite very well first thing or after 1 p.m. So I’ve got to do that mid-morning, if I’m going to go there. And I still have one area I haven’t been to yet.”
Martin moves up to third
Scott Martin has put himself in a good position to claim back-to-back Forrest Wood Cups and become the first angler ever to win two Cups. That’s hard to believe considering Martin caught only one keeper in two days of fishing the last time the Cup was held on Lanier.
“This lake didn’t treat me so well two years ago, but I’m starting to figure out how to catch these fish deep,” said the National Guard pro. “There’s so many fish out there but its tricky getting them to bite.”
Martin is rotating through several spots in the mid-lake area. Yesterday he caught several schooling fish; today they were positioned lower in the water column.
“I would call it a consistent day. Yesterday I had a real strong bite in the afternoon but today they steadily bit starting almost right away in the morning. I’m still mixing it up, using many presentations and a variety of baits.”
Among those are a Bruiser Baits finesse worm on a drop-shot, a Sworming Hornet swimbait and a River2Sea Rover when he sees a bass bust. All of Martin’s fish the past two days have been spots. His limit today weighed 14 pounds, 11 ounces and pushed his cumulative total to 29-4.
“This is just halftime. I think everybody else is going to catch them so I’ve got to keep catching big bags. I still think 14 ½ or 15 is the weight you’ll need to win this tournament.”
Straight Talk pro Scott Canterbury slipped from second to fourth after catching a 12-pound, 7-ounce limit Friday. Canterbury’s opening-round total weight was 29 pounds even. Since he has a heavier stringer thus far than Dion Hibdon, he owns the tiebreaker.
“I only got five keeper bites all day,” said the Springville, Ala., native. “I’m probably the most tired I’ve ever been after a day of fishing. I bet I picked up the trolling motor 50 times.”
Canterbury said he’s fishing standard deep stuff like brush piles. He has four drop-shot setups, which he alternates based on depth. He also spends some time targeting largemouths with a buzzbait around docks.
“I fished that buzzbait for four hours yesterday and about 2 1/2 hours today. I weighed four spots and one largemouth today and I’d really like to get a few more largemouths. I think I know where in the water column these bigger spots are it. But they’re tough to catch and they’re the strongest fish I’ve ever caught on a spinning rod.”
Hibdon was extremely confident after weigh-in yesterday and appears to only be growing after day two. His limit Friday weighed 14 pounds, 1 ounce and pushed his total weight to 29 pounds even. Three of those fish were largemouths, the other two spotted bass.
“I had a good day, a very fortunate day,” said the fifth-place pro. “I only lost one fish. It was a 4-pounder but only losing one is pretty good for what I’m doing.”
Hibdon wouldn’t say exactly what that was, but he admitted he’s mainly fishing shallow – targeting some boat docks and some schooling fish. In fact, everything he weighed today came from the skinny water up the river.
“I have a spotted bass spot real close to my largemouth spot. I caught one fish on my spotted bass place and then I went real quick to check on my largemouth spot. I just did it because it was right there. But I quickly caught six keepers. So they were actually better in there today than yesterday. Very seldom will I fish the same largemouth water from one day to the next in the summer like this.
“The largemouths on this lake are coming back. I think the locals haven’t fished it. They’ve just got so used to fishing for Kentuckys that these largemouths are kind of untapped.
Hibdon was proud he discovered this pattern solely with the help of his father and his 17-year-old son.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the Forrest Wood Cup after day two:
6th: Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., 27-7
7th: Cody Bird of Granbury, Texas, 27-2
8th: Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., 25-6
9th: David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., 24-5
10th: Troy Morrow of Eastanollee, Ga., 24-5
Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. Eastern time from Laurel Park, located at 3100 Old Cleveland Highway in Gainesville, Ga.