DULUTH, Ga.– After seven long months of anticipation and a grueling qualification process, the quest for the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup title has finally begun in earnest. With overcast skies and extremely low water levels dominating the landscape, the full field of 46 pros and 46 co-anglers departed Laurel Park Marina shortly after 7 a.m. with one goal in mind – to make history on the storied Georgia waterway of Lake Lanier.
However, while many contenders in this year’s championship boast plenty of fishing experience on Lanier, the site of the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup, most agreed that the lake has undergone some extremely significant changes over the past 24 months. For starters, water levels are way down from the 2010 season. Secondly, the summertime population of weighty largemouth bass has clearly rebounded. As such, the days of winning a tournament with an exclusive stringer of spotted bass – one of the crowned jeweled species of Lanier – appears to be over. Thirdly, with only 46 tournament boats on the water, compared to the 78 boats during the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup, anglers should be able to find a lot more open space on Lake Lanier to work with this time around.
“There are definitely some pretty big differences from the last time we were here,” said Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes pro Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa.. “The lake is about 8 feet lower than 2010 and about 10 feet lower than (normal pool). It also seems like it’s a lot easier to catch keepers this time around, there’s just a lot more fish. But the trick is finding those larger fish, those 3 ½- and 4-pounders, which is still pretty difficult. Also, I think this year largemouth bass are really going to come into play. In 2010, you could come back with a five-fish stringer and have four spotted bass and maybe one largemouth and do well. But I don’t think you’re going to be able to do that this year and have a chance to win. I think you’re going to find some quality largemouth this time to stay in the hunt.”
Lefebre also thinks that overall stringer weights should be up significantly.
“You just have to look at the results from the local tournaments that have taken place here recently,” Lefebre said. “Almost all of them are being won with largemouth bass. And a lot of those winning stringers are coming in at around 18 pounds. In 2010, there were only a few bags weighed in over 14 pounds for the entire tournament. So yeah, I think it could see anglers bring in some bags weighing close to 20 pounds this time around.”
“I think there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to see bigger weights compared to (2010),” said the Castrol pro. “Everyone is a lot more dialed in on this lake than they were last time, the electronics are a lot better, the water levels are lower and people will really be able to fish their strengths. And if you consider all of that, the weights should be up.”
National Guard pro Brent Ehrler agrees that the fishery has changed since 2010. However, despite that, he’s not at all certain the weights will be significantly greater.
“I really like this lake, I think it really suits my style,” said Ehrler. “And I do think largemouth bass are going to play a larger role than they did in 2010. But all of this talk that it’s going to take 15 to 18 pounds a day to win, those people are smoking something because that’s not going to happen. Weights might be a little better than 2010, but I still think 12 pounds a day is going to be enough to win this.”
Although the drop-shot technique will once again be front and center for many pros, fans will probably witness a wider variety of successful presentations this year when compared to past Lanier contests.
“In 2010, the drop-shot was 100 percent the winning technique,” said Lefebre. “But this time, it’s not going to be that (dominant), I promise you. I think the topwater bite might come into play. And you’re going to see a lot of big baits, swimbaits, especially if we get some rougher water. Basically, this tournament is going to be wide open. People should be able to fish any way they like to fish. But the key is getting those bigger bites.”
While anglers should be able to land some decent catches fishing shallow, Ehrler still believes the deep bite is where it’s at.
“For me, the deeper stuff is going to shine,” he said. “With the lower water levels, the fish are going to be grouped up more. And I do think the largemouth bite is going to play a bigger role. I have a lot of areas I can fish. But again, it’s just getting those bigger bites.”
Regardless of the ultimate outcome, most anglers said they were ecstatic just to have a chance at capturing the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup title.
“I had a great practice and I’m feeling pretty good right now,” said Dudley. “Getting here is what it’s all about. To be the best, you have to beat the best.”
“I feel good,” said Ehrler, echoing Dudley’s sentiments. “This is what we strive for every year. It’s kind of funny. You work so hard to get here and when you finally do, you take a deep breath and then it really sinks in how absolutely unbelievable this tournament really is.”
Lefebre, who is chasing his first-ever Forrest Wood Cup title, said winning this year’s championship would be the icing on a cake.
“Watching the Olympics over the last few days and seeing all of those athletes talking about chasing their dreams really hit home for me,” said Lefebre. “This is my 10th consecutive Cup and I’ve been dreaming about winning this for a long time. I’ve been in the lead before and I’ve been close, but I’d really love to finally win one of these.”
Tournament details and logistics
The 2012 Forrest Wood Cup competition consists of 46 pros and 46 co-anglers who have qualified through six different tournament circuits over the past two seasons. This year’s prestigious group includes 37 pros and 38 co-anglers from the 2012 Walmart FLW Tour Majors, five pros and five co-anglers from the 2011 FLW Tour Opens, the pro and co-angler title holders from the 2011 EverStart Series Championship, the 2012 BFL All-America pro and co-angler champions, the top pro and co-angler from the 2012 TBF National Championship and the 2012 National Guard FLW College Fishing national champion.
During Forrest Wood Cup competition, the full pro and co-angler fields will compete for two days. After Friday’s weigh-in, the field will be cut down to the top-20 anglers in each division based on overall accumulated weight. After Saturday’s weigh-in, the co-angler champion will be crowned based on the field’s three-day accumulated weight. Also on Saturday, the pro field will be cut down to the top 10 pros. The remaining pro field will then compete during Sunday’s final round of Forrest Wood Cup action. The pro winner ultimately will be determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.
Forrest Wood Cup competitors will take off from Laurel Park, located at 3100 Old Cleveland Highway in Gainesville, Ga., at 7 a.m. each morning. Weigh-ins will be held at the Gwinnett Convention Center, located at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth, Ga., beginning at 5 p.m. daily.
Daily schedule in brief
6-7 a.m. – Folgers Morning Takeoff coffee and donuts served at Laurel Park
6:30 a.m. – FLW Takeoff Show begins at Laurel Park - video streamed live
7 a.m. – Takeoff at Laurel Park
5 p.m. – Weigh-In at Gwinnett Center Arena
Want to watch the weigh in live but can’t make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 5 p.m. Eastern Time to watch live streaming video and audio of today’s opening-round weigh in.
Bass-fishing fans take note
Fans will be treated to the FLW Expo at the Gwinnett Convention Center on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. prior to the weigh-ins. The Expo includes a wide range of fishing-industry vendors, Ranger boat simulators, an opportunity to interact with professional anglers, a host of fishing and outdoors-related activities, sponsor giveaways and interactive games.
All activities are free and open to the public.
On Saturday 500 free rods and reels will be given away to the first 500 children 14 years and under who are accompanied by an adult. On Sunday 1,000 free rods and reels will be given away to the first 1,000 children 14 years and under who are accompanied by an adult. The rod and reel giveaways are courtesy of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Also on Sunday, one lucky fishing fan will win a Ranger Z520 with a 250-horsepower Evinrude, Lowrance electronics and Minn Kota trolling motor. The Ranger boat giveaway is courtesy of the Gwinnett Daily Post and is free to enter, but the winner must be present at the conclusion of Sunday’s final weigh-in to win.
Fans will also be treated to a free Steve Holy Concert at Gwinnett Center Arena from 4 to 4:55 p.m. on Sunday.
Coverage of the Forrest Wood Cup will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when “FLW” airs Sept. 16 from 1-2 p.m. ET. "FLW" is hosted by Jason Harper and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.
Forrest Wood Cup action continues at today’s weigh-in, scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. Easter Time at the Gwinnett Convention Center, located at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth, Ga.
Sunrise: 6:54 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 74 degrees
Water temperature: 88-92
Expected high temperature: 87 degrees
Wind: From the west-northwest at 3-5 mph
Humidity: 79 percent
Day’s outlook: Partly cloudy with chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon
For daily on-the-water coverage for the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup, click here.
2012 Forrest Wood Cup homepage