DULUTH, Ga. – Jacob Wheeler has already posted some impressive numbers in the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier, but he's very mindful of one particular statistic upon which his championship dream hinges.
First, let's look at what he has already written in the record books. (Cue the "intrigue" music.)
• At 21, he's the event's youngest competitor.
• His day-one leading weight of 21 pounds, 15 ounces was the second heaviest bag in FWC history.
• His first-day lead of 5-6 was the largest leading margin in event history.
And that key statistic? It's the number of consecutive days that Wheeler will stay shallow and focus on largemouth bass. That's what he did yesterday and he won't be doing that again today. Not that largemouth won't factor into his plan – actually, he intends to give the big green fish another look today, but Wheeler's displaying some impressive wisdom and maturity beyond his years by recognizing the reality of tournament conditions and refusing to bank his shot at stardom on trying to replicate a hot day-one bite.
"I have some spots that have both (largemouth and spotted bass), so I'm not going to necessarily be targeting largemouths all day," he said. "I'm going to mix it up a little bit so don't be surprised to see me out deep.
"It's hard to win shallow in the summer because these fish don't replenish, while out deep those fish are moving in and out. In the spring, those fish are moving into spawn and it's a lot easier to catch them shallow, but it's difficult this time of year. I knew I could catch them shallow one day – nothing like what I caught; I didn't think I could catch them that good – but I don't know how much stuff will hold up. I have a lot of stuff shallow but I'm not going to get so tunnel-visioned that I'm going to fish shallow the whole time."
Although he wouldn't divulge much about his specific day-one baits and tactics, Wheeler said he caught his fish most on a trio of baits – some of which will also play on day two, along with a couple new baits for the deep water stuff. At the morning launch, Wheeler did reveal that he'll keep a Rapala prop bait handy in case he finds schools of blueback herring, but that's not likely to be one of his primary deals today.
"I'm not married to any one bait right now," Wheeler said. "I don't think there's one bait that I'm going to have to bring out to catch them. I definitely have a few that I like and those baits will catch them if they're there."
Chevy pro Dion Hibdon, a past Forrest Wood Cup champion, tied with California pro Cody Meyer for the third-place spot with 14-15. He has an offshore spot where he's confident he can finish out a limit if need be, but shallow water power fishing is his forte, so his focus will remain on the largemouths he found yesterday. Hebron knows that those targeting Lanier's renowned deep water brush will likely catch more fish, but he's comfortable flipping his jigs and creature baits and trading quantity for quality.
"I have one deep spot that's really good and if I need them, I can go catch them there," he said. "But to say they're going to be big, there's no telling. Those are spotted bass and you can catch a 4-pounder or you can catch a pound-and-a-halfers. I have that if I need it but I won't fish that way but for just a little bit. I’m fishing for the same ones like I caught yesterday – some of those 6-pounders. If I can get two or three of them in the boat, then I can close that gap a little bit.
"But that's a lucky deal too – getting a big one and getting him landed. But that's what I'm going to fish for. I'm fishing for the right ones today and maybe in the last 30 minutes if I need a keeper, I'll go (offshore) and get it."
Starting the day in second place with 16-9, Straight Talk pro Scott Canterbury said he's keeping an open mind and will lean a little
"I got fortunate yesterday and I was blessed with a couple of good bites," Canterbury said. "I’m just going to fish as many places as I can and as long as I fish them good, and keep moving around, hopefully, I'll get a few more good bites.
Meyer, who's made the FWC top-10 since 2009 – including a second-place at Lanier in 2010 – will stick with his signature strength of dropshotting. He and all others fishing the deep brush would greatly prefer sunny conditions, as this tightens the fish to the shady cover. Today, however, will likely present more cloudy skies, so that means scattered fish and a slower bite. On the other hand, the largemouth – again, not the seasonal preference – typically bite better in the dim, cloudy conditions. It will be interesting to see which of these distinctly different scenarios actually yields the better weight today.
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 today’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
6:00 - 7:00 AM - Folgers Morning Takeoff coffee and donuts served at Laurel Park
6:30 AM - FLW Takeoff Show begins at Laurel Park - Video Streamed Live
7:00 AM - Takeoff at Laurel Park
7:30 AM - Junior World Championship takeoff at Laurel Park
8:00 AM - Lowrance on-the-water demos at Laurel Park
10:00 AM - 3:00 PM - Ranger, Evinrude & Mercury test rides at Laurel Park
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM - Chevy Test Drive at Gwinnett Center Entrance
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM - FLW Expo at Gwinnett Center
1 – 1:25 PM - Tom Mann Jr. Fishing Seminar at Gwinnett Center, Room 6A-C - Video Streamed Live
1:30 PM – Junior World Championship weigh-in at Laurel Park
2:00 PM - 2:25 PM – Mark Rose Fishing Seminar - Video Streamed Live
3:00 PM - 3:25 PM – Roland Martin Fishing Seminar at Gwinnett Center, Room 6A-C - Video Streamed Live
4:00 PM – Save Money At Walmart. Experience FLW VIP Treatment.
5:00 PM – 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