The Forrest Wood Cup is the most coveted chunk of metal in all of competitive bass fishing. And right now, across the country there are 46 professional fishermen with 92 eyes set on that one silver cup. Each angler has spent months preparing for this tournament, some might say a lifetime. Hundreds of sleepless nights shared amongst them all, each oozing with the anticipation of a young boy readying himself for his first date. A date with destiny. But unfortunately for 45 anglers, only one guy is going to get the girl.
The world championship of bass fishing will begin competition on Lake Lanier August 9 in Duluth, Ga., with daily weigh-ins at the Gwinnett Center through August 12. The Forrest Wood Cup is returning to Lake Lanier after only a one-year hiatus in which last year’s Cup was held on Lake Ouachita. Other than the water level, which is about 6 feet lower than in 2010 and a total of 8 feet low, this tournament is setting up to be very similar.
When the Forrest Wood Cup last visited Lake Lanier in 2010, Kevin Hawk capitalized on a one-two punch consisting of a drop-shot and Fish Head Spin to win with a four-day total of 50 pounds, 14 ounces. With temperatures in the 90s leading up to the 2010 Cup and high pressure competition days, anglers were forced to look to brush and standing timber in more than 25 feet of water to find fish worthy of a high finish. And if the current conditions continue, local legend Tom Mann Jr. believes the 2012 Cup will be a repeat.
Few know as much about Lake Lanier as Mann, who has more than four decades of experience fishing its deep, clear waters. Mann believes that unless the weather breaks, anglers will have to put their focus offshore. When asked what the winning pattern and weight would be, Mann was hesitant to cough up a concrete prediction.
“It’s really a coin toss on what the weather is going to do and how the fish are going to act,” said Mann. “If it gets cloudy like it did a couple weeks ago, the fishing could be really good. But if it stays as hot as it’s been and the water temp gets into the mid 90s, it’s going to be tough.”
If a front rolls in during the tournament and the anglers see overcast conditions, the weights could really jump and the fishing could completely change. Big bags of spots could be caught on topwater walking baits and put the drop-shotters out in leftfield a bit. But this scenario is unlikely and unpredictable so it’s something that the competitors will have to keep in mind and adjust to during the event.
Sunshine and lots of it will likely be what awaits anglers as they head out onto Lake Lanier. Typically August is the hottest part of the year in Atlanta, and there’s no indication that this year will be any different. Therefore, light lines and little worms will be the primary tool of trade for most of the top contenders.
“I think most guys will throw a bladed jighead and a drop-shot,” said Mann, who took seventh at the 2010 Cup on Lanier. “I’ve been catching them pretty good lately on a Yamamoto Kut Tail worm in Morning Dawn rigged on a drop-shot with a 3/8-ounce weight. I’ll use a white Kinami Flash Shad on the Su-Spin Blade too around the cover.”
However, it’s not the what but the where that Mann thinks will present the biggest challenge.
“The lake is going to be about 8 feet low during the tournament and that’s going to take 80 percent of the brush piles out of the equation because they will be too shallow. It’s the deeper brush and the timberlines that hold the bigger fish this time of year and if a guy can find them, he will win this thing.
“I think the most popular area will be the south end, below Brown’s Bridge,” continued Mann. “Most people think that’s where the big spots are but there are just as many above the bridge too. The next hot area right now is Gainesville Marina and then way up both river arms.”
Quality bites in the 3- to 4-pound range will be few and far between unless someone cracks the code and is able to lure up multiple giant spotted bass in a day’s time. In 2010 it took less than 13 pounds a day to win. Mann believes it will take close to that again and no matter what the weather does, doesn’t believe it will take more than 15 pounds a day. Either way, we will just have to wait to see.