By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor


(Editor's note: This is part 1 of a 2-part Q&A series with the 10 FLW Tour anglers who will fish their first Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Murray later this month.)

The field for the upcoming Forrest Wood Cup is a strong mix of established veterans, including five former Cup winners, two-tour studs, rising stars, journeymen, regional standouts and fresh faces, all of whom hope to connect on a home run swing at Lake Murray in a couple of weeks.

More than a third of the field (17 of 45) will be making their Cup debut this year, with 10 of the first-timers being Tour pros. While those who've been there and done that at the Cup, especially the handful who've tasted victory in one of the sport's marquee events, know what to expect in terms of the pressure and hype surrounding the tournament, the Cup rookies will be an interesting group to watch during the action.

Among the group is Casey Ashley, a South Carolinian who scored a Tour win in the Palmetto State (Lake Hartwell) earlier this year and has four tour-level wins to his credit. He's fished five Classics in his career so it's likely he'll be unfazed by the buildup to the Cup. Because of the Cup's proximity to his home in Donalds, S.C., Ashley will be considered among the favorites once mid August rolls around.

Matt Greenblatt made the Cup in his first try after a four-season run on the Elite Series. Randy Haynes, Phil Jarabeck and Austin Terry punched their first Cup ticket in their second years on Tour while it took Matt Stefan and Brad Knight four and six seasons, respectively, to make their first Cup.

Rookies Jason Lambert, Richard Peek and Michael Wooley all made it in their first attempt.

BassFan posed the same three questions to all of the Cup newbies in an effort to get a better understanding of what they're expecting once Lake Murray takes center stage in the bass fishing world. Their responses will be broken into a two-part story, with the anglers listed in order of finish in the Angler of the Year points.

Casey Ashley
BassFan: What's one thing you will be curious about once official practice starts?
Ashley: "There will be a lot of factors coming into this tournament. There's a chance for it to be won so many different ways. Especially with me coming off an Elite Series event (the week before), I'll have a lot of things to eliminate in a short period of time."

BF: Will this tournament be won off a particular area doing one thing or will the winner have to move around and use several techniques to have success?
Ashley: "It's going to be a junk-fishing tournament unless something really changes. Going into pre-practice, I didn't plan to spend much time on Murray at all. I wanted to go in and have a fresh mind, but I wound up going down twice and it was pretty tough on me."

BF: What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of this tournament?
Ashley: "It's going to be a mind game and I think whomever wins might not catch a limit every day. With the heat and how tough it can get – we're supposed to get some cooler weather next week, which may or may not make the lake turnover, which will make it tougher – there's no telling who's going to win. I don't think anyone will have a home-lake advantage. It's going to be a grind."

FLW/Brett Carlson
Photo: FLW/Brett Carlson

Austin Terry is hoping the bite improves at Lake Murray once official practice rolls around.

Austin Terry
BF: What's one thing you will be curious about once official practice starts?
Terry: "If I can catch more fish than I did in pre-practice. It was slow for me."

BF: Will this tournament be won off a particular area doing one thing or will the winner have to move around and use several techniques to have success?
Terry: "I really don't know. I didn't get enough bites to figure anything out. There's definitely a lot of different stuff to do here though."

BF: What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of this tournament?
Terry: "Right now, it would be trying to catch five. The lake is bigger than I thought it was. It's covered in docks, so you can fish as many of those as you want. I'll probably be more scared (than nervous or excited) if practice doesn't go any better."

Brad Knight
BF: What's one thing you will be curious about once official practice starts?
Knight: "The shallow water cover versus fishing offshore. With it being a herring lake, to me that time of year is going to be a 50-50 time, meaning you should have a good chance to catch them shallow or deep. I think I will try to get something going fishing my strengths (shallow) and see if there are any flooded bushes or willows. I don't have much experience on blueback lakes so I'm going to concentrate efforts on fishing my strengths."

BF: Will this tournament be won off a particular area doing one thing or will the winner have to move around and use several techniques to have success?
Knight: "You're going to have the move around and use several techniques. I don't think any one thing will be dominant. I think you're going to have to cover some water."

BF: What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of this tournament?
Knight: "Just the grinding through the bites. I don't think we'll catch a ton of fish so it'll be important to keep your head in the game and fish for the right kind of fish. Whether it's flipping a jig or whatever you're doing, you just have to stay mentally focused and keep negative thoughts at bay and stay after it."

FLW/Brian Lindberg
Photo: FLW/Brian Lindberg

Richard Peek qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup in his first season as a pro. He fished three Cups as a co-angler.

Jason Lambert
BF: What's one thing you will be curious about once official practice starts?
Lambert: "Right now, I'll be curious to see if it's going to change because it wasn't very good during pre-practice. It was about as bad a practice as I've had. On these herring lakes, it's virtually impossible to mark them so I don't think electronics will play a factor other than to mark bait. It was just hard to get a bite and just hard to catch a fish, let alone try to think you're going to catch them during the tournament."

BF: Will this tournament be won off a particular area doing one thing or will the winner have to move around and use several techniques to have success?
Lambert: "It's going to take a mish-mash of things. It'll be a situation where someone catches one on a frog, one on a topwater, some on jigs. You're just going to have to go fishing. If it changes and some fish get into an early fall pattern, which is unlikely but possible, if that happens, someone could win off of one spot."

BF: What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of this tournament?
Lambert: "It's going to be combination of the heat and grind of fishing. I'm used to the heat from where I'm at, but a lot of guys aren’t. What makes it worse is when you go 3 hours without a bite and your mind starts playing tricks when that happens. The positive side is we get 10 grand for showing up so you can't rule out anything. It's going to be a real challenge to keep yourself fishing for 8 hours as hot as it is and with as few a bites as we're getting."

Richard Peek
BF: What's one thing you will be curious about once official practice starts?
Peek: "Water temperature will be the first thing I look at. I want it to be cooler or cooling off. Looking at the weather here in Alabama, they're calling for possible record lows for a couple days later on this week so if we can have a couple of days or nights like that around the tournament and get the water temperature as close to the 70s as we can, I'll be liking that because it only take a couple degrees change to get those fish schooling. It's possible with a few cool nights and cloudy days."

BF: Will this tournament be won off a particular area doing one thing or will the winner have to move around and use several techniques to have success?
Peek: "The guy who will win and the guys who do well will probably be doing one particular thing but doing it at different areas on the lake. The guys who figure out a pattern for a herring bite will do well. It might take multiple baits to get a good limit every day, but that's how I think it'll be won."

BF: What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of this tournament?
Peek: "On-the-water decisions will be the biggest challenge and just staying mentally focused. It's going to be a tough tournament and a tough bite and every bite is going to count. Those stretches where you'll be fishing for 2 or 3 hours and only get one bite, those will be hard to overcome. The pressure doesn't really bother me because I've been in championships before. It's going to be that grind and staying focused that will be the key to not missing those opportunities."

– End Part 1 –