By BassFan Staff
The sun is expected to shine brightly over Georgia's Lake Lanier tomorrow. Its appearance may come too late for anyone to prevent 21-year-old Jacob Wheeler from closing out a wire-to-wire victory at the Forrest Wood Cup.
The 2011 BFL All-American winner from Indiana
has executed a largemouth-based gameplan to near perfection while the almost-constant gray skies have flustered competitors who were certain that the event would be won with deep, brush-pile oriented spotted bass. He weighed a day-best sack for the second time in 3 days and will carry a lead of nearly 6 pounds into tomorrow, when the 10 remaining anglers will vie for the $500,000 top prize.
Wheeler's 14-07 stringer pushed his 3-day total to 48-02. His advantage (5-13) is now nearly half a pound larger than it was on day 1, when he shocked everyone in the Gwinnett Events Center with a tournament-best 21-15 bag.
"I don't have a fear – no fear at all," he said. "My nerves are taken away by putting everything in God's hands. If God wants me to win, it'll happen. If not, then it's not going to happen.
"I'm confident that I can catch them and I'm putting everything else in His hands."
Scott Canterbury moved back into the No. 2 position that he occupied after day 1 with a 13-05 bag today that pushed his total to 42-05. Bryan Thrift weighed 12 1/2 pounds to climb three positions to 3rd with 39-15.
Defending Cup champion Scott Martin, who'd boxed more than 14 1/2 pounds on each of the first 2 days, managed just 10 1/2 today and fell one slot to 4th with a 39-11 aggregate. Jay Yelas, who'd been sharing some of Wheeler's water way up the Chattahoochee River, rounded out the Top 5 with 37-02 after weighing a miniscule 6-10 sack.
Here are the totals for the 10 anglers who'll go back to the launch ramp tomorrow morning, with their deficit margins indicated by red numbers in parentheses:
1. Jacob Wheeler: 48-02
2. Scott Canterbury: 42-05 (5-13)
3. Bryan Thrift: 39-15 (8-03)
4. Scott Martin: 39-11 (8-07)
5. Jay Yelas: 37-02 (11-00)
6. Luke Clausen: 37-00 (11-02)
7. Andy Morgan: 36-14 (11-04)
8. Troy Morrow: 36-07 (11-11)
9. David Dudley: 35-07 (12-11)
10. Dion Hibdon: 35-03 (12-15)
Wheeler's lead is the second-largest heading into the final day in the 17-year history of the event, surpassed only by David Fritts' 9-pound bulge at Mississippi's Lake Ferguson in 1997. He's averaged 16 pounds a day to this point and he'll be real difficult to track down if he boats at least 10 tomorrow.
Wheeler's stringer was anchored by a 4-pounder.
Martin had some tongue-in-cheek advice – perhaps borne out of desperation – for his young foe.
“Think about the money a lot," he said. "Think about the trophy and how good it looks and how big it is. Think about how many sponsor calls he’s going to get. All of those things – that’s what I would advise him to think about.
"He’s got it won. He just needs to think about the taxes and confetti all night and all day tomorrow.”
Those types of thoughts aren't likely to consume Wheeler, who already has some experience closing out a big event from last year's All-American.
"That really taught me a lot about how to handle the media, how to deal with a camera guy on my boat and everything like that, and just focus on the fish," he said.
Wheeler Feeling His Way Along
> Day 3: 5, 14-07 (15, 48-02)
Wheeler has employed more than half a dozen baits to catch weigh-in fish thus far. He's targeting any and all current breaks in the upper reaches of the Chattahoochee.
No single piece of cover has given him more than one fish to this point, but he has a 20-foot stretch he calls the "Pig Pen" that's surrendered three in the 4-pound class (two on day 1 and another today).
"I just fish this little rockpile, or those three stumps – they're all over the place," he said. "You just have to work them out one at a time and take your time doing it. Those fish love current and they feel very comfortable in those places."
His sack consisted of four largemouths and a 2 3/4-pound spot that he caught downlake on a prop bait. One of the largemouths was also enticed by a topwater offering and he flipped up the others on a variety of plastics, including a new Trigger X model called the Goo Bug that'll hit retail shelves this fall.
"That's just typical Indiana fishing – I don't get caught up on one bait. I just fish the conditions and when I feel it, I pick something up and go with it. I switch it up because the fish get used to seeing the same stuff. Some want something that's moving fast and others want it slow. Some want soft-plastics, some want a jig and some want a ChatterBait.
"I was just very blessed to have gotten the bites I had today."
He has no idea how the sun might affect his pattern.
"I haven't had those conditions yet so I can't really say, but I'm thinking it might position them even better."
He admitted that he's gotten very little sleep since the tournament began, but hoped that would change tonight.
"I keep waking up in the middle of the night, thinking I need to do this or do that. Hopefully I can get some good rest tonight and go out and get after it in the morning."
2nd: Canterbury Climbs, But Loses Ground
> Day 3: 5, 13-05 (15, 42-05)
As Canterbury stood on the stage after the weigh-in, he took a glimpse up at the leaderboard, which was displayed on a huge screen. To the left of his name was the number 2.
Scott Canterbury will need a few more fish like this to overtake Jacob Wheeler.
“It looks pretty good, but it ain’t perfect,” he said when asked what he thought of the current standings.
Perfect, obviously, would be seeing his name next to the number 1 tomorrow evening. That’s going to require some work and possibly some help on the final day. He believes it could happen.
“To have a shot at it, I think if I catch 17 or 18 pounds I’ll have a chance,” he said. “If I do that, he’s got to catch 11 or 12. Anything’s possible. It’s fishing. It just depends on who gets blessed with the right bites.”
While he advanced two positions in the standings today, his deficit to Wheeler grew by 1-02 despite having a bag anchored by a 5 1/2-pounder.
“It was tough,” he said. “I fished a couple hours without a bite and finally got one and it was that big one. That gave me a little energy.”
His big fish came out of a foot of water and he had another quality fish hit his bait, but it missed the hook.
“(My bag) could’ve been a little bit better, but maybe tomorrow he’ll hit again,” he added. “I’m just running around each time trying to hit some places where I’ve got some bites.”
3rd: Thrift Staying Deep Now
> Day 3: 5, 12-08 (15, 39-15)
Thrift pulled all his fish from skinny water for the second straight day.
"I'm not going to fish deep anymore," he said. "I know I can't catch the quality I need to contend for the win out there, but there's a possibility up shallow that I could run into five big ones.
His sack contained two largemouths and they were the best of his quintet. The biggest was a 3-pounder and the other was right around 3.
He threw a Damiki D Pop 70 and a Barry's Prop Bait. The latter is marketed through The Great Outdoors in Cherryville, N.C.
"Twenty pounds is a definite possibility tomorrow – I had two 5-pounders come up and peck the bait, but they didn't even try to eat it. Hopefully they'll eat tomorrow.
"There's still a lot of big ones up there. If everything went perfect, you could see a 20- or 22-pound bag."
4th: Martin Had Slow Morning
> Day 3: 5, 10-07 (15, 39-11)
In order to repeat as Cup champion, Martin’s going to need to make up an 8 1/2-pound deficit. Even after weighing his lightest bag of the event by far, he still thinks it’s possible.
“The potential is there for a huge bag,” he said. “As crazy as it may sound, I’m not out of this thing.”
His morning was much slower bite-wise than it has been, but he doesn’t attribute that to being followed by as many 20 spectator boats.
“The quality was missing this morning for me. My partner caught a couple nice fish,” he added. “That’s what it boils down to in a tournament like this – getting a couple of key bites. I just didn’t catch the fish. I just didn’t get those extra couple bites I needed to get.”
5th: Largemouths Eluded Yelas
> Day 3: 5, 6-10 (15, 37-02)
Yelas feels like he missed a tremendous opportunity today to put himself in position to win his first Cup. The largemouth he’d caught in the Chattahoochee River on day 2 weren’t there today so he settled for five small spotted bass and dropped to 5th, 11 pounds back of Wheeler.
“It’s a fickle game,” he said. “After catching 18-10 (on day 2), how could I not go back there? If I’d have not gone back and then not caught them elsewhere, I’d have been saying, ‘You dummy.’”
He also couldn’t get bit by anything substantial when he moved to his schooling fish area not far from takeoff.
“Jacob was fishing down below where I was at so I just idled through there and left,” he said. “I came down to my schooling fish and they didn’t go today either. I caught like two out there, but they were the same size as what I caught in the river. I was stymied in both areas I’d been fishing. Nothing worked today.”
He may abandon the Chattahoochee altogether tomorrow and try some areas in the Chestatee River he hasn’t looked at since practice.
“I have one other area that’s up the other river that I fished in practice and did pretty decent up there,” he added. “It might be time for some fresh water and take a chance and see what happens.”
The veteran of hundreds of pro-level tournaments and winner of the 2002 Bassmaster Classic did offer some advice to Wheeler, though.
“He’s got a great opportunity here with almost a 6-pound lead,” he said. “If he catches 10 or 11 pounds tomorrow, he’ll probably win the tournament. That’s what I would tell him, ‘Go catch 10 pounds and then try to catch a big one, but just don’t do what I did today.’ If he does that, someone could pass him. He’d have to have a disaster tomorrow (to lose).”
It was a slow go for Luke Clausen this morning.
6th: One Flurry for Clausen
> Day 3: 5, 12-13 (15, 37-00)
Clausen admitted that his chances of rallying for his second Cup victory are almost nil.
"I think if I caught 14 or 15 pounds tomorrow, that would be pretty strong," he said. "If I could get that much out deep, then I'd run to the bank and try to catch a big largemouth. But I've got so much ground to make up that it's almost insurmountable. Catching a 22- or 23-pound bag like Wheeler did is pretty unlikely."
He boated just six keepers today (all spots), and five of those bit between 9:30 and 10:15.
"Every day there's been a window when I catch them. I threw a topwater this morning and didn't catch any, and then (after the five-fish flurry) I caught one the rest of the day. It was pretty boring.
"I think I can catch those spots in the morning. After that I haven't been doing anything, so I need to be smarter and go earlier. Hopefully I can catch them and be gone."
7th: Morgan Stuck With Big Fish
> Day 3: 4, 11-08 (14, 36-14)
“One more day, baby,” said a smiling Andy Morgan after he climbed a spot in the standings despite coming in a fish short of a limit today.
The veteran pro from Dayton, Tenn., hung around an area that holds good potential, but left himself little to no time to finish his limit.
“I was around some quality and I hated to stop and pull out of an area where I know there are big ones,” he said. “I know Jacob’s got a big lead and Scott was way ahead. Cody Bird, Dion (Hibdon) and those guys were way ahead of me. I had to stay in that area where those bigger ones were.
“In hindsight, I wished I’d gone and caught a 1 1/2-pound spot somewhere on a topwater or a shakey-head. That’s how it goes when you swing for the fence. You have to stay where the big ones are.”
Fishing dropshots over brush piles, he had what he weighed by 11 a.m. and then his bite shut down the rest of the day, leading him to believe this would be a 3-day event for him.
“With the day I had and to make the Top 10 is pretty special,” he said. “I promise you that. I didn’t think I was going to make it. I figured I’d end up 12th or 13th.”
8th: Morrow Laments Lack of Sun
> Day 3: 5, 12-02 (15, 36-07)
Morrow, who has a long history on Lanier, is bummed that the sun has remained hidden for so much of this week.
"If the clouds would ever go away, we could catch some big fish," he said. "They're a nemesis. They're just killing us out there.
"The largemouth shouldn't have lasted this long – it's that fresh water (from thunderstorms) coming in every night and the cloud cover. I'm fishing for them, too – I've had to abandon my big spots and go shallow. I'm catching good spots up there, too."
His bag was topped by a 3-pound-plus fish and another that was close to that size.
"There's some big ones up there – somebody could have a 20-pound bag. It's a timing thing."
9th: Dudley Lost Several
> Day 3: 5, 11-02 (15, 35-07)
At least he danced – again.
In what has become the most entertaining stage entrance of the week, David Dudley once again brought his fish to the scale as “The Chicken Dance” blared through the arena. Today, someone dressed in a chicken costume accompanied him.
He’d have much rather have been accompanied by several giant fish that came off today, including one in the 7-pound range. He also lost a 5-pounder and three 4s.
“You hear my voice,” he said with a distinct rasp in his voice. “That’s not from talking. I scarred my voice today screaming out of frustration. When I lost that 7-pounder I cracked my rod over my knee and broke it in three different places. That still didn’t relieve the pressure.”
The reigning Angler of the Year fished mostly new water today and has committed to fishing shallow the rest of the way.
“I think that’s where it’s going to be won at,” he said.
10th: Hibdon 2 Fish Short
> Day 3: 3, 6-03 (13, 35-03)
Hibdon survived the cut to the Top 10 despite a bag that was two fish short of a limit.
"It's no big deal," he said. "I had a good tournament until today. I only lost one fish, so it is what it is.
"After the day I had, I'm tickled to still be here, and normally you wouldn't hear me say that at the Forrest Wood Cup. I want to win, and I still do. Tomorrow I'll throw a topwater and flip and try to catch big ones."
He caught the three fish he weighed within the span of a few casts at around 8:30.
"I left after that – I wasn't doing that all day. With the size I weighed in, two more wouldn't have made much of a difference.
"I'll go out tomorrow and try to make something cool happen. It's possible – I had a couple of 20-pound days before the (off-limits period), but it'll be hard to win."
Notes From The Field
Following are additional notes from anglers who failed to qualify for the final day.
> 11th: Cody Meyer (15, 35-01) – "I caught a lot more fish today, it seemed like, but they were smaller fish. I did the same thing I'd been doing (dropshotting deep brush piles), but it didn't work. I caught my bigger fish when the sun came out in the afternoon. If it had been out all day, I feel like I could've done a lot better."
> 13th: Clark Wendlandt (15, 34-10) – “I had decided I wasn’t go to play that dropshot, out-deep game and I came and practiced shallow. Usually, on these clear-water lakes, I can do good shallow even in the summer and I liked what I had going. I had chances every day and you’re hearing that a lot. They just move really fast here because they feed on herring. All of a sudden you’ll see them coming and something will just happen.”
> 14th: Dan Morehead (15, 34-06) – “The first 2 days of the tournament, I went to the bank and tried to catch a big largemouth to better my bag. I was getting a couple bites every day in practice. Looking back on it, I probably wasted about 4 hours of this tournament trying to make that happen and never did. I wish I’d have spent more time dropshotting down around the dam. I caught everything that bit. I just didn’t get a big bite today.”
> 15th: Shinichi Fukae (15, 34-02) – "I threw the spoon to catch a limit, and then I threw the dropshot and caught some nice ones. I caught 10 or 12 keepers and two 3-pounders, so it was a good day."
> 16th: Scott Suggs (15, 32-05) – “All of my fish came out of 2 feet of water or less. During the competition, I had one area that had four other tournament boats in it, but we were not fishing the same water. Other than that, I had the rest of my stuff to myself. I was starting every day in Six Mile Creek and then went to Two Mile Creek and then headed up by Brown’s Bridge. I fished all of the creeks all the way back up to the landing. I was keying on bream beds more than anything. Nothing I fished pertained to boat docks and I think that’s why I had so much of my water to myself because there weren’t visual targets to fish.”
> 17th: Cody Bird (12, 31-08) – "I'd been fishing little short stretches in both rivers (the Chattahoochee and the Chestatee) and catching them out of the runouts where the clear water met the muddy water, and I was square-billing the whole time. Today I caught a couple real quick and then I lost a couple, and after that I didn't get the bites. The reason I was catching them is that dirty water made them feel secure, and it cleared up quite a bit today."
> 18th: Jason Christie (14, 29-08) – “What hurt me was not knowing what I was going to do in practice. If I’d have known what I was going to be able to do, then I could’ve ran around and looked. I started working my way down – 3 or 4 miles out of my area and it just didn’t look right. One thing about this place is there’s not a lot of the same thing. Every creek and every pocket is a little bit different.”
> 19th: Glenn Browne (15, 28-04) – “I came and pre-practiced this place and I went up (the Chattahoochee) and caught a couple good ones, but I didn’t go as far as where Jacob’s going. I wish I had gone and done a little more work up there because that’s my style of fishing. I’m kicking myself that I missed that.”
> 20th: Brent Ehrler – "If I had it to do over again, I'd go run topwater looking for largemouths. I just figured that because it was Lanier, it was going to be about the spots, and I'm just kicking myself for not even giving the largemouths a try."
> Matt Krekovich, who led the co-angler competition after 2 days with an 18-14 total, had his day-3 weight disqualified for making casts while his pro, Wheeler, was culling fish in the center of the boat. FLW Tour Rule 10 stipulates that co-anglers can fish only when the pro is on the front deck. Krekovich, who ended up 4th, reportedly told FLW officials that he'd gotten caught up in the moment and the rule slipped his mind.
> Timothy Dearing, a retired Air Force colonel from Loudon, Tenn., won the co-angler title with a 22-13 total after catching an 11-04 bag today. He gave a big salute to FLW pro Brandon Coulter, his travel and practice partner, for teaching him the ins and outs of the tournament game.
> Tour pro Mark Rose was presented with the Goodwill/Forrest L. Wood Sportsmanship and Community Leadership Award today in a ceremony prior to the weigh-in.
> Sun., Aug. 12 – Sunny - 87°/64°
- Wind: From the NW at 5 mph
Day 3 Standings
1. Jacob Wheeler -- Indianapolis, In -- 21-15 (5) -- 11-12 (5) -- 14-07 (5) -- 48-02 (15)
2. Scott Canterbury -- Springville, Al -- 16-09 (5) -- 12-07 (5) -- 13-05 (5) -- 42-05 (15)
3. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 13-12 (5) -- 13-11 (5) -- 12-08 (5) -- 39-15 (15)
4. Scott Martin -- Clewiston, Fl -- 14-09 (5) -- 14-11 (5) -- 10-07 (5) -- 39-11 (15)
5. Jay Yelas -- Corvallis, Or -- 12-04 (5) -- 18-04 (5) -- 6-10 (5) -- 37-02 (15)
6. Luke Clausen -- Spokane, Wa -- 12-05 (5) -- 11-14 (5) -- 12-13 (5) -- 37-00 (15)
7. Andy Morgan -- Dayton, Tn -- 11-02 (5) -- 14-04 (5) -- 11-08 (4) -- 36-14 (14)
8. Troy Morrow -- Eastanollee, Ga -- 10-15 (5) -- 13-06 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 36-07 (15)
9. David Dudley -- Lynchburg, Va -- 13-11 (5) -- 10-10 (5) -- 11-02 (5) -- 35-07 (15)
10. Dion Hibdon -- Sunrise Beach, Mo -- 14-15 (5) -- 14-01 (5) -- 6-03 (3) -- 35-03 (13)
The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 4.
11. Cody Meyer -- Auburn, Ca -- 14-15 (5) -- 8-12 (5) -- 11-06 (5) -- 35-01 (15) -- $20,000
12. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, Al -- 10-12 (5) -- 12-12 (5) -- 11-02 (5) -- 34-10 (15) -- $20,000
13. Clark Wendlandt -- Leander, Tx -- 9-15 (5) -- 13-01 (5) -- 11-07 (5) -- 34-07 (15) -- $20,000
14. Dan Morehead -- Paducah, Ky -- 13-01 (5) -- 11-02 (5) -- 10-03 (5) -- 34-06 (15) -- $20,000
15. Shinichi Fukae -- Palestine, Tx -- 10-14 (5) -- 11-02 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 34-02 (15) -- $20,000
16. Scott Suggs -- Bryant, Ar -- 11-07 (5) -- 12-01 (5) -- 8-13 (5) -- 32-05 (15) -- $15,000
17. Cody Bird -- Granbury, Tx -- 14-11 (5) -- 12-07 (5) -- 4-06 (2) -- 31-08 (12) -- $15,000
18. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, Ok -- 7-14 (5) -- 13-08 (5) -- 8-02 (4) -- 29-08 (14) -- $15,000
19. Glenn Browne -- Ocala, Fl -- 10-01 (5) -- 10-14 (5) -- 7-05 (5) -- 28-04 (15) -- $15,000
20. Brent Ehrler -- Redlands, Ca -- 11-00 (5) -- 10-02 (5) -- 5-14 (3) -- 27-00 (13) -- $15,000