By Todd Ceisner
Pro anglers love to talk about their own skills and fishing exploits, but they also pay pretty close attention to what their competitors do well and under what circumstances they excel.
As Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu wrote, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”
Respect is a big deal in this sport, especially among peers. As the 46 competitors look across Port Lake at Red River South Marina on Thursday and see who they're up against in the Forrest Wood Cup, they'll realize they weren't the only one that climbed a mountain to get there.
Each one will leave the dock thinking they have the right formula or have the right stretch of water picked out to win the whole thing, but come late Sunday afternoon inside the CenturyLink Center in Bossier City, La., only one will have proven to have fought the ultimate battle and won.
BassFan quizzed a few Cup qualifiers recently to get their take on who they think will hoist the Cup and why. The responses were thoughtful and telling. The consensus was that momentum could play a big factor this week, meaning Andy Morgan, the reigning Angler of the Year, was on the minds of most anglers we encountered. Same for Jason Christie, who's already bagged three wins this season.
Here’s a rundown of who the pros think will be Cup contenders when asked to take themselves out of the equation:
"I think Andy Morgan is a good choice. He's about the hottest thing out there right now. If I had to say a river fisherman was going to win it, I'd pick either Andy or Jason Christie."
"You can't count (Jason) Christie out. He'll probably win five or six this year and this will be one of them."
"There's so much talent in the field, it's hard to pick. I'd have to lean toward some of the guys who've been hot recently and are good shallow-water fishermen. For instance, Jason Christie. Other than that, I wouldn't be sure who else to name, but I'd tend to lean toward guys who are good shallow-water fishermen."
Jason Christie has had a big year already. Some think he's not done winning just yet.
"I like Bryan Thrift's chances. I'd bet on him. He's been fishing so well and I like the way he approaches tournaments. He's the complete package and in a tournament like this he'll be a threat.
"You have to pick one of those guys who's been up there consistently this year and he had a strong season. Look at what he did at Grand (Lake). It was the perfect setup for flipping and he gets 3rd on a crankbait. He's not afraid to go off the wall and find something others are overlooking."
"I'd say because momentum is such a big player in this game, Andy Morgan is my pick. He's due to win the Cup. Another guy I'm thinking about is Jay Yelas. He wants it as bad as anyone and it seems like it's the only thing that's eluded him. He's won everything else and is a real good river fisherman."
"I think the obvious choice is Andy Morgan. He's fishing with a lot of confidence right now and this is the type of fishery, with a lot of flipping, that fits his style. This could fall right into his wheelhouse real nice.
"Another guy I'm looking at is John Cox. He's a guy with his back against the wall and is fishing for his future really. He's spent a lot of time there in practice and has had success there over the years. A lot of times, you've seen guys with their back against the wall come out and have good things happen to them."
"I'm picking Larry Nixon. If I can't beat him, I think it'll be him. Reason being, he's getting closer to retirement and he has one of the biggest drives because he hasn't won a Cup and he's very good friends with Homer Humphreys, who lives on the river and guides there nearly every single day. Add that up with Larry's experience with throwing a worm in tough conditions and he's a good pick."
"If I had to answer that question, Andy Morgan has always been a dear friend and we've roomed together and known each other for 15 years. If it's a shallow water deal with a flipping stick and if it can't be me it might as well be Andy. He's had one of those seasons and he might as well end it in style.
"I think a lot of Jason Christie, but he's already won enough this year."
"There's a handful of guys who were out there practicing for 2 weeks and I think it'll be someone who lives within a day's drive. There were like 10 to 15 guys who put in 10 days or more there. How you can't be in the Top 3 after putting that much time in is insane to me. Just knowing which pool or pond to be in is going to be so important. We spent half our time trying to get in and out of places and then find out there's no fish in there. You lose a couple hours a day just doing that."
"I'd have to say Andy Morgan. He's always a threat, especially when fishing a river system. I think he'll do well. For some reason, Luke Clausen is always in the thick of things at the Forrest Wood Cup no matter where we fish. Jacob Wheeler is another guy to watch. He's got some connections down there and won the BFL All-American out there."