California pro Rusty Salewske reversed his fortunes today at the Forrest Wood Cup in Pittsburgh, Pa. He was the last to make the Top 10 cut yesterday, and he survived to fish another 2 days by a hair-thin 2-ounce margin. But with a 6-06 limit today, he was the best of the 10 and leads the Cup with 1 day left to fish.
The setup seems to favor Salewske. He's fishing as far up the Allegheny as he's
allowed to lock, and he's the only competitor in that pool. Plus, the Ohio River muddied significantly yesterday and last night as rainwater flushed downriver. At the same time, though, the Allegheny (which feeds the Ohio) began to clear.
The current's still ripping up the Allegheny, but clearing water is key for smallmouths, because mud tends to shut them right down. Those fishing the Ohio hope for some clearing conditions tonight, but the Allegheny clearly has the upper hand right now – four of the Top 6 fished there today.
However, 2nd-place David "The Texas Terror" Curtis did fish the Ohio. He worked in the very last pool down the Ohio (aka Mudville), but was able to find one micro-stretch that quickly produced a 5-07 limit. He does have a spot in the lower Allegheny, which he tried today, but it wasn't going.
In 3rd is another California pro, Cody Meyer, who sacked 5-00 out of the Allegheny with finesse plastics.
Mike Iaconelli made the cut three locks up the Allegheny, but switched to the Ohio today. He weighed 4-12, but was outfished by his co-angler Brad Roberts, who won the co-angler division with 6-04. Ike said he fought the muddy water and roaring current all day but things just didn't happen and he never could rope his fifth keeper. He thinks he'll switch again tomorrow and fish the Monongahela (the "Mon").
Scott Suggs stayed in the hunt with three fish for 4-06. He fished one lock up the Allegheny. He thinks his fish are still around, but they relocated in the heavier current and he never truly found them.
Greg Hackney, who rocked the field yesterday with an 11-12 limit, came up one shy of a limit today and weighed 4-03. He starts his day three locks up the Allegheny, then fishes back down. He said he needs the big fish to do something specific, which they did yesterday but not today. They might "do it tomorrow," though, if the forecasted clouds and thunderstorms show up.
And 7th-place Dave Lefebre salvaged a potential disaster with a stunning catch in the closing minutes. He fished the Ohio and his bite suffered because of the mud, but moments before he had to lock through he caught a 3-15 smallmouth – believed to be the biggest fish of the 3 days to far.
David Walker fizzled in the Ohio with a single 13-ounce fish, Bryan Thrift weighed a single fish, and Larry Nixon was forced to turn loose a short fish at check-in and was penalized an additional pound. Nixon said he was able to get the fish to measure three times in the boat.
Here's how the field stands going into the final day (red numbers in parentheses indicate deficit margin from leader):
1. Rusty Salweske -- Alpine, CA -- 5, 6-06
2. David Curtis -- Trinity, TX -- 5, 5-07 (0-15)
3. Cody Meyer -- Redding, CA -- 5, 5-00 (1-06)
4. Michael Iaconelli -- Runnemede, NJ -- 4, 4-12 (1-10)
5. Scott Suggs -- Bryant, AR -- 3, 4-06 (2-00)
6. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 4, 4-03 (2-03)
7. Dave Lefebre -- Union City, PA -- 1, 3-15 (2-07)
8. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 1, 0-13 (5-09)
9. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 1, 0-12 (5-10)
10. Larry Nixon -- Bee Branch, AR -- 2, 0-10 (5-12)
Again, the fact that Salewske's water seems to be clearing faster, and that he carries a 15-ounce lead, marks him as the strongest of the 10 right now. But Curtis is capable of just about anything, as he proved today in the muddy Ohio.
Meyer's clearly on a strong bite, but needs an upgrade in quality tomorrow, or some help from Salewske and Curtis.
Iaconelli might find something tomorrow up the Mon. It hasn't seen significant pressure, and that could turn out to be the right move.
And Suggs, Hackney and Lefebre certainly have a legitimate shot at the title, especially with a 3-pound bite.
Interesting about Lefebre is he didn't touch his best Ohio spot yesterday – the one that produced an 8-13 limit on day 1. If everyone catches 6 pounds tomorrow, but Lefebre catches that 8-13 again, he wins.
David Curtis caught all his fish of a single small stretch today, and plans to go back to the Ohio tomorrow.
However things do down, it's likely going to be close. Also, it looks like a limit might be the deciding factor. Only three pros have caught a limit each day, and they occupy the Top 3 spots right now.
Lastly, if Rusty Salewske (or Cody Meyer) pull off the win, it would mark the fourth time in 6 years that a western pro hoisted the Cup.
Salewske Jigged 'em Up
Salewske, who's traveling as far as he can go up the Allegheny (four locks), said his fish change on him every day. He eventually figures them out, and today he caught his best bag of the event.
All five of his keepers were enticed by a jig.
"I started out throwing a topwater, even though it's 9:00 by the time I get up there and it's really almost too late for that," he said. "I tried to force that bite a little bit and I never caught a keeper, and then I went to the jig."
He'd shared the pool with Brett Hite and Takahiro Omori the first 2 days, but their failure to make the cut left him alone in there today. His best stretch is centered around the junction of a seawall and a marina and extends along about 1,000 yards of bank.
He's culled just once the entire tournament, but he sees no reason he can't catch another limit on the final day. He doesn't plan to make any changes to the way he's gone about his business, but he may spend some time on the stretch of bank that Hite and Omori had worked.
"I'll give the topwater a try for a little while. I can throw (that bait) a long ways, so I'll make maybe 10 casts with it and then go back through and pitch that same water. I'd rather be a little behind (in the standings), but I guess I shouldn't complain."
He admitted that sleeping on the lead won't be the easiest thing he's ever done.
"I had a little trouble sleeping last night, to be honest with you. It'll probably be the same thing again."
2nd: Curtis 'Anxious'
Curtis did a full stint on the FLW Tour back in 2006, but for the most part has terrorized regional events. He's a Stren champion and TTT champion, but has yet to win a tour-level event – let alone one of this magnitude.
"I'll tell you what, I'm starting to feel a little anxious, but it feels good at the same time," he said. "I didn't anticipate I'd be in the No. 2 spot going into the last day with what I caught today. I wasn't feeling good about it at all. I thought I only had 4 1/2 – I didn't weigh them. To be in 2nd, and that close to 1st – I'm right where I need to be.
"It was definitely muddy," he added. "I'm fishing down the Ohio – the last pool we can go to – and I ran a lot of stuff where I caught them good the first day, and okay the second day. I didn't catch any. I found one small, key stretch that paid off – it was almost a spot, really. I was hoping just to catch a fish there, but evidently the conditions really helped the place."
He noted he had to change baits today and he'll return to the same water tomorrow.
Asked whether he'd move up and fish the Tour full-time if he won, he said: "I'd certainly consider the Tour. I'd hope a win at this level would open some doors for me that I have yet to see open. I'd certainly hope some nice sponsorships could come out of winning a tournament of this magnitude."
Cody Meyer's finesse tactics have proven to be just as effective in the East as they are in the West.
About what a win tomorrow would mean to him, he said: "It would mean that I'd probably get a new house, with a nice storage facility for my boats and all my hunting stuff."
3rd: Meyer Adjusts Again
Meyer, the Western Stren Series qualifier, keeps finding new water every day and keeps bringing limits to the scale.
"Today I just fished banks that I hadn't fished," he said. "I culled one time – I went from a 12-ouncer to a 13-ouncer, but I didn't get a big bite. My biggest one was about 1-05."
He's fishing two locks up the Allegheny and employing the finesse tactics that serve him so well in the West. He's dropshotting with a Jackall Cross Tail Shad and also got some bites today on a small grub. He threw a Worden's Rooster Tail inline spinner around for awhile, but never caught a keeper.
He completed his limit at 11:30, but got just the one keeper bite thereafter.
"I'm going to do the same thing tomorrow and if they don't bite, I'll come back down toward the Ohio (and fish the Pittsburgh pool). All I can do is go out and fish – if you start worrying about things, that's when you're really going to do bad."
4th: Ike Upbeat
Iaconelli had ""one of those days," he said.
"It was a really weird day. I had one of those frustrating days from the perspective of my co-angler caught the crap out of them. It didn't matter what he threw. It was just one of those days when he got the bites. It was a frustrating, weird day.
"But then, coming in and still having a shot – I'm excited again. I'm not really out of it. You never want to be 2 pounds back at a tough place, but at the same time, it could happen. I'm hopeful."
He added that the fishing conditions today actually favored the co-angler to a degree.
"He was absolutely a great co-angler. He deserved it. But in the conditions we had, I couldn't find any clear water. And I think in those conditions, a co-angler almost has an advantage. I'm up there trying to control the boat in the heavy current, and he's back there making casts and fishing slow.
"A lot of times in mud and current, you need to fish slow, and by default, I'm almost fishing too fast up front. It was just one of those days when I didn't get the bites."
Mike Iaconelli struggled in the muddy water – he thinks he couldn't fish slowly enough – and his co-angler caught more weight out of the back of the boat.
As noted earlier, Ike fished the Allegheny the first 2 days, the Ohio today, and plans to probably switch to the Mon tomorrow.
"I'm 90% sure I'm going to the Mon tomorrow to try to win this. I think I'll stick to my plan of fishing all three rivers."
5th: Suggs' Fish Hiding
Suggs keeps catching one fewer fish each day than he had the day before, but his three-fish sack today kept him in the hunt for his second Cup title.
He thinks he still has plenty of fish in his pool (one lock up the Allegheny), but he'll have to make the right adjustments to get back on them.
"I don't believe those fish have left," he said. "The first day I caught them on the upside of the current breaks and the second day they were in the eddy down below. Now I think I'm going to have to go to the pieces of isolated cover that are closest to the breaks."
He caught his first keeper on his third cast of the day, and the other two came about a minute apart in the early afternoon.
"I spent too much time today fishing non-productive water. I know there's still good quality in there, but I'm going to have to focus on one rock, one stump, one something. I might have to just start idling the banks until I find it.
"I'm going to live or die with that place and I'll hit every stone and try to leave none unturned."
He broke off one fish that he never saw.
"I pulled the bait through a rock and (the fish) gave it a good thud. I tried to load up, but I never got on him because the line was so frayed from the rock."
6th: Hackney Needs Weather
Day 1 of the Cup was rainy with thunderstorms, day 2 was rainy, today was clear. Hackney caught his tournament-best 11-12 limit yesterday in the rain, and said he needs those conditions again to replicate his big-fish bite.
"I had a couple missed opportunities today – really more their fault than mine – but I just couldn't get them dialed in," he said. "It was weird – funny how they do that overnight.
"I'm not as close as I'd like to be – I'd like to more like a pound behind – but I'm in good shape. I know what I need to do. The weather tomorrow will be a factor."
Yesterday, when he caught a 3-pounder and a 3 3/4, he discovered a specific shallow-water big-fish pattern with which he could run downriver, look for the right thing, and get a quality bite.
Today he tried to run the pattern again, but it wasn't there under the clear skies. And he thinks he stuck with it way too long.
"Yesterday I'd only spend 10 minutes on a spot, but today I tried to force it," he said. "I feel like I wasted a lot of time trying to get them to bite in one place."
He salvaged his day by locking back down and catching a fish with 5 minutes left.
"Because of yesterday, and my last fish today, you just never know what the outcome's going to be. But several things have happened in my favor this week. And now that the weights are real close, I think that's in my favor too. It helps my confidence. It really helps.
"This is the closest I've been (to a Cup or Bassmaster Classic title). I've been to four or five of these (Cups), and led 1 day, and I'm really ready to finish. I'm closer than ever before."
7th: Lefebre Caught Lone Giant
Lefebre described his post-weigh-in feeling like this: "It's the most draining event I think I've ever fished, mainly because I'm fishing really strong current. You're standing on one leg all day, and you can't screw up here – every cast could be that one little 12-incher you need to bring you a million dollars.
"It's hard here. I had no fish at 1:00. I was struggling so bad. But I never slowed down. And that fish was the best moment of fishing I'd had since I was 11 years old. I struggled and got it at the end of the day and thank God for it."
He said he caught his 3-15 from a place he'd found in practice. He fished it this morning, because he thought it had big-fish potential, but returned minutes before he had to lock through and roped it.
"This is nowhere near over," he added. "It's a close game. I've been saying from the beginning that I think whoever makes the right decisions – whoever's on top of it – is going to win. I made a good decision on that last fish. It all came down to that one call."
About what was going through his head this afternoon with no fish in the box, he said: "You just think about what's at stake. I'm never going to come back to Pittsburgh and fish for a million dollars again. Actually, today was the first day I felt pressure all week. It didn't happen on my spots and I was like 'Whoa, time for a backup plan.' I just started winging it.
"I'm going to go back there tomorrow and pray to God that it works out. There's a million fish where I'm at if they'll just turn on."
8th: Walker's Action Waned
Walker had caught limits on each of the first 2 days, but knew he was in trouble today when he didn't have a keeper at 10:30.
"Normally I'd have three fish in the boat by that time, and the first day I had an entire limit," he said. "I figured I'd come back to the Pittsburgh pool (from two locks down the Ohio) because I thought there were places in there that I could catch my five – there was no use wasting time while I wasn't catching fish. I wasn't even getting any short fish.
"Well, it was just as bad there. I ended up catching the one keeper and my co-angler got two. I was expecting a lot better."
He'll go back down the Ohio tomorrow, figuring that's the only place he has an opportunity to make up the deficit he now faces.
"The only difference is I'll come back with some fish. This is the best-paying tournament in the world, and I'm not coming back without them tomorrow."
9th: Thrift Ready
"I'm just ready to go fishing again," Thrift said after a disappointing one-fish day. "Based on my practice, I'm not really disappointed. All 4 days of practice, I only caught two keepers a day.
"I found a spot the first day of the tournament – I stumbled on it – and everything lined up good for me the first 2 days. I figure I've beat up those fish bad, so tomorrow I might make one more pass down it then go hunting again and try to find me a place to win the tournament."
10th: Nixon Penalized
Nixon brought two fish to check-in, but one wouldn't measure so he had to toss it back, and he suffered a 1-pound penalty because of it.
He said he got the fish to measure three times out on the water. He stopped short of disagreeing with the ruling, but did note it was his first short-fish penalty in 32 years.
"I'd bring it back tomorrow because I made it go three times," he said. "It's all in the way you measure a bass – a touch too hard on the chin, or if you don't turn the body just right so the corner of the fin touches the line. It's just one of those things."
He went to his Ohio River spot this morning, saw it was chocolate milk, then turned around.
"I'm disappointed, but I've had things like that happen to fishing holes before," he said. "It's not something I haven't experienced before. I knew if I couldn't catch them off one or two places I was in for a real struggle – like everyone else. The only bad part is I didn't catch 4 or 4 1/2 pounds to keep me up in the hunt."
> Day 3 stats – 10 anglers, 3 limits, 2 fours, 1 three, 1 two, 3 ones.
> Country music singer and Tennessee Army National Guardsman Darby Ledbetter performed a kicking pre-weigh-in concert. One cool moment was when members of the Pennsylvania National Guard lined the runways up to the stage for a song dedicated to veterans.
> New Pure Fishing president and CEO John Doerr appeared onstage to help present a $12,000 check to support TBF youth programs. It was notable not only for the support given to TBF, but also because it served as Doerr's first public address to the sport. Afterward, all of the juniors who competed in the TBF Junior National Championship this week walked onstage and introduced themselves.
> Brad Roberts of Nancy, Ky. won the co-angler division today, which was worth $50,000. It was his first-ever tournament victory and he outfished his pro, Iaconelli, by a pound and a half. He caught all of his fish today on a football-head jig. "I've always wanted to get a win, but to do it today at the Forrest Wood Cup, it's just unbelievable," he said. "Everything lined up and I fished clean, and I was able to cull a couple of times."
> Terry Moberly, an auto production worker from Berea, Ky., won $1 million as the top points-getter in FLW Fantasy Fishing. He edged out fellow Kentuckian Jeff Short, who won a Ranger Z20 Comanche boat, by 41 points. “If my sons hadn’t urged me to enter that first tournament, I wouldn’t be here today,” Moberly said. “Like many things in life, you have to enter to win. And thank goodness I entered FLW Fantasy Fishing."
> Bill Slavis, a machinist from Torrington, Conn., was flown into Pittsburgh today – he's the only Fantasy Fishing player with a shot at winning the $3 million PowerHook game, which involved picking the Top 5 finishers in the Cup in exact order. He was the lone contestant to have all five of his selections make the Top 10. He picked Lefebre to win, followed by Iaconelli, Nixon, Walker and Hackney.
Here's the weather forecast for the final day of the tournament.
> Sun., Aug. 2 - A.M. T-Storms - 77°/63°
- Wind: From the SW at 10 mph
More details on this tournament will be posted soon.
Day 3 Standings
1. Rusty Salweske -- Alpine, CA -- 5, 6-06
2. David Curtis -- Trinity, TX -- 5, 5-07
3. Cody Meyer -- Redding, CA -- 5, 5-00
4. Michael Iaconelli -- Runnemede, NJ -- 4, 4-12
5. Scott Suggs -- Bryant, AR -- 3, 4-06
6. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 4, 4-03
7. Dave Lefebre -- Union City, PA -- 1, 3-15
8. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 1, 0-13
9. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 1, 0-12
10. Larry Nixon -- Bee Branch, AR -- 2, 0-10