Lake Lanier is undoubtedly one of the premier spotted-bass fisheries in the nation, but it's an aging reservoir, and thus the primary structure is now manmade.
Sunken brush of all sorts litters the lake bottom. Brushpiles create cover for bait and attract bass.
There were two schools of thought as this year's Forrest Wood Cup at Lanier approached. There were those who planned to fish shallow largemouths and those who planned to fish brush.
The largemouths were pretty much a no-show. Ron Hobbs, Jr. was the sole pro to make the Top 6 with shallow fish, but he ran out and blanked the final day.
Kevin Hawk, on the other hand, weighed an astounding 14-13 the final day and won the cup by an impressive 2-pound margin.
Hawk did it with brush a lot of it. The aspiring pro temporarily moved to Lanier as soon as he qualified for the Cup, and since last fall lived in a pool house. He showered outside and plied a meager existence, but it all paid off.
In the time he lived at Lanier, he fished the lake as much as possible, and he eventually marked so much brush and structure that his GPS ran out of storage room.
Self-planted brush has been a determining factor in previous Cups and it's well within the rules. But Hawk didn't sink any of his own brush. There was so much in there already, there was no need.
He ran as many as 50 to 60 different waypoints each day during competition, and switched between two baits one he used when fish were tighter to bottom and the brush, the other when they were more suspended.
His winning average clocked in at 12 3/4 pounds a day, just a titch higher than the predicted 12 to 12 1/2 pounds a day.
The Forrest Wood Cup title, his first tour-level win, netted him $600,000. Here's how he did it.
> Day 1: 5, 14-12
> Day 2: 5, 10-03
> Day 3: 5, 11-02
> Day 4: 5, 14-13
> Total = 20, 50-14
Day 1 offered hot, sunny conditions, which positioned the fish tight to the brush. They were eating the dropshot good, Hawk said, so that's what he primarily threw. He caught four of his five weigh-fish on a dropshot Roboworm, but caught his biggest on a 1/2-ounce Sworming Hornet Fish Head Spin.
When he caught that big fish, he tried to run around and upgrade with the Fish Head, but never did.
Days 2 and 3 were overcast days, with periodic storms, and that changed the bite. Hawk said the fish weren't up in the water column and active, and weights as a whole were light across the field. He had to fish more spots than he did on day 1 just to get a decent size and pretty much caught 1 3/4- to 2-pounders.
The clouds departed for day 4 when sun and high skies returned.
Here's a look at Hawk's winning baits a 6" Roboworm Straight Tail (Top) and Sworming Hornet Fish Head Spin (middle) tipped with a Zoom Salty Super Fluke Jr. (bottom).
"I caught a Fish Head fish early, and I knew they'd be biting that thing," Hawk noted of the final day. "I started running around to all the (deep brush) places I knew that set up well for the Fish Head Spin. He caught his three biggest fish on the bait and his key depth that final day was brush in 28 or 29 feet of water. On days 2 and 3, with cloudier conditions, his key depth was 22 to 25 feet.
Winning Pattern Notes
Hawk tended to concentrate on the lower, deeper end of the lake. "The majority of the fish I weighed in the tournament were caught in between Brown's Bridge and the dam," he said. "Better quality was on the south end."
About his local advantage, he noted: "One difference might have been that I never spent a long time here before (this year). I wasn't locked into any certain places. I didn't have 15 or 20 years of history fishing the lake. Tom Mann's probably caught 3-, 4-, 5-pounders all over the south end. I only had a few of those places and tended to focus on them during the tournament, and I hit those spots multiple times."
Winning Gear Notes
> Dropshot gear: 7' Lucky Craft dropshot rod, Shimano Symetre spinning reel, 7-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon, 3/8-ounce dropshot weight, 6" Roboworm Straight Tail (morning dawn).
The Bottom Line
> Hawk has two sponsors CL8 Bait swimbaits and Bass Grabber Custom Baits.
Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here.