It was a virtual certainty that the recent Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Lanier in Georgia would be won off of deep brushpiles. However, there are untold thousands of those scattered around "Atlanta's playground," and only a small percentage of them harbored the type of fish that were needed to contend under the sultry conditions in the dead of summer.
Knowing which piles to visit and how long to remain before moving onto the next one was critical to a strong finish. Those who stopped in the wrong places or tarried too long in one locale were relegated to single-digit bags.
The Top 5 finishers all plied deep water (18 feet on down). The only final-day qualifier who stayed in the shallows was Washingtonian Ron Hobbs Jr.
Pattern information for the Top 3 finishers was posted over the last 2 days. Following is a rundown for Nos. 4 through 6.
4th: Brent Ehrler
> Day 1: 5, 12-09
> Day 2: 5, 11-12
> Day 3: 5, 14-14
> Day 4: 4, 7-05
> Total = 19, 46-08
California's Brent Ehrler, the 2006 Cup champion, appeared to take charge of the tournament with his massive bag on day 3 that pushed him to the lead. He struggled badly on Sunday, though, and a second victory in the event slipped through his grasp.
He had a mediocre practice and went into day 1 without a lot of confidence, but things came together from there.
"I was committed to the brushpiles even though practice was tough and I didn't catch them good at all," he said. "But on (the first) tournament day I started running a bunch of spots and I started catching a couple of good ones here and another good one there.
"I fine-tuned where I needed to go and the places I needed to spend more time in."
He caught the majority of his fish on a dropshot rig, but a few came on an underspin bait (similar to the Sworming Hornet Fish Head Spin that's ubiquitous at Lanier).
> Dropshot gear: 7' heavy-action Lucky Craft Shaky Head rod, 7-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon line, 1/4-ounce Lunker City Bakudan dropshot weight, 1/0 Owner offset wide-gap hook, Yamamoto Thin Senko (green-pumpkin) or 4 1/2" Roboworm straight-tail (plum Berry).
> The plum Berry color was designed by Art Berry, Ehrler said.
> Underspin gear: 7' medium-heavy Lucky Craft pitching rod, 10-pound Sunline Sniper, unnamed 1/2-ounce underspin bait, prototype Kinami fluke-style trailer (pearl white).
Main factor in his success – "Even though I wasn't catching much in practice, I stayed focused on the deeper brushpile pattern. That was kind of hard to do – you had to constantly tell yourself that this was going to take all day."
Performance edge – "It's always a combination of everything, but the Sunline Sniper was light enough to get the bites, but strong enough to allow me to pull fish out of the brush."
Troy Morrow used his practice time to whittle a list of more than 1,600 waypoints down to 528.
5th: Troy Morrow
> Day 1: 5, 10-14
> Day 2: 5, 11-08
> Day 3: 5, 12-11
> Day 4: 3, 6-12
> Total = 18, 41-13
BFL All-American champion Troy Morrow, who lives in nearby Toccoa, Ga., was on Lanier nearly every day for about a month and a half straight before it went off-limits.
"I had a pretty extensive list of old waypoints – between 1,600 and 2,000 – and I checked every one of them in pre-practice to verify if they were still holding fish," he said. "I narrowed that list down to 528.
"I'd already made a ranking system with a different color (icon) for the best piles, and I had 60 of those. They were the ones I had to hit."
He made between 35 and 45 stops a day and caught nearly an equal number of weigh-in fish on a dropshot rig and a crankbait. His depth range was 18 to 31 feet.
> Dropshot gear: 7' medium-action Duckett Fishing MicroMagic rod, Shimano Stradic spinning reel, unnamed 7-pound fluorocarbon line, unnamed 3/16-ounce dropshot weight, No. 6 Gamaktsu hook, BassTrix Fat Minnow (smelt) or 6" Roboworm (morning dawn).
> Cranking gear: 7'11" medium-heavy Duckett Fishing MicroMagic cranking stick, Shimano casting reel (5:1 ratio), unnamed 10-pound fluorocarbon, Spro Little John DD (clear chartreuse or spooky shad) or Brian's Prop Bee (shad).
Main factor in his success – "Time on the water and being able to determine which piles were productive and which weren't."
Performance edge – "My Lowrance unit. The StructureScan is invaluable when you're fishing deep over open water and it had no trouble handling those 528 waypoints."
Ron Hobbs Jr.'s shallow pattern held up until the final day.
6th: Ron Hobbs, Jr.
> Day 1: 5, 10-14
> Day 2: 5, 13-05
> Day 3: 5, 11-00
> Day 4: 0, 0-00
> Total = 15, 35-03
Hobbs qualified for the Cup through the Western FLW Series. He hails from Orting, Wash., but isn't a Columbia River expert. He instead prefers the Seattle metro lakes like Washington and Sammamish.
And he's certainly an angler worth watching. He works full-time, but scored a 3rd-place finish in the 2008 Western Series points, a 7th-place finish last year, and this year he's at 8th in the points with one event to go.
He spent his Cup shallow, and was the only one to make the Top 6 on a shallow pattern.
"I fished shallow creekbeds in the backs of two creeks with a dropshot," he said. "They were creeks off a main creek, so they were secondary. They weren't dumping right into the main river.
"I was fishing the channel that cut through the flats," he added. "The flats had grass on both sides and the channel ran through the middle. But the other important thing was the channel had to be close to shore. The shore would almost have to be one side of the channel."
> Dropshot gear: 6'8" medium-light G. Loomis SMR822 GLX Bronzeback rod, Daiwa Sol spinning reel, 6-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon, 1/8-ounce QuickDrop weight, 2/0 Roboworm ReBarb hook, 6" Zoom Magnum Shakey Head worm (green-pumpkin).
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