By Todd Ceisner
Philip Jarabeck was 13 years old in 2003 when David Dudley won the Forrest Wood Cup back home in Virginia at the James River. He remembers being there to cheer for his uncle, but doesn't recall anything specific about the day other than it was "a crazy day."
Talk about crazy. The 2014 Cup at Lake Murray is half over and Jarabeck finds himself atop a suddenly cramped leaderboard, one day after his fishing mentor occupied the top spot.
The 24-year-old Jarabeck, who's competing in his first Cup as a pro, leapt to the front of the pack on cut day with a 17-00 limit that gave him 26-04 total. It came on the heels of a three-fish day yesterday that had him in 19th and would've been 4 ounces heavier if not for a dead-fish penalty today. Still, it was good enough for a slim 8-ounce lead over 2006 Cup winner Brent Ehrler, who's one of eight anglers to catch limits on both days.
"It's exciting to have the opportunity to go fish another day," Jarabeck said.
Ehrler, who's catching fish both deep and shallow, scratched out 12-07 to push his total to 25-12. Bryan Thrift, who was tied for 2nd after day 1, had 10-07 today to give him 25-00 in 3rd. He's a little worried his topwater pattern is starting to fizzle, but he's 2 pounds closer to the lead than he was a day ago.
Michael Wooley, another Cup newbie, continued to refine his deep-water program and came back with 14-12 to move up 13 spots to 4th with 24-04. Jacob Wheeler, who won the 2012 Cup and was the runner-up a year ago, jumped into 5th with a four-fish sack for 11-13 to run his aggregate to 24-02.
Dudley weighed three fish for 6-01 and slipped to 6th with 23-15, less than 2 1/2 pounds behind his nephew, with whom he travels and openly shares information.
"I've fished with him for I don't even know how long," Jarabeck said. "He's my uncle. As far as fishing friends go, he's my best friend. We share everything 100 percent what you're catching them on, what color, shape, size, how deep, every detail. We just help each other out and it's been really helpful because I have David Dudley to help me learn.
"It's also helpful because we have the same style. I grew up learning from him so I may do something in a different part of the lake, but I'm not doing something he's not comfortable doing so if I figure something out then he can apply it somewhere else. Just like if he figures something out I can get on a similar thing somewhere else."
Here's a look at the Top 10 at the halfway point, with deficit margin from Jarabeck indicated by red numbers in parentheses:
1. Philip Jarabeck: 26-04
2. Brent Ehrler: 25-12 (00-08)
3. Bryan Thrift: 25-00 (1-04)
4. Michael Wooley: 24-04 (2-00)
5. Jacob Wheeler: 24-02 (2-02)
6. David Dudley: 23-15 (2-05)
7. Anthony Gagliardi: 23-05 (2-15)
8. Andy Morgan: 22-14 (3-06)
9. Scott Canterbury: 21-03 (5-01)
10. Matt Herren: 21-02 (5-02)
South Carolinian Casey Ashley jumped up nine spots to make the cut in 12th after bagging 11-14 today. Ramie Colson Jr. came from 26th to 18th with a 10-05 effort today while James Biggs, the TBF National Champion, rallied from 31st to 19th behind a 12-08 stringer.
The shocking development of the day was Cody Meyer's failure to catch a keeper, which dropped him down to 26th and ended his run at a Cup win. He had been tied for 2nd after day 1. Barry Wilson (10th to 29th) and Stetson Blaylock (11th to 27th) also had tough days and missed the cut. Defending champ Randall Tharp caught 13-04 today, but his rally from a one-fish bag yesterday fell 2 ounces short and he finished 21st.
The weather continued to stabilize today and the field fished under high skies and a blazing sun with very little wind. Some cloud cover moved in during the latter stages of the session, but not enough to alter anyone's plans. The forecast for Saturday is much of the same highs in the 90s with little wind.
While there were a fair number of spectator boats on the water today, it's expected the traffic factor, both recreational and spectator, will ramp up tomorrow.
Jarabeck Feeling Comfortable
> Day 2: 5, 17-00 (8, 26-04)
Jarabeck appeared calm and relaxed after weighing in and taking the lead at the halfway point. He said Murray is setting up in a similar fashion to lakes he's familiar with in Virginia.
"I'm fishing the way I am comfortable," he said. "This lake sets up exactly like the two lakes back home Buggs Island and Smith Mountain. If you put those two lakes together, you would have this lake. It's just like home. I'm feeling really comfortable.
"I figured something out extra from what I was from the day before so I'm excited to go back out and try it. It's a lot of rolling around and starting on new places. I went to places I've never fished before this morning and caught a couple good ones. It's super exciting to have a great day. There's not much else I can say."
He caught two of his weigh fish shallow this morning before tacking on three more offshore. His deeper pattern is focused in 20 to 25 feet and fishing very slowly around "stumps, rocks, brush, fish, whatever's there. I'm trying to find a bass down there, but there's not many down there."
"It's a lot of bouncing back and forth," he said. "The first couple of hours is really crucial to my weight getting those first couple good bites and then riding it out deep the rest of the day to finish my limit. That's what I plan on doing tomorrow."
2nd: Ehrler Grinding
> Day 2: 5, 12-07 (10, 25-12)
Ehrler feels like he's been around areas with some decent fish. The problem is he also feels like some of the areas won't be replenishing.
"It was tougher today no doubt," he said. "It's getting tougher each day. I ran through a few places where I really felt like I could catch one and never did."
He tallied seven keeper bites again and broke one off for the second straight day.
"If I can get seven bites again tomorrow I can stay right there in the position I'm at," he said. "When you can catch one they seem like they're 2-pounders so there are some decent fish. I weighed in one real small one today so if I can get a limit of those better ones, I can get up to that 13-pound mark again. It'll take something special to get up to that 15- or 18-pound stuff."
He's hitting shallow areas as well as deep spots, covering the 5- to 20-foot range overall.
"I kind of do have a little bit of a pattern running but I don't have a lot of places and that's the thing they're not replenishing," he said. "I went through some places I caught them yesterday and I didn't catch anything. I really only saved one spot that I haven't hit yet. The rest I've hit."
3rd: Topwater Bite Critical For Thrift
> Day 2: 5, 10-07 (10, 25-00)
Despite keeping himself in contention, Thrift was left scratching his head over several missed opportunities this morning when fish were failing to eat his topwater bait. He's not ready to abandon it since he thinks it's his only avenue to victory.
Bryan Thrift says the morning topwater bite is critical to his chances of winning.
"I think I blew it today," he admitted. "My whole tournament is based on me catching three or four good ones on top every morning. I had the bites today just like I did yesterday, but they weren't eating the bait. They'd roll on it or slap at it or blow up on it and just not get the bait in their mouths.
"I've got a couple places where I think I can catch a limit pretty easily it's going to be a small limit around 9 or 10 pounds but if I can four of those 2 1/2- to 3-pound topwater fish I know I can go catch one keeper in 5 minutes. I've got to get that topwater bite going again. That's going to be critical. If I'm going to be any threat at all to win this tournament, I've got to catch some big topwater fish."
Two of his weigh fish were caught on a topwater bait, which he declined to identify, and the other three came on reactions baits on an offshore area later in the day. He knows he's not out of it, but tomorrow morning will tell him a lot about how the rest of the tournament will go.
"There's nothing I can do," he said. "I can pick up another bait and try it, which is probably what I'll do, but that's the nature of the beast when you're throwing a topwater bait. They're not going to eat it every time. It's not that they're just nipping at it. They're blowing up on it. They're trying to eat it. It's just bad luck that they're missing it.
"Whoever wins this tournament is going to catch a big bag over the next 2 days. Really anybody within four or five pounds of the lead has a chance. This lake is so tough right now. Philip caught a huge bag today. He could go out there and catch two tomorrow. This lake is absolutely brutal right now and just to catch five fish is a success. Once you get a limit, you have to call it a successful day if it weighs seven pounds or 20 pounds."
4th: All-Day Action for Wooley
> Day 2: 5, 14-04 (9, 24-04)
Wooley wasn't too enthused with what his shallow spots produced yesterday so he opted to fish offshore all day and it turned out to be a shrewd and solid call. He racked up 10 keepers across 15 spots from the mid lake area to the dam.
"I fished two hours yesterday morning up shallow and had one bite and it was a small one," he said. "I figured it wasn't worth wasting time. On Tuesday, I caught some really nice fish out deep early so I figured I'd just stay out there."
He's had success with one particular bait and his deep fish are coming out of the 20- to 40-foot range on areas with a hard, rock bottom. His success today has him thinking a deep-only pattern could win the Cup.
"I think it could happen deep," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow with all the boat traffic. I dont think it'll affect the deep fish since I'm catching them so deep. Most of them are real spooky so once you catch one or two, you might as well pack up and go to the next spot. If I get two off a spot, that's doing well."
5th: Wheeler Still Confident
> Day 2: 4, 11-13 (9, 24-02)
Wheeler is employing a high-octane approach to fishing this week as he tries to cover as much potentially productive water as possible each day.
"It'll make your spin how much I'm running," he said. "I'll stop and jump up on the deck of the boat before the boat stops and make five casts and roll around the corner and then run to the next little deal. I'm just trying to cover as much productive water as I possibly can. That's the key to this lake and if I can get to enough productive water that I feel like they live on I'm going to get five bites throughout the day."
He had six bites today, but a couple didn't the bait right and got off.
"Tomorrow, I could have seven or eight bites and have a couple of those fish get it and all of sudden I can have 16 or 17 pounds," he added.
He's starting to get an understanding of how the fish are setting up in certain areas, which is prompting him to cut and run so fast. At this point, he says he's fishing based on feel.
"These fish aren't in wolf packs so they're fish that live on those areas," he said. "They stay there. I don't feel like there are groups of them in those areas so once you catch a few of them, you have to move on to something else."
Jacob Wheeler plans to continue his run-and-gun frenetic pace tomorrow.
6th: Lot Slower Day For Dudley
> Day 2: 3, 6-01 (8, 23-15)
The bites were there for Dudley today. The only difference from day 1 was they were smaller today.
"I probably ended up catching the same amount of fish, but just the keepers weren't there today," he said. "Figure I had 15 total bites yesterday. Today, I had the same number, but only three keepers."
He's fishing an expansive area on the dam end of the lake and intends to stick it out there.
"I did everything I did to catch them yesterday," he added. "The keepers just weren't there. I had the same amount of bites, just no keepers. I'm not discouraged at all. I just hope today is my worst day. Once I get back and talk to Philip and we exchange information and I figured out where I went wrong. It might be good."
7th: Gagliardi Scrapped His Plan
> Day 2: 4, 10-03 (9, 23-05)
Anthony Gagliardi tried to stay locked in on his primary game plan today, but once 3 p.m. rolled around and he still needed a couple fish to finish his limit, he opted to scrap it in favor of some shallow water. His decision panned out as he caught a 5-04 kicker shallow late in the day.
"It was tough to say the least," he said. "I knew when I started out on the spot I started on yesterday and only caught two 14-inchers I knew at that point it was going to be a tough day. I managed to catch one more there so I left with three and had those in the box until 3 o'clock. That's when I caught that big one at the end of the day."
He said he had a couple chances to finish his limit, but the fish wouldn't totally commit to his bait.
The call to go shallow late in the day ran contrary to what he would typically do under similar conditions, but with his offshore spots not producing, he had other plan Bs.
"Normally, that would be the case with me, too, but I kind of lost confidence in it," he said. " I'd done it enough and even around 10 to noon it should be good then. It's not like it'll all of sudden turn on at 2. If they're not biting at noon, they're probably not biting at 2."
His best fish today was a 3 1/2-pounder he caught up one of the rivers off a spot he looked at but didn't fish yesterday.
"That was a key decision that helped me," he said. "I caught today with four fish what I had about yesterday with five. I'm fairly happy with today, but I left the door open with not having that fifth fish. I'd really like to have that one just because a 2-pounder would put me near the lead. There is no doubt that the fish are here to do it. There are giants that live here. You just have to come across the right ones."
9th: Action Picked Up for Canterbury
> Day 2: 5, 11-13 (9, 21-03)
Any time you can double your keeper count at Lake Murray in August, it's worth noting. That's exactly what Scott Canterbury did today, going from four fish on day 1 to eight today as he moved into the Top 10.
"Today, I just grinded it out," he said. "It's tough to get a bite out there and I've been chasing those fish in the open water because that's where the big ones are at, but I think I figured out something to get a few bites today. I don't know if it'll work. We'll have to see."
All of his weigh-in fish were caught shallow today. While he is focusing on real shallow areas and deeper spots (20 feet or so), his front deck is littered with 12 to 15 rods each day.
"I'm junk-fishing and that's what I like doing just fishing my gut," he said. "Today, I pulled into some places I hadn't even looked at during practice and caught one. Thats the way I like fishing and the way I'm going to keep fishing."
10th: Herren Looking For New Area
> Day 2: 5, 10-14 (10, 21-02)
Matt Herren feels like he could go back into the area he's been fishing and continue on his 10-pounds-per-day-pace, but he also knows that such a strategy is unlikely to result in a win this week.
"The area I'm fishing, whether it will hold up for another 10 pounds I don't know, but I'm not going back to it," he said. "I'm either coming in with 15 pounds or I'm going home. I've tried and tried and tried to hold on in that area to get a bigger bite and it's obvious they're not there."
He left his key area for a while this morning in search of new productive water, but eventually he returned and continued to fish visible targets (wood, docks, grass) in the back of a major creek arm.
"If I want to move up in the standings and have a chance to win it, I have to do something else," he added. "I don't have anything to go to. I'm just going to go fishing. I just feel like the better fish are closer to the bank."
12th: Ashley Staying Shallow
> Day 2: 5, 11-14 (10, 20-14)
Ashley believes if the weather remains the same through the weekend, he could have a field day fishing shallow and burning the bank as he did today.
"In my mind, today was perfect conditions for what I'm doing," he said. "When you're fishing shallow, topwater stuff you don't need a lot of wind blowing on it. When it's slick, hot and calm, you have stable conditions and that's the key. Today, I saw a couple good ones, but I couldn't get them to bite.
"Tomorrow I might go check them, but I'm not going to start on them. I'm going to cover some more water and hope that it's just like it was today. I want it to be hot because that plays with everybody else's mind."
He's dialed in on two particular baits, both topwaters, but he wasn't ready to divulge any details.
"I'm sticking shallow throughout, win or lose," he added. "That's what I like to do and the way I feel like I can win. I feel like it's the only way you're going to catch a big fish a 5-plus. If you can get that one bite, that could be the separation you need in this tournament."
26th: Meyer Caught a Ton of Shorts
> Day 2: 0, 00-00 (5, 14-09)
Never before in his Tour career has Meyer zeroed. For it to happen at the Cup and coming off a day on which he caught 14-09 and was tied for 2nd was disappointing to say the least.
"It was just tough, tough fishing," he said. "I fished every spot where I thought there was a bass and then like 8 miles of new water. I probably caught 15 fish between 12 and 13 1/2 inches. It happens, though. I felt like I was doing the right stuff. I never lost one or hooked one or missed one."
His bait arsenal today included a floating worm, frog, buzzbait, dropshot swimbait and a topwater.
"I saw Jarabeck this afternoon because we were fishing some of the same brush piles so I know there were good ones in there and they obviously bit for him," he said. "I still felt like I was doing the right thing. It's just for some reason it wasn't meant for me to catch them today.
"I was thinking what should I have done, but I would've done the same thing again today."
> Day 2 stats 45 anglers, 14 limits (3 fewer than yesterday), 9 fours, 10 threes, 6 twos, 5 ones, 1 zero (1 less than yesterday).
> Sat., Aug. 16 Partly Cloudy - 93°/71°
- Wind: From the SSW at 6 mph
> Sun., Aug. 17 Mostly Sunny - 95°/74°
- Wind: From the SW at 9 mph
Day 2 Standings
1. Philip Jarabeck -- Lynchburg, Va -- 9-4 (3) -- 17-0 (5) -- 26-4 (8)
2. Brent Ehrler -- Redlands, Ca -- 13-5 (5) -- 12-7 (5) -- 25-12 (10)
3. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 14-9 (5) -- 10-7 (5) -- 25-0 (10)
4. Michael Wooley -- Collierville, Tn -- 9-8 (4) -- 14-12 (5) -- 24-4 (9)
5. Jacob Wheeler -- Indianapolis, In -- 12-5 (5) -- 11-13 (4) -- 24-2 (9)
6. David Dudley -- Lynchburg, Va -- 17-14 (5) -- 6-1 (3) -- 23-15 (8)
7. Anthony Gagliardi -- Prosperity, SC -- 13-2 (5) -- 10-3 (4) -- 23-5 (9)
8. Andy Morgan -- Dayton, Tn -- 12-10 (5) -- 10-4 (5) -- 22-14 (10)
9. Scott Canterbury -- Springville, Al -- 10-0 (4) -- 11-3 (5) -- 21-3 (9)
10. Matt Herren -- Ashville, Al -- 10-4 (5) -- 10-14 (5) -- 21-2 (10)
11. Scott Martin -- Clewiston, Fl -- 13-6 (5) -- 7-8 (5) -- 20-14 (10)
12. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 9-0 (5) -- 11-14 (5) -- 20-14 (10)
13. Mark Rose -- West Memphis, Ar -- 9-7 (5) -- 10-8 (5) -- 19-15 (10)
14. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, Al -- 9-13 (5) -- 9-15 (5) -- 19-12 (10)
15. Matthew Stefan -- Junction City, Wi -- 10-4 (5) -- 9-2 (4) -- 19-6 (9)
16. Brad Knight -- Wartburg, Tn -- 13-7 (5) -- 5-13 (3) -- 19-4 (8)
17. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 10-9 (4) -- 8-0 (4) -- 18-9 (8)
18. Ramie Colson Jr -- Cadiz, Ky -- 8-0 (3) -- 10-5 (4) -- 18-5 (7)
19. James Biggs -- Euless, Tx -- 5-7 (2) -- 12-8 (5) -- 17-15 (7)
20. Dan Morehead -- Paducah, Ky -- 9-3 (4) -- 6-10 (4) -- 15-13 (8)
The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 3.
21. Randall Tharp -- Port Saint Joe, Fl -- 2-7 (1) -- 13-4 (5) -- 15-11 (6) -- $10,000
22. Stephen Johnston -- Hemphill, Tx -- 8-8 (3) -- 6-15 (3) -- 15-7 (6) -- $10,000
23. Tom Monsoor -- La Crosse, Wi -- 7-9 (4) -- 7-14 (2) -- 15-7 (6) -- $10,000
24. Shinichi Fukae -- Palestine, Tx -- 8-3 (4) -- 7-2 (3) -- 15-5 (7) -- $10,000
25. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, Ok -- 8-1 (4) -- 7-1 (4) -- 15-2 (8) -- $10,000
26. Cody Meyer -- Auburn, Ca -- 14-9 (5) -- 0-0 (0) -- 14-9 (5) -- $10,000
27. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, Ar -- 10-15 (5) -- 3-0 (2) -- 13-15 (7) -- $10,000
28. Wesley Strader -- Spring City, Tn -- 7-14 (5) -- 5-1 (3) -- 12-15 (8) -- $10,000
29. Barry Wilson -- Birmingham, Al -- 11-8 (5) -- 1-6 (1) -- 12-14 (6) -- $10,000
30. Shad Schenck -- Waynetown, In -- 3-14 (2) -- 8-8 (5) -- 12-6 (7) -- $10,000
31. Marcus Sykora -- Osage Beach, Mo -- 4-6 (1) -- 7-13 (2) -- 12-3 (3) -- $10,000
32. Matt Greenblatt -- Port St Lucie, Fl -- 3-2 (1) -- 8-12 (3) -- 11-14 (4) -- $10,000
33. Randy Haynes -- Counce, Tn -- 3-4 (2) -- 8-1 (3) -- 11-5 (5) -- $10,000
34. Tony Davis -- Williston, Fl -- 8-14 (4) -- 1-14 (1) -- 10-12 (5) -- $10,000
35. Robbie Dodson -- Harrison, Ar -- 4-0 (2) -- 6-8 (3) -- 10-8 (5) -- $10,000
36. Austin Felix -- Eden Prairie, Mn -- 7-3 (3) -- 3-3 (2) -- 10-6 (5) -- $10,000
37. Jeff Michels -- Lakehead, Ca -- 1-6 (1) -- 8-14 (4) -- 10-4 (5) -- $10,000
38. Charlie Ingram -- Centerville, Tn -- 2-2 (1) -- 7-9 (4) -- 9-11 (5) -- $10,000
39. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, Az -- 4-3 (1) -- 5-7 (3) -- 9-10 (4) -- $10,000
40. Austin Terry -- San Angelo, Tx -- 4-0 (2) -- 5-3 (3) -- 9-3 (5) -- $10,000
41. Joseph Wood -- Westport, Ma -- 6-3 (3) -- 1-9 (1) -- 7-12 (4) -- $10,000
42. Jason Lambert -- Pickwick Dam, Tn -- 1-3 (1) -- 4-0 (2) -- 5-3 (3) -- $10,000
43. Michael Neal -- Dayton, Tn -- 2-0 (1) -- 2-11 (1) -- 4-11 (2) -- $10,000
44. Spencer Shuffield -- Bismarck, Ar -- 0-0 (0) -- 3-12 (2) -- 3-12 (2) -- $10,000
45. Richard Peek -- Centre, Al -- 0-0 (0) -- 3-0 (1) -- 3-0 (1) -- $10,000