July 31, 2009 by Brett Carlson
PITTSBURGH - Pro Greg Hackney took a double goose egg at the 2005 Bassmaster Classic on the Three Rivers. While attempting to coax kicker largemouth bass, Hackney ended up empty handed. This year at the Forrest Wood Cup, he's learning to love the more aggressive brown bass.
The 2005 Classic saw eight five-bass limits over the course of three days. The 2009 Cup has already seen 42 limits in just two days. Most competitors expected the fishing would be better this time around, but they didn't expect to see a weight like Hackney's.
The 2005 Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year registered a staggering 11-pound, 12-ounce limit Friday. Hackney's stringer was the first to reach the double-digit mark. In fact, it surpassed Dave Lefebre's impressive day-one catch of 8-13 by nearly 3 pounds. The Gonzales, La., pro could have zeroed on the first day and still made the top-10 cutoff. Instead, he will leave tomorrow morning as boat No. 1, thanks to a two-day total of 14 pounds, 13 ounces.
"I caught eight keepers today and once I got dialed in, I never caught any shorts," said the pro leader, who qualified for the Cup through the FLW Series Eastern Division.
Hackney went through three locks to reach his primary area in the Allegheny River. He had a productive practice up and down the Allegheny - catching several keepers and several limits. But up until today, he had never caught a bass heavier than 2 pounds. His two biggest bass Friday weighed 3 3/4 pounds and 3 pounds even. The BASS Elite Series pro said he used three different moving baits as he target-fished along the bank.
"You never know with (the river)," Hackney said. "It changes every day. It's getting higher and it rained a bunch today. And that's going to have some effect on what happens tomorrow."
Hackney believes the heavy rains increased the current which in turn helped position his fish. While others said their primary areas were too dirty, Hackney reported water clarity of nearly 3 feet.
"I like these conditions a lot. For me, they are much better now than they were in practice. I didn't even bring a dip net because I didn't think I'd need it. I sure could have used it on those two big ones today."
One of Hackney's five keepers was caught by sight-fishing as he spotted the smallmouth bass sitting under a log. After one pitch, it was in his livewell and headed to Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh.
"That fish was a gift from God. Those are the things that have to happen to win one of these tournaments."
Lefebre stays off his best stuff
Lefebre returned to the site of his 8-pound, 13-ounce limit Friday morning. Within his area he has two specific rocks that are 50 yards apart. Yesterday these two rocks produced 25 keeper smallmouths. Today the day-one leader never even fished them, instead opting to fish the periphery of the area closer to the bank. Achieving his goal, he caught what he needed without burning any fish. He finished the day with a limit weighing 5-11, which pushed his opening-round total to 14-8.
"I feel good," said the Union City, Pa., pro. "We're halfway through the tournament and I haven't fished hardly anything yet."
Lefebre took second at last year's Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray. At that event he felt as though he was running out of fish.
"This feels different, different and better. I am relieved to have made the top 10 and now all I need is a couple of the big bites."
Lefebre was still tight lipped about his presentation, allowing only that he is mainly fishing slowly. His primary area is located a few locks from the takeoff site on the Ohio River. Yesterday he remarked that the rain and increased current helped his bite. Today he said he's seen enough rain and that he is hoping it stays dry, which would allow the water to gradually clear. He shares this off-shore stretch of the Ohio with Larry Nixon, who also made the top-10 cutoff.
"I've been dreaming about winning the Cup ever since I saw the Steelers win the Super Bowl."
Coming into the tournament many thought that in order to make the top 10 a five-bass limit each day would be absolutely necessary. But Scott Suggs proved that theory wrong as he caught only three keepers day two, but still finished the opening round in third. Those three keeper smallmouths weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces, which pushed his two-day total to 14 pounds even.
Suggs is also fishing the Allegheny, but he's only going through one lock. He's using big, heavy soft plastics in green pumpkin. He started the day using red-flake color, but it didn't work and he eventually switched back. Suggs colors the tips of his unspecified baits with chartreuse in hopes that they will stand out in the dirty water.
"It was tough today; I had to make a major adjustment," said the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup champion. "Since the last day of practice I know the river is up a full foot. The current is ripping unbelievably. I had to get out of the current or at least go to where it was slower."
Suggs' key adjustment was fishing behind an island that broke the current. At 1:30 p.m. he had only one fish in his Ranger livewell. Within the next 30 minutes he caught two more and his co-angler partner also managed one. In total, the Folgers pro received only four keeper bites. He also caught an additional 15 short fish that were under the 12-inch minimum length requirement.
"I'm just spot running - fishing key little spots and key little things. I know I'm around big fish. I've made it this far with only eight."
Meyer leaps to fourth
Western stick Cody Meyer fished the Monongahela River yesterday and produced a limit weighing 6-3, which was good enough for 10th place. Today he chose the Allegheny and he improved his catch to 7-7. He finished the opening round with 13 pounds, 10 ounces, good enough fourth place overall.
Meyer used both topwater baits and drop shots to catch his fish. His primary area is located in the third pool in the Allegheny - meaning he travels through two locks each way.
"I only got five keeper bites but two of them were 2-pounders," said the Redding, Calif., pro.
Meyer starts his day with topwaters such as a buzzbait or a Pop-R. He then switches to a drop-shot rig, which he tips with a 4-inch Jackall Cross Tail Shad. The drop shot caught the lion's share of the fish today and was rigged on 8-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.
This is Meyer's first Forrest Wood Cup and he is clearly making the most of his opportunity.
"I've made four cuts this year (two Stren Series, two FLW Series) and I'd trade all of them for this one."
Curtis grinds out small limit
Falling from second to fifth was Trinity, Texas, pro David Curtis. After catching 8-12 on day one, Curtis managed only 4-12 on day two.
"Man it was a grind," said the three-time TTT champion. "Yesterday the fish were aggressive and today I really had to cover a lot of water, but slow down at the same time."
For the second consecutive day, Curtis' limit consisted of three smallmouths and two spotted bass. He's catching these fish mainly on a spinnerbait in the Ohio River.
"Yesterday I was keyed in on the mayfly hatch. If I could find the mayflies around structure I could usually get multiple bites."
Curtis, who won the 2008 Stren Series Championship, says he has other areas he wants to fish but he's worried they've been ruined by the recent rains.
"I don't want to copy Ike, but I'm going to fish the moment. I'm here in the top 10 and I'm truly elated."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the Forrest Wood Cup who will be fishing Saturday:
6th: Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C, 12-2
7th: Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., 11-13
8th: Michael Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J., 11-12
9th: David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., 11-8
10th: Rusty Salewske of Alpine, Calif., 11-7
Day three of the Forrest Wood Cup on the Three Rivers will begin Saturday at 7 a.m. at Steelers Quay, located at Art Rooney Drive across from the South Plaza of Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.