August 2, 2009 by David A. Brown
PITTSBURGH - Ten of the world's top bass fishermen are hoping they CAN see the Forrest for the trees. And that is Forrest - with two R's, as in Forrest Wood, the Ranger Boats founder for whom the $2 million Forrest Wood Cup is named.
The "trees" are actually the leaves, bark, branches and twigs floating down Pittsburgh's acclaimed Three Rivers - the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio. Several days this week saw rain of varying intensity and when water drains into rivers it likes to pick up hitch hikers. Debris and mud have affected visibility, while rising rivers and the intuitive current have created their own challenges, in terms of where and how fish will position.
Leading the field is Alpine, Calif. pro Rusty Salewske whose performance has been consistent with limits on each of the previous three days. He reached the top-10 by sacking 6 pounds, 4 ounces on day one and following with 5-3 on day two. Salewske jumped into the top spot on day three with 6-6, but he holds just a 15-ounce margin over second place pro, David Curtis of Trinity, Texas. That's not much breathing room, but Salewske said he intends to hold the high ground with a conservative game plan.
"What it comes down to is that if I catch five, then (the rest of the field) has to catch them good," he said. "So that's what I'm going to concentrate on - just one at a time and hopefully get the five. It's a mental thing. When you start thinking `I have to catch five,' you start getting in a hurry, you start freaking out, backlashing.
"You have to tell yourself, `It's okay to blank, I'm already leading, so let's just catch them one at a time'."
Salewske has been fishing far up the Allegheny and he'll return there today. "What I like about (my spot) is the bait was big and there's a lot of it. Also, I saw a lot of keeper fish swimming around."
He'll start off with a topwater plug and then spend some throwing a spinnerbait and a crankbait. He'll also keep a jig handy for probing any prominent rock or stickup he encounters. The recent mayfly hatch kept the topwater bite active throughout the day.
"Several of my better fish, I watched them come up and eat a mayfly, eat a mayfly and when I threw the topwater in front of them, they ate it."
Texas pro David Curtis started out strong, placing second on day one - just an ounce off the lead set by Pennsylvania pro Dave Lefebre (currently in seventh). With smallies slurping mayflies, he was basically sightcasting with a spinnerbait. A rainy day two squashed that deal and he dropped to fifth after a day of junk fishing. Curtis regained some consistency on day three by bouncing a Texas-rigged tube over rocks with good current. He also culled a fish on a crankbait.
Curtis located a sweet spot in the Ohio River where he bagged four keepers in close proximity. Prior to takeoff, he was chomping at the bit, eager to give his water another shot.
"I'm really hoping that spot will produce some more fish for me. Whether it will or won't, we'll just have to see. But catching that many keepers on one small stretch was very encouraging. It lifted my spirits and I'm excited to get back down there and try it again."
In third, California pro Cody Meyer bagged limits on each of the previous three days. His heaviest catch - 7 pounds, 7 ounces on day two - came under conditions similar to those of today.
"On day two when it was cloudy and rainy, I had my best bag (on day two) when it was cloudy and rainy, so I'm hoping they bite a little more today. The only thing I've been lacking all week is a big one so I have to figure out how to get a big one."
Meyer will fish mostly with a white, curl tail grub... "The key for me will be to fish slow and cover a lot of water. I've been fishing different water every single day. I'll fish a variety of different structures (such as) bridges, water discharges and rocky banks with mayfly hatches in the trees. The mayflies were a big factor this week. You could see them fall out of the trees and the bass would get really active."
New Jersey pro Mike Iaconelli sits in fourth with 4-12. He missed his day three limit by one fish, while his partner, Brad Roberts won the co-angler title with five fish weighing 6-4. Clearly, one more keeper would have greatly affected Ike's final round position, but he's confident that he's still in the hunt. Today he'll return to the Ohio River and remain flexible in what has proven to be a dynamic fishery.
"I'm going to go back to the same pool I fished yesterday because I know the winning fish are swimming around there," Iaconelli said. "This is a game of constant adjustment. That's the one theme you're going to here when this thing's over - the guy that won was able to adjust each day with the fish.
"Everyday has been different for me - I've been constantly changing. Yesterday, the fish really switched. My co-angler and I kind of figured it out about noon, which was a little too late. But if the fish start on that pattern, doing the same kind of thing in the same kind of area, I think I'm going to have a really good day. If they change again, it might take me a while to figure it out."
Having junk fished most of the previous three days, Iaconelli found that yesterday's murky waters and accelerated current nullified several of his options. He ultimately settled on an unnamed bait with a large profile and lots of vibration - key traits for fishing in low visibility. Iaconelli will employ this bait again today with hopes of closing the gap.
"My number one goal today is to catch a limit," he said. "If I do that, I'll put myself in contention. There are only three guys ahead of me, so if one of them slips up and I catch a big fish, things could change."
Following Iaconelli by 6 ounces, 2007 Forrest Wood Cup champion and bass fishing's first instant millionaire Scott Suggs will start with a Texas-rigged green pumpkin tube. To bolster his bait's attraction in the turbid water, Suggs will spray his plastics with Gulp! Alive scent attractant.
"It makes me feel good just being here," Suggs said. "To be back in this position two years after I won is a pretty amazing thing. The ($1 million top prize) is a lot and it was a lot before, but winning again at this level would just be unbelievable."
Although the vast majority of fish weighed this week have been small by most standards, the big Easter egg hunt that is the Three Rivers holds a few well hidden prize eggs upon which fortunes could change on a single cast.
Lefebre's entire third day weight came from one studly smallie scaling 3 pounds, 15 ounces. A day earlier, Florida pro Scott Martin found a solid 4-pounder. No doubt, the big ones are very hard to come by, but they do exist.
Final weigh-ins will be held at Mellon Arena at 66 Mario Lemieux Place in Pittsburgh beginning at 5 p.m.
In conjunction with the weigh-ins, FLW Outdoors will host a free Family Fun Zone and outdoor show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center located at 1000 Ft. Duquesne Blvd. in Pittsburgh. The Family Fun Zone will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Family Fun Zone offers fans a chance to meet their Fantasy Fishing team anglers face-to-face and review the latest products from Berkley, Lowrance, Ranger, Evinrude, Yamaha and other sponsors while children are treated to giveaways, fishing themed games and rides like the Ranger Boat simulator. Children 14 and under visiting the Family Fun Zone on Sunday will receive a free rod and reel combo while supplies last. One lucky member of the audience will even win a new special edition Three Rivers Ranger Z20 boat powered by Evinrude during the final 5 p.m. weigh-in Sunday, Aug. 2, courtesy of Froggy Radio. Admission is free, and you must be present to win.
The total purse for the Pittsburgh Forrest Wood Cup presented by BP and Castrol is $2 million, including $10,000 through 40th place in the Pro Division.
Coverage of the Forrest Wood Cup presented by BP and Castrol, hosted by VisitPittsburgh, will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on VERSUS, the network which brings anglers the best fishing programming on television featuring the most-trusted authorities on the water. The Emmy-nominated "FLW Outdoors," will air Nov. 8 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET.
On the web
For those who can't catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.
In addition to FLW Live, FLWOutdoors.com is offering real-time updates from the water throughout each day of the Forrest Wood Cup. Simply click on the "On the Water Coverage" banner from any of the FLW Outdoors, Bass and FLW Tour home pages.
Sunrise: 6:18 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 67 degrees
Expected high temperature: 75 degrees
Water temperature: 74-77 degrees
Wind: SW at 6-8 mph
Maximum humidity: 84 percent