August 6, 2010 by David A. Brown
GAINESVILLE, Ga. - Spellcheckers may not approve, but Jason Christie's use of the term "structurefied" handily describes a key component of the scenario facing most of the Forrest Wood Cup field battling the heat and a tough bite on Lake Lanier.
Despite the propensity for spotted bass to chase nomadic schools of blueback herring throughout the water column - occasionally right to the surface - day one reports indicated that many anglers found their fish by working brush piles in anywhere from 20 to 100 feet of water. Christie, who sits in second place with 14 pounds, 8 ounces, hopes the lake remains status quo.
"Yesterday, in the area I was in, the fish started relating to structure," he said. "I hadn't been catching that quality of fish (in practice). We had a lot of rain recently and I think it may have dirtied the water up so the fish are staying closer to structure because they can't get out and run bait all day long. I hope that enough fish remain structurefied to last me the (remainder of the tournament)."
That being said, Christie noted that he saw several quality fish higher in the water column yesterday. He fished 3-inch and 4-inch Yum Dingers on dropshots on day one. Today, he'll try a few shots at suspending fish before going with the deep finesse deal.
"I saw a lot of fish come up and look at my boat yesterday, so I'm going to try some surface and mid-depth baits - just something moving - to catch them before I get on top of them," Christie said.
Now, Lanier is a big lake, but the collective appetites of a championship field of 78 quickly gobble up the productive spots. That's why quantity remains a basic element of any viable game plan. Anglers marked loads of waypoints - mostly brush piles - during practice and former Angler of the Year Shinichi Fukae may have topped this category with his reported 800 waypoints.
Not every brush pile will produce equally, but as fourth place pro Cody Meyer noted, modern electronics give anglers a front-row seat to what occurs below. Fishing dropshots and darter heads, the California pro sits just 9 ounces off the lead with 14-3.
"I'm watching those fish on my graph and I can tell when they're feeding," Meyer said. "You can actually watch those fish react to the bait and you can see them come up and eat it."
Leading the pro field, Kevin Hawk - a longtime California angler who recently moved to the Gainesville area - holds a 4-ounce lead over Christie with his 14-12. Hawk described his approach as a blending of power and finesse tactics.
"It's a combination of fishing fast and slow," Hawk said. "You need to fish fast to cover water but when you find a spot with fish, you need to slow down and fish it thoroughly."
Retaining his lead is certainly Hawk's objective, but he's taking a big-picture view. "This is a marathon, not a sprint. I'm confident I can go out there and back it up."
While most of the field slugs out the deep-water patterns, fifth place pro Ott DeFoe will traverse the Chattahoochee River to target shoal bass. Trading the speed and range of a traditional bass boat, DeFoe has put his tournament faith in an aluminum tunnel hull boat that traverses the treacherous shallows and unforgiving upriver environment.
"I'm running way up the river and some of the spots are less than a foot deep," DeFoe said. "Sometimes, you have to let the spot settle down before you can fish it, but there's a lot of fish up there. The chance I take is that I may not catch a fish at all, but that's the chance I knew I'd be taking."
In the co-angler division, J.R. Wright of Truckee, Calif. holds a 3-pound lead with his 12-pound, 5-ounce limit. Wright caught one of his fish on a dropshot and four on an undisclosed finesse bait that he's used to target suspending fish.
Notable: The 2010 Forrest Wood Cup will have a cumulative weight format. The full field will fish for two days and then be cut to 30 after day two. After day three, the field will be trimmed to the top six pros who will fish the final day of competition by themselves. Co-angler competition will conclude on Saturday (day three).
Daily takeoff ceremonies will be held at Laurel Park, located at 3100 Old Cleveland Hwy. in Gainesville, Ga., each morning from 6:30 to 7 a.m. Takeoffs will commence at 7 a.m. Weigh-ins will be held daily at 5 p.m. at The Arena at Gwinnett Center located at 6400 Sugarloaf Pkwy. in Duluth, Ga.
The FLW Outdoors Expo will be held in conjunction with the Forrest Wood Cup at the Gwinnett Convention Center on Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. FLW Outdoors Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, angler seminars, the opportunity to meet professional anglers, see and test the latest outdoor equipment, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.
Fishing fans can register to win a Ranger boat that will be given away after the pro champion is crowned. Fans can register at ForrestWoodCup.com and must be present to win.
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" tab from any of the home pages.
Sunrise: 6:50 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 77 degrees
Expected high temperature: 89 degrees
Water temperature: 89-93 degrees
Wind: WSW at 6 mph
Maximum humidity: 70 percent
Day's outlook: cloudy, isolated thunderstorms