August 8, 2010 by Gary Mortenson
2010 Forrest Wood Cup Lake Lanier - Atlanta, Ga. Semifinals, Saturday Heartbreak hotel ... Perhaps nobody in the entire field wanted to win the Forrest Wood Cup more than pre-tournament favorite Tom Mann Jr., of Buford, Ga. Fishing in his backyard in front of a decidedly partisan hometown crowd, Mann gave it his best shot. But unfortunately, in the end, Mann fell just short of making the top-six, final-day cut by an agonizing 7 ounces. By the time weigh-in had concluded, Mann stood in seventh place overall with a total catch of 34 pounds, 10 ounces. Although he fished well and was about as well prepared as anyone in the field, Mann knew that the first day of competition was his downfall. "Nobody wanted to fish tomorrow worse than me," said Mann, who choked up a few times during his final onstage interview. "But I had that little ol' slip on that first day. If I had made (the cut) I really feel like I would have had a shot." In the end, his 9-pound, 6-ounce catch and 21st place finish on day one would ultimately turn out to be the weak link. "Lake Lanier didn't really show itself this week and I'm a little disappointed about that." Rodgers ecstatic in victory ... One of the most heartwarming moments of the entire day-three weigh-in came at the end when Dearal Rodgers of Camden, S.C., out-dueled California powerhouse J.R. Wright by a grand total of 6 ounces to win the Forrest Wood Cup title in the Co-angler Division and walk away with $65,000. When the final weights were announced, Rodgers - the 2009 FLW Tour co-angler of the year - shot his arms up in victory and was quickly joined onstage by his wife and two children. "It's been a long time coming," said Rodgers of his victory. "When I told my wife that I wanted to become a (tournament angler), she asked me how long it would take (to be successful). I told her, `Give me five years.' Well, that was almost exactly five years ago." While victory was sweet, Rodgers was undoubtedly helped by a little bit of fateful intervention as well. For starters, Rodgers was greatly assisted by Wright's uncharacteristic one-fish catch on day two. How out of character was that? Since beginning his fishing career with FLW Outdoors in 2006, Wright had earned two titles (a 2009 FLW Series event on the Cal Delta and a 2008 American Fishing Series event at Lake Havasu) and scored 15 top-10 finishes in only 38 events total. Wright had also amassed nearly $100,000 in winnings, finished second in the FLW Series Western Division points race in 2008 and 2009 (and is currently in second place in 2010) and finished in the top 10 in the overall standings in the American Fishing Series Western Division from 2007-2009. Throw in the final day snafu of third-place finisher Frank Divis, Sr., who lost a qualify fish at 2:30 p.m. which could have put him over the top and it was clear that the final outcome could have gone either way. But in the end, Rodgers had earned every penny and deserved to be crowned champion. Ehrler continues his hot streak ... While Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., grabbed most of the headlines this year for his stellar season, which included one FLW Tour win, four top-10 FLW Tour finishes and a 2010 FLW Tour AOY title, Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., continued to quietly put together one of the greatest seasons in recent memory as well. For starters, Ehrler won two FLW Tour titles in 2010, winning at Lake Ouachita and Table Rock Lake while finishing fifth place overall in the FLW Tour AOY race. He also won the FLW Series event on Lake Shasta, placed fourth at the FLW Series event at Lake Mead and is currently in first place overall in the 2010 FLW Series Western Division Angler of the Year race. But clearly Ehrler wasn't content with just those accolades. Bolstered by a three-day catch of 39 pounds, 3 ounces, Ehrler took over the top spot in the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup heading into the final day of competition on Lake Lanier. On the verge of winning two Forrest Wood Cup titles, something no angler has ever done, Ehrler could write one of the most remarkable chapters in bass-fishing history if everything goes his way on Sunday. "I wasn't expecting to catch what I did today. I really didn't," said the National Guard pro in characteristically humble fashion. "I actually kind of struggled today. I'm real fortunate to have caught what I caught." Morrow takes a giant step forward ... Heading into the 2010 BFL All-American, Troy Morrow was a little-known angler from Toccoa, Ga. Sure, he had thrown down 12 top-10 finishes in BFL competition since he began his fishing career with FLW Outdoors in 2002, but otherwise his lifetime achievements were fairly nondescript. However, all that changed when he captured the All-American title this year. Not only did he walk away with a victory in one of the most grueling bass-fishing events in the nation, but he also earned a berth in the prestigious 2010 Forrest Wood Cup. Certainly, he would be happy just to show up, right? "Not really," said Morrow. "There was a lot of pressure on me to do well here since I live so close to Lanier." In any event, while the majority of the bass punditry class considered Morrow little more than an afterthought in this competition, the Georgia native had other ideas. And to his credit, he fulfilled his every expectation - out-gunning 72 of the nation's top pros to gain an improbable spot in the finals of the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup. "It really turns your stomach standing up here," said Morrow, clearly excited by the prospect of having a legitimate chance at walking away with the title. "It really proved that I have what it takes to hang with these guys. My goal coming in here was to make the finals and I did that. Now anything that happens, happens." What's happened is that Georgia angler has taken one small step for BFL anglers everywhere and one giant leap in the career of Troy Morrow. Quick numbers 0: The number of anglers who have won two Forrest Wood Cup titles. 1: The number of pro anglers remaining in 2010 Cup competition (Brent Ehrler) who still has a shot at becoming the first angler in history to win two Cups. 1: Total number of limits caught in the Co-angler Division during today's competition. 2: The number of pro anglers (Cody Meyer and Brian Thrift) who finished in the top 10 in Forrest Wood Cup competition in both 2009 and 2010. 4-2: The amount in pounds and ounces separating the top-six pros heading into the final day of 2010 Forrest Wood Cup competition. 7: The number of ounces separating first-place (Ehrler) and second-place (Cody Meyer) competitors heading into the finals. 12: Total number of limits caught in the Pro Division in today's competition. 100: Amount in thousands that will be awarded to the winning 2010 Forrest Wood Cup pro if they are Ranger Cup qualified. 116-13: Total weight in pounds and ounces caught by co-anglers during today's competition. 236-5: Total weight in pounds and ounces caught by the pros during today's competition. 500: Total first-place prize award in thousands earmarked for the winner of the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup. Sound bites "I'm so proud to tell you that Walmart is back. Not only are they back, but they're back bigger and better than before." - FLW Outdoors Chairman Irwin Jacobs announcing onstage that Walmart will be back as a title sponsor of FLW Outdoors for years to come. "I'm really glad Walmart is getting back into fishing. I'm so proud Walmart is back." - Chevy pro Jay Yelas, echoing Jacobs' sentiments. "If I jump in this (weigh-in) basket we'll be there." - Pro Jim Moynagh, joking about the extreme measures that it would take for him to qualify for the finals at the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup. "Sometimes you're the windshield and sometimes you're the bug." - FLW Tour pro Jacob Powroznik speaking of his disappointing day on the water. "I still feel like I'm dreaming onstage. I'm just so happy." - Co-angler Hideki Maeda discussion how privileged he felt just to be invited to the Forrest Wood Cup. "I caught the biggest spotted bass I've ever caught in my life yesterday. I won the (FLW Tour) Angler of the Year title and I've had a good Forrest Wood Cup. So it's been a lot of fun." - FLW Tour pro Bryan Thrift commenting on both the joy of competing this week on Lake Lanier and on the FLW Tour throughout the 2010 season. "I didn't lose any fish the first two days. But I lost four today, including two big ones in the last hour." - Pro Jason Meninger, commenting on his disappointment today in missing the cut after being in a strong position to qualify for the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup finals after day-two competition. "Okay, you hold Charlie and I'll read the scales." - Deareal Rodgers, joking to fellow co-angler J.R. Wright about restraining tournament host Charlie Evans in an effort to finally figure out who had won the co-angler title. "We're heading to Hot Springs next year for the Cup and Scott Suggs is probably going to win. So this is the last chance I'm going to have to become the first angler to win two Cup titles before he does." Brent Ehrler on the extra motivation he has to take home the 2010 Cup title in Sunday's competition.