August 17, 2014 by Jody White
Day four of the Forrest Wood Cup is crunch time. With the weights heading into today as tightly packed as they have been on a final day of Cup competition in years, the potential for game-changing bites and a final-day charge were high. Lucky for us, and the crowd that is sure to be present at the Colonia Life Arena, it appears that the potential is being fulfilled.
The conditions have thus far been markedly different than day three. Though the sun is high, there is a steady breeze blowing over most of Lake Murray, and the patches of shade feel cooler than they did yesterday. Whether the weather means anything is another matter. The top 10 pros have run a gauntlet of amazing anglers and varied conditions to get here, and each of them has a slightly different opinion on what the ideal catching conditions are.
Word on the water is that day four is just as challenging as the three previous days. Day-three leader Brent Ehrler already has one big spotted bass in the boat, but assuming he completes his limit, he’ll likely need more than one solid fish to hold on to first. Bryan Thrift, Ehrler’s closest competition, appears to be in a similar fix as he was on day two, with only a few small keepers and nothing solid to go with them.
Starting the day in third, many fans pegged Anthony Gagliardi as the one to make a big push for the lead. His local knowledge is unparalleled, and he declared on stage Saturday evening that while he was happy to be there the first three days, he would be fishing for the win on Sunday. Despite some early morning challenges presented by a local angler fishing his spot, Gags has landed a limit with one solid fish. As it stands, Gagliardi likely needs to add at least one or two kickers to make victory on his home lake inevitable.
The real action is taking place deeper in the field, where Scott Canterbury, who started the day in fourth place, has been building a very solid limit. Canterbury is throwing a buzzbait and a follow-up bait with excellent results. The Straight Talk Wireless pro began the day well within striking distance of the leaders after three consecutive days of increasing limits, and he appears to be taking full advantage of his chance, with three fish in the 2 1/2- to 3-pound range in the boat and a full limit. At this point, the only thing that might stand between him and his first Forrest Wood Cup is failure to execute. Canterbury reportedly lost a 5-pound kicker that could have sealed it. Fishing time is dwindling fast now. He’ll need to drum up some of the magic like he experienced yesterday, when he landed a last-second 3-pounder to rise into contention.
Below Canterbury the results are mixed. Though Casey Ashley has a chance at the lead and plenty of experience on Murray, he has yet to parlay that into much of a bag, with only one solid fish reported by 1 p.m. The same or worse can be said for the rest of the field until you drop down to the pro that was last off the dock in the morning.
Steve Kennedy, who started the day in 10th place, is making a charge for the lead, or at least a dramatic top-five finish. The popular Auburn, Ala., pro has landed two fish that reports put in excess of 5 pounds. Kennedy appears to be fishing free and easy, as he is wont to do, and is absolutely killing it on the final day.
Kennedy started the day nearly 9 pounds behind Ehrler and slightly more than 6 pounds back of fifth place. He’ll need an absolutely transcendent day to challenge for the lead. If the fish-catching stays as is, it looks like anyone in the top five still has a shot as neither Ehrler nor Thrift has run away with it. The main drama will be how the top guys fill their limits, and fresh updates are coming in all the time. If anyone in the top five can bring in more than one true kicker bass to go with a limit, he will have a great shot at walking away with $500,000 and the title of Forrest Wood Cup champion.