UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Lake Norman

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Meet the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup contenders VI

George Cochran weighs in his last, kicker bass shortly before winning the 2005 Forrest L. Wood Championship trophy.

With the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup slated for Aug. 11-14 on Lake Ouachita in Hot Springs, Ark., the clock continues to tick toward the start of one of the most prestigious and exciting bass-fishing championships in the nation. In an effort to provide bass-fishing fans with a little more perspective and background on the competition, FLWOutdoors.com is launching a six-part series/overview of each of the 58 qualifying pros - one of whom will walk away with the title of Forrest Wood Cup champion.

With a guaranteed first-place prize of $500,000 on the line (as well as another $100,000 if the winning pro is Ranger Cup qualified), there is clearly plenty at stake at this year's Cup. So without further ado, let's meet the contenders.

(Editor's note: Forrest Wood Cup competitors will be featured in alphabetical order. This is the sixth and final installment in a six-part series. Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V.)

El Cajon, Calif., pro Jon Strelic ultimately placed ninth at the FLW Tour Major on the Red River.Jon Strelic - Strelic qualified for this year's Cup by finishing in the top 10 of the 2010 FLW Series Western Division points standings race. Strelic has now recorded over $147,000 in career winnings and boasts seven top-10 finishes since he began fishing FLW Outdoors events in 2004. Strelic, who made his FLW Tour debut in 2011, is making his second Cup appearance.

Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala.,finished the Pickwick Lake event in sixth place with a total catch of  65 pounds, 2 ounces.Randall Tharp - Tharp qualified for this year's Cup by finishing in the top 10 of the 2010 FLW Series Eastern Division points standings race. Tharp, who is making his second consecutive Cup appearance, boasts an incredible 31 top-10 finishes and over $381,000 in winnings since he began his FLW Outdoors career in 1997. Tharp has four BFL wins, one EverStart victory (2008 Lake Eufaula) and one top-10 FLW Tour finish to his credit.

Chevy pro Bryan Thrift is in fourth place with a three-day total of 45 pounds, 6 ounces.Bryan Thrift - Thrift enters the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup as one of the hottest pros in the sport. After winning the 2010 FLW Tour Angler of the Year, the Chevy pro finished eighth in 2011, and won the first Major of the year on Beaver Lake. In just five years on Tour, Thrift has earned over $850,000. The Shelby, N.C., pro will be especially dangerous in Hot Springs, as he finished fifth the last time the Cup visited Lake Ouachita.

Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio, finished the second day of Potomac River competition in third-place overall.Vic Vatalaro - The Ohio native and Pringles/Iams pro will be making his fourth Forrest Wood Cup appearance. Vatalaro has amassed over $773,000 in career earnings as well as 18 top-10 finishes since he began fishing FLW Outdoors events in 1995. Of those 18 top-10 finishes, three have come at the FLW Tour level - the circuit Vatalaro used to gain entry in this year's Cup. Vatalaro also boasts six victories over the course of his career: two BFL wins in 1997 and 1999, three EverStart Series titles in 2001, 2003 and 2006 and a 2009 FLW Series victory on Lake Dardanelle.

FLW pro Clark Wendlandt used a 16-pound, 13-ounce catch to net 13th place overall after the first day of FLW Tour competition on Pickwick Lake.Clark Wendlandt - One of the most storied anglers in the history of FLW Outdoors, Clark Wendlandt's track record in the sport of professional bass is nearly unparalleled. For starters, Wendlandt is the only angler to have won the FLW Tour Angler of the Year title three times (2009, 2000 and 1997) and one of only three pros to have won the title more than once. Wendlandt also boasts 34 top-10 finishes at FLW Outdoors-related events, 26 of those at the FLW Tour level which ranks him No. 1 overall in the history of FLW Outdoors. Wendlandt has garnered over $1.7 million in winnings since he began his FLW Outdoors career in 1997. Wendlandt has three victories to his credit as well - two FLW Tour wins on Beaver Lake (1999 and 2001) as well as an FLW Tour title on Lake Murray in 2000. Wendlandt qualified for this year's Cup via the FLW Tour and will be making his 13th appearance.

Jacob Wheeler won the All-American by a margin of 9 pounds, 2 ounces.Jacob Wheeler - 2011 will go down as a banner year for Wheeler, who hails from Indianapolis. Back in May he became the youngest boater ever to win the BFL All-American championship, when he outfished the country's best grass-roots bass anglers on Cross Lake, leading to his first Cup appearance as well as the cover of FLW Outdoors Magazine. He can now boast a total of four top-10 appearances, including another BFL win, and over $104,000 in career earnings with FLW.

Jay Yelas was the highest-finishing shallow-water angler. The Chevy pro flipped his way to an opening-round total of 35 pounds, 5 ounces.Jay Yelas - Chevy team pro Jay Yelas represents one of the true icons of the sport. Yelas is one of only three anglers to win the FLW Tour Angler of the Year multiple times (2007, 2002) and has amassed nearly $700,000 in earnings since he began his FLW Outdoors career in 1997. Yelas sports 15 top-10 finishes as well at FLW Outdoors-related events. However, 12 of those have come on the FLW Tour level, which places Yelas tied for 12th all time in this category of accomplishments. Yelas, who qualified for the Cup via the FLW Tour, will be making his eighth championship appearance.

Pro Chris Zaldain finished the FLW Series Lake Mead event in ninth place.Chris Zaldain - Even though this young bass pro from the West has a relatively short career with FLW Outdoors, he has managed to qualify for the Cup in four straight seasons. Zaldain has improved his championship performance each year, so 2011 could be his best Cup showing yet if he follows his own upward trend. The San Jose, Calif., pro has five top-10 finishes and over $163,000 in earnings to his credit in FLW competition.

Related articles
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Full pro field
Full co-angler field

Tags: pre-tournament  2011-08-11-forrest-wood-cup-lake-ouachita 

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