UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Potomac River


Wheeler Lake Day 4 Coverage

Wheeler Lake Day 4 Coverage
John Cox

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3:14: Final update

That's it for the coverage blog for the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup. We'll continue to post updates via the Twitter feed right up until the end. You can fall it here.

Watch the weigh-in unfold live via FLW Live at 5 p.m. CT.


3:02: Neal pulling out all the stops

Michael Neal's schooling flurry has died. In fact, there's been little surface activity of late. He's resorted to just blind casting and trying to tempt a bite.


John Cox

2:57: More magic in the making?

John Cox is still around some big fish in his magic creek. He had a good one blow up and miss his bait, then broke one off. Right now he's back in there (out of cell range) re-fishing those spots and trying to get one more kicker to seal it up.


John Cox

2:28: Has Cox sealed the deal?

John Cox raises the bar once again with a 4-pounder. That replaces his smallest fish, which weighed less than a pound, and puts him at 10 pounds total. Our estimates have Neal about 3 pounds back now. Neal is still within range with 12 1/2 pounds. On day two he weighed in 15-12. A repeat performance would make this a game of ounces.

Neal still has a couple hours left to do it, unless Cox can slam the door with another kicker.


2:16: Now the action is picking up

We just had a steady stream of updates. Here's what we know:

- Jacob Wheeler finally came out of the swamp and checked in with 8 pounds.

- Michael Neal is on a tear. He picked up a bait that he hasn't used all week and almost immediately landed a 3-pounder. That puts him at 12 1/2 pounds.

- Todd Auten's long move back to the takeoff area took some time to pay off, but he now has three fish for about 7 pounds and is right back in the hunt.


1:54: Michael Neal is back on track

It took him quite a while to get his mojo back, but Michael Neal is finally dialed in again. Of course, it helps that his schoolers have started surfacing again too.

Neal has upgraded twice since 1 o'clock. He now has about 10 3/4 pounds. By our estimations, he's within a pound and change of John Cox's leading weight.


VIDEO UPDATE: See Bryan Thrift's slowdown approach on day four


Todd Auten

1:18: What's going on?

It really is tough on Wheeler Lake right now. Across the board, the fishing has slowed down dramatically. But, with the sun out now, it's only a matter of time before the shallow fish go to biting. That sunlight should push them up under grass and into wood cover, where guys like Wheeler, Thrift, Auten and Cox are highly skilled at catching them.


12:58: The sun shines on Michael Neal

Michael Neal has been pretty quiet the last couple hours, but he just scored a nice keeper to upgrade by a full pound. Nothing much changed except that the sun popped out a few minutes before he landed that fish. Maybe the sun will ignite the bite a little bit, because it's been slow lately.


12:17: Everyone has gone quiet

There's only one lake in the nation where there's never a short lull period during a tournament day, and that's Lake Champlain. Right now, the pros are experiencing the lull at Wheeler Lake. It's been at least 30 minutes since a fish catch has been reported.

With the exception of Brandon Cobb, Chris Johnston and Michael Neal, all the pros have been on the move. Auten is running from Wheeler Dam clear back past Ditto Landing. Rose is heading up the Elk. Laywer made a short move. Thrift is hopping around. Cox ran back to his primary spot. Everyone's moving, because no one is hammering them - except for Lawyer.


VIDEO UPDATE: Byron Velvick tracks down John Cox in the "jungle"


VIDEO UPDATE: Lawyer in action on day four


11:42: The shallow bite might be drying up

Maybe it's dirtier water. Maybe it's fishing pressure. Something has really slowed the shallow bite today. Todd Auten is scrambling now. His best two spots are toast, and he has just one keeper in the boat. John Cox has 6 1/2 pounds, but he's far off his pace from the previous three days.

Out deep, Lawyer's spoon bite is really producing. He has 14 1/2 pounds and is just a fish away from making this really interesting.


11:21: Lawyer leaps clear up to second place

Move over Bryan Thrift. Jeremy Lawyer just took over the runner-up spot. He's fishing way down by the dam and has pieced together a 14 1/2-pound stringer so far. His marshal says Lawyer has been fishing a small spoon. More details to come on what he's doing. For now, just note that the deep bite is back in contention, and Jeremy Lawyer has a shot at becoming the first person to win the Forrest Wood Cup after qualifying through the FLW Bass Fishing League All-American.


PHOTO GALLERY: Day four on the water - click here


11:10: Cox reclaims his lead

It some some figurin' and an accurate scale to get to the bottom of Bryan Thrift's weight, but he currently stands at 9 1/2 pounds. John Cox has 6 1/2 thanks to a 2-plus-pounder that filled his limit. That puts Cox back in the driver's seat for the moment. Cox recently ran back to his primary area. Looks like there's still some magic left there.


10:43: Auten on the move

After seeing three fish swipe and miss his crankbait in a 10-minute span, Auten has finally given up on his starting area. He's moving on to some fresh territory.


VIDEO UPDATE: Todd Auten hunting shallow fish on day four


10:25: Bryan Thrift takes the lead

Our current estimate for Bryan Thrift is that he has a 10-pound limit. That's a rough estimate because he's asked media to stay pretty far back, and it's tough to get see exactly how big his fish are when he swings them in. And when you take Thrift's word for how much a fish weighs, he always underestimates.

Assuming he really does have 10 pounds, that makes Thrift the unofficial leader by about a pound over John Cox. Thrift caught all five of his keepers off of one small area in the back of a creek. Most would say he's never fished one spot for as long as he's fished this one.


10:09: What's up with Neal's schoolers?

For a few hours it seemed like Michael Neal's schoolers were going to bust all day. But as schoolers so often do, they've disappointed him over the last 30 minutes or so. He's doing a lot of watching and scanning, just waiting for them to bust so he can cast to them. Ocassionally he blind casts the area, but the risk there is that the bass will come up and bust the surface while his bait is out in the water somewhere else. He has to be Johnny on the spot to deliver a cast as soon as a fish comes up.

Scott Martin said this morning that he thinks Michael Neal might be on the biggest school in the lake, with the potential to catch almost 20 pounds - if the fish cooperate. If Martin is right, then Neal is right where he needs to be.


10:03: Auten fishes and re-fishes

Todd Auten is convinced that the fish in his area will eventually turn on and eat. So much so that he's now making his third pass through his primary area, which is the only area that he's fished today. Still just one keeper though.

Auten says he's afraid to leave, "because if they do decide to bite then I'll be somewhere else."


Jeremey Lawyer

9:51: Jeremy Lawyer on the rise

FLW Bass Fishing League All-American champion Jeremy Lawyer is having a great morning. He's throwing a small spoon to catch his fish and has sacked up an 11-pound limit. That puts him in the top five overall, with plenty of time left to cull out to small keepers.


John Cox

9:26: Cox has three

John Cox is slowly working on protecting his lead. He has three small keepers in the box.

Todd Auten is still stuck on one keeper. He says the lock at Wheeler Dam has a major influence on his bite in Second Creek down on Wheeler's lower end. When it opens, the water drops and creates current, which sometimes activates the fish.


Michael Neal

9:04: Michael Neal takes the lead

This morning at takeoff, Michael Neal seemed very confident that he could catch a big enough limit to make a run at the two anglers ahead of him. He's on the right track. Neal has five fish early for about 7 3/4 pounds, making him the unoffiical leader at the moment.

He's still working the schooling program. Neal has basically been parked on one spot with his Power-Poles down. His strategy is to stay put and fire casts to any fish that he sees breaking the surface.


Todd Auten

8:57: Zero for Auten and Cox

Neither of the frontrunners has a fish yet - not Auten, nor Cox. Behind them, a couple of anglers have already filled limits. Here are the early estimates:

Michael Neal - three for 5 pounds

Joseph Webster - five for 7 1/4 pounds

Bryan Thrift - two for 4 1/4 pounds

Mark Rose - two for 3 pounds

Chris Johnston - five for 5 pounds

The rest of the field has zero.


8:33: Cox has company

No, he's not getting pressured by the other competitors, but Cox has some company from media boats and locals who are curious to see where he's fishing. Right now, there are three boats stuck in a choke point on the creek leading into where he's fishing, and FLW just sent another media boat up to find him. It's getting a little crowded.


8:30: Webster has a limit

By bouncing back and forth between a shaky head and topwater, Joseph Webster was able to snatch up the first limit of the day. His estimated weight is about 7 pounds.


8:15: Cox finds another creek

In typical John Cox fashion, the tournament leader just squeezed his way into another ultra-narrow creek. Our reporter says the creek is only about 20 feet wide, and the limbs hanging over on each side nearly touch in the middle. We'll see if it has the same kind of magic as the creek that got him into first place. And we'll see if there are any snakes. Sounds snaky.


8:00: Auten arrives, Webster scores first

Todd Auten needed an hour to get from Ditto Landing to his starting area in Second Creek, but he has arrived and is finally fishing.

Joseph Webster caught the first two keepers of day four, both 13-inchers.


7:45: Cox throws a changeup

For the first time this week, John Cox's first stop was not the narrow creek that produced his three-day winning weight. Instead, he ran to Limestone Creek and picked up a Whopper Plopper. He said at takeoff that he was going to run new water, and he's sticking to it.

Bryan Thrift is fishing a water discharge pipe. That pattern has been working this week, but no one has wanted to reveal it. Brandon McMillan fished a discharge on day one to catch 14 pounds, 14 ounces, which put him in second place.

The inflowing water from the pipe oxygenates the water and attracts baitfish. In some instances, it might also lower the water temperature in the area. Good places to target in summer.


John Cox

7:00: Two-man race, or anyone’s game?

To the uneducated, the final day at the Forrest Wood Cup looks like a battle between two shallow-fishing studs. John Cox leads Todd Auten by 9 ounces at the top of the standings. The next closest competitor is Michael Neal, who’s almost 5 pounds behind Auten.

So it’ll be Cox or Auten who lifts the Cup at the day-four weigh-in, right?

Not so fast. If we’ve learned anything this week at Wheeler Lake, it’s that the fishing is entirely unpredictable. Cox’s weights have dropped each day, while Auten’s have improved. We saw JT Kenney go from a one-fish day on Thursday to catching 19 pounds on Friday. There were top-five anglers on day one who eventually missed the cut, while Jacob Wheeler jumped from the 30s in the standings on day one into the top five through three days.

Cox believes his best area is washed up. He’s going on the move today with baits that he believes will produce quality bites. Auten seems to be dialed in on quality fish, but he’s not getting many bites. And yesterday his fish came in one small window. If the window doesn’t open, then who knows?

Michael Neal, Bryan Thrift, Mark Rose, Jacob Wheeler and company are just waiting for the leaders to slip so they can snatch up the Cup for themselves.

If you love dramatic tournament finishes, then the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup is just right for you.


Mark Rose

Top 10 standings

1. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 43-5

2. Todd Auten – Lake Wylie, S.C. – 42-12

3. Michael Neal – Dayton, Tenn. – 37-14

4. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 37-13

5. Jacob Wheeler – Indianapolis, Ind. – 37-3

6. Mark Rose – West Memphis, Ark. – 36-9

7. Brandon Cobb – Greenwood, S.C. – 35-9

8. Joseph Webster – Fulton, Miss. – 34.13

9. Chris Johnston – Peterborough, Ontario – 34-3

10. Jeremy Lawyer – Sarcoxie, Mo. – 32-15

Complete results



Temperature at takeoff: 74 degrees

Forecast high: 89 degrees

Sky: partly cloudy

Precipitation: clear this morning; 50 percent chance of afternoon showers and thunderstorms

Wind: N at 7 mph


Tournament Details

Forrest Wood Cup Takeoff Show: 6:30 a.m. CT at Ditto Landing, 293 Ditto Landing Road, Huntsville, Ala.

Takeoff: 7 a.m. CT at Ditto Landing

Weigh-in: 5 p.m. CT at Von Braun Center (Propst Arena), 700 Monroe Street SW, Huntsville, Ala.

FLW Expo: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., at the Von Braun Center – More info: Seminars and Celebrities and Giveaways and Contests


Tags: forrest-wood-cup  wheeler-lake  headline-story  2016-08-04-forrest-wood-cup 

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