UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - St. Lawrence River

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2017 Forrest Wood Cup Preview

2017 Forrest Wood Cup Preview
Lake Murray

Forrest Wood Cup

Lake Murray

Columbia, S.C.

Aug. 11-13, 2017

Hosted by Capital City Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board

 

About the Fishery

Lake Murray was formed in 1930 when construction on the Dreher Shoals Dam was completed and the Saluda River began to flood into the creeks and lowlands of the surrounding area. Eventually, the floodwaters created the reservoir that has since been dubbed the “Jewel of South Carolina.”

Situated between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Low Country, Murray is typical of reservoirs in central South Carolina: red clay banks, little submerged vegetation, ample docks and water clarity ranging from “very clear” in the lower end to nearly muddy in the upper end.

Emergent bank grass does grow along some shorelines, and there’s wood cover along banks where the ground has eroded away and trees have fallen off into the water. In addition to the shoreline cover, there are also plenty of planted cane piles and brush piles to hold bass in deeper water.

Mostly, Murray is known as a blueback herring lake. The nomadic baitfish draw the bulk of the attention from bass, particularly in late summer once the spawn is long in the rearview mirror and fall isn’t yet on the horizon.

 

Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi delightedly hoists the Forrest Wood Cup!

Last Time

The Forrest Wood Cup has been held at Lake Murray in August twice, in 2008 and 2014. Michael Bennett won the 2008 Cup with a frog. He ran all around the lake, targeting shade and a variety of shallow cover and fishing new water each day. The 2014 Cup went to local favorite Anthony Gagliardi, who fished points and some upriver brush the first couple of days but relied mostly on offshore schooling bass to earn the win.

Blueback-chasing schoolers and shallow bluegill eaters dominated the 2014 event, and topwater was the predominant tactic, but a few other patterns emerged, including drop-shotting and dragging on offshore structure and fishing a mayfly hatch far up the Saluda River.

 

What to Expect this Time

Will it be three consecutive Cups won up a shallow creek? Will topwater win again? Or will the offshore bite reclaim its place as a late-summer winner in the South? There are a lot of patterns in play in this one.

The frog/buzzbait/popper/buzz toad bite has proven to be strong in August in the region, particularly if bluegills are bedding. It’s the way a lot of pros prefer to fish, too. The biggest challenge is finding a place that replenishes where an angler can fish for three days, or running enough new water to stay in the hunt. 

The offshore schooling bite is a proven winner, but it can be challenging too. Murray is a big lake, with a lot of deep structure to fish, yet the blueback herring cause bass to suspend and often to turn somewhat nomadic, so schooling bass aren’t always reliable.

There are shallow blueback patterns too. Bass use seawalls, shallow points and the like to corral the baitfish, but that bite usually peters out once the sun gets high.

The one certainty is that no matter what patterns emerge, the weights are always close at Murray in August. Expect several anglers to average 10 to 12 pounds a day and to be in the hunt.

 

Andy Morgan is hands down one of the best in business especially when it comes to finding fish up shallow.

Baits and Techniques

  • Shoreline topwater – Poppers, toads, frogs, River2Sea Whopper Ploppers and buzzbaits will get the call around laydowns, docks and grass.
  • Open-water topwater – Big pencil poppers and other walking baits can call up open-water schoolers.
  • Other schooling options – The Zoom Super Fluke or Yamamoto D-Shad paired with an under-spin or on a simple weightless rig is a classic Carolina option for schoolers. Swimbaits work too.
  • More choices – There’s a lot in play at Murray. Jigs will be used for flipping shallow cover or dragging deep drops. Yamamoto Senkos and ribbon-tail worms will be fished on a variety of cover and structure. And various finesse rigs such as drop-shots and shaky heads will help fill limits.

 

3 Critical Factors

1. The heat – Obviously it’s gonna be hot in South Carolina in August, and the heat is a physical challenge to some people over the course of a week that includes tournament practice, media events, long weigh-ins, late nights and grueling days. It’s tough on the fishing too. Late summer is a time of inconsistency, when fish can’t be relied on to group up just anywhere.

2. Rivers and creeks – In 2014, Steve Kennedy nearly pulled off a 10th-to-first comeback on the final day by running way up the Saluda River and catching bass that were keyed on hatching mayflies. He produced some seriously epic footage with his Zoom Horny Toad that none of his competitors has forgotten. Then in 2015 and 2016, Brad Knight and John Cox won Cup titles at Lake Ouachita and Wheeler Lake, respectively, by camping out in the shallows in the upper ends of creeks. So now everyone has been reminded that the shallow creek bite can win in August, and most of the field will probably spend an appreciable amount of time scouting these areas in practice.

3. Only three days – This year, FLW has changed to a three-day Forrest Wood Cup, rather than the usual four-day event. Considering that Costa FLW Series events are all three days, it isn’t an unfamiliar format for the pros, but it will affect the tournament. Pros will have less time to figure out what’s happening on the water, but also less time for a good pattern to evaporate. Mostly, the shorter tournament changes the dynamics of the event, from an exhausting marathon to more of a tiring long-distance jog. It’ll change some anglers’ strategies but will mostly affect the tournament in more intangible ways that we won’t realize until it all goes down in Columbia.

 

Fantasy Fishing Pick

Anthony Gagliardi is the definite favorite. He won it last time and knows more about the lake than anyone else in the field. John Cox, Brandon Cobb and Scott Canterbury should be strong on the shallow bite, and Bryan Thrift is the king of run-and-gun fishing, which will play big time at Murray. If it’s a schooling or offshore structure bite, consider Michael Neal or Shane LeHew. Finally, a strong all-around pick is Scott Martin. His Cup record is ridiculously good, and he’s become a bit of a master at the offshore schooling bite in summer, but has the skills to hunt and peck shallow too.

Tags: pre-tournament  2017-08-11-forrest-wood-cup 

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