UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir


Lake Murray Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Justin Atkins

The last time the Forrest Wood Cup hit Lake Murray was in 2014, and the blueback herring bite was good. It accounted for a chunk of Anthony Gagliardi’s winning weight, but the shallow bite was almost equal to it. This time, the bass keying on the nomadic baitfish are taking the cake, as all but one of the top 10 pros have made targeting the herring chasers their primary game plan. Slinging soft-plastic jerkbaits and big topwaters, sometimes over wide-open water, has accounted for more of the top 10 catches than in any Cup in recent memory.

In the lead, Brandon Cobb has stayed wicked consistent, boxing up 19 pounds per day. In second and third, Justin Atkins and Anthony Gagliardi are each less than 3 pounds behind, plenty close for some final-day heroics.

Cobb’s leading pattern

Complete results


Justin Atkins

2. Justin Atkins – Florence, Ala. – 37-3 (10)

Plunking down 15-14 on the scale on day two, rookie pro Justin Atkins fell off the lead, but only just. Like Cobb, he’s following a similar game plan composed of fishing cane piles and schooling fish on the lower end of Murray, but the sunny weather hurt his bite.

“I fished all the same places and a few new ones,” says Atkins. “There’s something about the sun that makes the fish roam more. That seems so backward; you’d think when it gets sunny they’d get right in the brush, and they do once it gets up, but in the morning when they’re catchable they’re roaming. When it’s cloudy the herring get farther down, and I think the bass hide more in the cover, and it makes it predictable. This morning I was trying to target fish in the piles, and they were all out around them. They were coming up schooling, and I wasn’t ready for it.”

That lack of readiness was exemplified by one of his early fish catches. As Atkins pulled another rod from his locker, a fish blew up feet from the boat. On his knees, the young pro fired a topwater to the fish and landed a solid 3-pounder. Though he didn’t put together another huge day, Atkins says he still learned a lot about how to fish in the sunnier conditions, and feels like he’s fast becoming an expert on the herring bite.

“I’ve done a lot of studying, and I know what to look for and what to do,” says Atkins. “Once you know what you’re doing it’s like Tennessee River fishing or flipping or whatever; it seems easy. But when you don’t it’s mind-blowing.”

Throwing all topwater again today, Atkins only caught about eight keepers, but they were enough to keep him right in the hunt.


Anthony Gagliardi

3. Anthony Gagliardi – Prosperity, S.C. – 36-1 (10)

Looking to be the first to ever win the Cup twice, Anthony Gagliardi fell off a few pounds on day two and dropped into third. He’s less than 3 pounds off the lead and, as the hometown hero, he’s plenty close to making a run on the final day.

Gagliardi is fishing from about Dreher Island to the dam and has focused his efforts more on shoals, points and areas than specific targets, sometimes fishing way out near the main channel and sometimes a fair bit back in the larger creeks and bays.

“Today I had a hard time catching them on the stuff that was back in, and I felt I had to be on the main-channel stuff,” says Gagliardi. “But that got hard to do later on with the boat traffic.”

Tossing a soft-plastic jerkbait and a pencil popper, Gagliardi believes the schooling bite suffered due to the change from cloudy to sunny skies. If it doesn’t rebound, he’s got some other cards to play as well.

“I’ve got a series of shallow brush piles that I’ve yet to fish,” says the Prosperity, S.C., pro. “I did that last time [the 2014 Cup on Murray] a couple days, and I caught the three biggest fish I weighed in that tournament doing that. I almost did it today. At 1 o’clock when the boat traffic was bad and the bite was really tough I was just about to make a run up the lake to try to catch a big one. I fished a place on the way and caught a big one, and it threw a little hiccup in my plan, and I didn’t make the run. Tomorrow, if things aren’t going extremely well, I might pull the trigger and see if I can’t hit the jackpot up there.”


Travis Fox

4. Travis Fox – Rogers, Ark. – 35-0 (10)

Most pros in the top 10 are catching a decent number of keepers each day, getting up within range of the 10-fish mark. That’s not the case for Travis Fox, who has barely caught five keepers each day. Luckily for him, they’ve all been pretty big.

Like Gagliardi, he’s doing more fishing than running, and is mostly milking a handful of places where fish are schooling.

“There are a lot of us fishing the same stuff. I don’t think that I have anything better,” says Fox. “I think some of my fish I’ve probably caught on a cast that is 70 to 80 yards away. I’ve got the right setup and a bait that will cut through the air. They’re getting kind of spooky of the boats, and a lot of the fish I’ve weighed in have come up way, way out there. I think that’s the key for me, but the downside of that is that, invariably, as soon as it hits the water one will come up busting 30 yards away.”

Fishing the Forrest Wood Cup for the first time, Fox and his wife, Kendra, have their first child on the way soon. He’ll need an epic day to earn a win, but as Rob Newell would say, he’s got “baby power” on his side.


Bryan Thrift

5. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 33-13 (10)

Shocking no one, Bryan Thrift booked yet another Forrest Wood Cup top 10, fishing a combination of patterns as he so often does.

This time, he’s mixed in a few schooling bass with a bunch of fish caught from brush piles in creeks, but he’s frustrated by his inability to dial in the herring bite.

“I definitely don’t have a chance to win,” says Thrift. “I can’t catch the herring fish. I knew that that’s what it was going to take to win, and I was hoping to catch a couple each day and ride it out with my other stuff, but I haven’t been able to get them to cooperate. Saltwater and rivers aren’t for me. Herring are saltwater baitfish; they don’t belong in a freshwater lake.”

Despite that, he’s planning on swinging hard on the final day.

“I’m gonna focus mostly on the herring stuff,” says the veteran pro. “If I finish 10th, so what. That’s the only way I can win. I’m just going to go hunt them tomorrow. It can’t be that hard because there are like 10 guys catching them all over the lake. But evidently, everywhere I stop sucks.”

Complete results

Tags: jody-white  headline-story  2017-08-11-forrest-wood-cup 


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