UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Pickwick Lake

2013 Forrest Wood Cup preview: The contenders VI

2013 Forrest Wood Cup preview: The contenders VI
Confetti surrounds Jacob Wheeler as he celebrates his Forrest Wood Cup victory.

With the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup slated for Aug. 15-18 on the Red River in Shreveport, La., 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 fans with a little more perspective and background on the competition, FLWOutdoors.com is launching a six-part series/overview of each of the 46 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, there is clearly plenty at stake this summer in Louisiana. 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 in a six-part series.)

2013 Forrest Wood Cup contenders

Strader hustles to get the net. Wesley Strader, Spring City, Tenn. - In 2013, Strader continued to prove he's one of the most consistent anglers on the FLW Tour. After finishing 17th in the points race, Strader qualified for his fifth consecutive Cup and his 13th overall. Strader cashed checks at four of the first five events and then completed the regular season with a runner-up finish on Lake Chickamauga, one of his home lakes. The Walmart pro's thick Tennessee accent and jovial personality often mask his fierce competitiveness. Known for his shallow-water versatility, Strader is part of the million dollar club. While he has 33 top-10 finishes in his FLW career, his lone Tour win came in 2002 at Lake Ouachita.

Randall Tharp spent the week pitching and spinnerbaiting laydowns and docks.Randall Tharp, Port Saint Joe, Fla. - It took Tharp only a few seasons to rise to the upper echelon of the sport. While his 2013 FLW Tour season failed to produce any wins or top-10s, it proved to be his best overall season as he finished 10th in the points race. Known as the Honeybadger on Tour, Tharp is one of the best shallow-water anglers in the 46-boat field. He flipped his way to fame in 2012 by winning the FLW Tour Open on Lake Okeechobee. In fact, he still owns the FLW Tour record for largest margin of victory (23-9). The year prior, Tharp nearly won the Cup - finishing second to eventual champion Scott Martin. This is Tharp's fourth Cup appearance, his lone miss being his rookie season. In his brief career, the Alabama native owns over $750,000 in FLW earnings.

Chevy pro Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., shows off his second-place catch in the finals.Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C. - Thrift continued his fish-catching ways in 2013, finishing the FLW Tour season fifth in the points race. The Chevy pro qualified for his seventh consecutive Cup the year prior by taking fifth in the Opens points race. Thrift, who has never missed qualifying for the year-end championship, is a two-time FLW Tour champion and the 2010 FLW Tour Angler of the Year. Known for fishing fast, Thrift is perhaps the best caster on Tour and is deadly around docks. But in the past few years he's become a well-rounded angler and now enjoys fishing deep. His track record at the Cup is stellar with four top-10 finishes, although he claims to dislike river systems. In 2012, Thrift also won the Texas Bass Classic. In his FLW career, the Damiki-sponsored angler has over $1 million in earnings.

James Watson shows off his catch.James Watson, Waynesville, Mo. - Watson qualified for his first Cup (as a pro) in his fourth season on the FLW Tour - finishing 23rd in the points race. He proved to be remarkably consistent in 2013, cashing checks in five of the six qualifiers. A 10-year Army veteran, Watson is a relative newcomer to the sport. Upon completion of his military service, Watson began employment as a real estate sales agent. After thriving in that role, the 40-year-old opened his own Realty Executives franchise in central Missouri. Watson prefers shallow-water power fishing, which should suit him well in Shreveport-Bossier City. In his young FLW career, Watson has over $80,000 in earnings.

Jacob Wheeler having fun on the Big O with a Rapala X-Rap Prop.Jacob Wheeler, Indianapolis, Ind. - Wheeler burst on to the scene in 2011 as the youngest angler to win the prestigious BFL All-American. The following season, Wheeler joined the FLW Tour and ended up winning the Cup at only 21 years of age. In 2013, Wheeler finished 29th in the FLW Tour points race, but was already prequalified by winning the 2012 Cup. The Rapala pro will be among a handful of anglers looking to become the first two-time Cup champion. Despite his inexperience, it would be foolish to bet against Wheeler as he favors rivers and tough-bite tournaments. In just two seasons as a pro, Wheeler has amassed over $730,000 with FLW.

Barry Wilson fishes through a field of cedar trees Thursday afternoon.Barry Wilson, Birmingham, Ala. - Wilson's sophomore season on the FLW Tour proved to be a breakout one as the former Auburn University fullback finished 26th in the points race. Wilson contended for the win at Beaver Lake before ultimately finishing fourth and also had an exceptional tournament at Grand Lake where he took sixth. Wilson also competed in the EverStart Series Southeast Division and finished runner-up for Angler of the Year to Tony Davis. This will be Wilson's first Cup appearance and he'll be right at home chucking and winding his favorite lure, a Strike King 1.5 squarebill crankbait. To date, Wilson has over $125,000 in FLW career earnings.

Jay Yelas is in his element flipping the flooded willows and timber on Grand. Jay Yelas, Corvallis, Ore. - Yelas is looking to become the first angler to achieve the proverbial grand slam of bass fishing (BASS AOY, Classic win, FLW AOY, Cup win) this August in Shreveport-Bossier City. Because of his shallow-water strengths, reaching that milestone is a real possibility. Yelas qualified for the Cup, his eighth consecutive and 10th overall, via his 15th-place finish in the FLW Tour points race. Outside of Eufaula, the two-time Angler of the Year had another successful year on Tour with his highest finish being fifth at Grand Lake. Yelas, a noted flipper, has over $900,000 in FLW earnings, including 21 top-10 finishes.

Related links:

Forrest Wood Cup preview: The contenders V

Forrest Wood Cup preview: The contenders IV

Forrest Wood Cup preview: The contenders III

Forrest Wood Cup preview: The contenders II

Forrest Wood Cup preview: The contenders

Pro field set for 2013 Forrest Wood Cup

For more information about the upcoming 2013 Forrest Wood Cup, click here.

To see detailed schedule information for this year's Cup, click here.

Tags: brett-carlson  article 

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