COLUMBIA, S.C. – As expected, Lake Murray proved to be a tough first date for the entire co-angler field during the opening round of competition at the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup. With difficult summer fishing conditions abound, coupled with a dramatic shift in the weather over the past 24 hours, co-anglers were left scrambling to find whatever bites they could. In fact, when all was said and done, only eight co-anglers in the field of 77 managed to land five keeper bass.
However, by the time weigh-in had concluded, a few co-anglers did manage to break through the Lake Murray morass.
“It was pretty brutal out there,” said Pat Wilson, who ended day one atop the leaderboard with a yeoman-like catch weighing in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces. “So I feel pretty blessed right now. I wound up catching eight keepers total and I had a limit in the boat by 12:30 p.m. My first fish was a 3-pounder and that really helped. Overall, I feel pretty good right now.”
To be sure, Wilson has plenty of experience fishing pressure-packed tournaments. With three Wal-Mart BFL titles, a 2005 FLW Tour co-angler title on the Potomac River and a 2007 Wal-Mart FLW Series co-angler title at the California Delta already under his belt, Wilson knows what it takes to win.
“I went pre-fishing with (pro) Jimmy Reese the first two days and that really helped me figure out what the fish were doing,” said Wilson, who boasts 14 top-10 finishes in his FLW Outdoors career since his rookie season in 2000. “My goal was to get three keeper bites today. I figured that if I got anything more than that it would be a bonus. Today, everything just worked out. I had a great partner in David Fritts and he put me on fish. And that’s all you can ask for.”
Wilson said he fished in anywhere from 10 to 25 feet of water using soft plastics, targeting bass on a variety of flats and breaks.
“I’m going to do the same thing tomorrow,” said Wilson, a native of Penngrove, Calif. “The good thing is that I can use this (pattern) pretty much anywhere on the lake.”
While he’s excited to be in the lead, Wilson said he’s just taking the tournament one day at a time.
“Right now, I’m just trying to make the top 10,” said Wilson. “This is a great field. We have the best co-anglers in the country. But I think if I can make the top 10, I’ll be in pretty good shape. But like every tournament, you have to get a little lucky. So I’m just going to go out there tomorrow, fish hard and see where the chips fall.”
Hults five ounces off the lead
Chris Hults of Vancleave, Miss., used a total catch of 8 pounds, 9 ounces to grab second place overall in the Co-angler Division. However, it was difficult to tell whether he was ultimately happier with his finish or the fact that he drew fishing icon Jay Yelas as his pro partner during today’s competition.
“I feel really blessed today,” said Hults. “I got to fish with Jay Yelas and he’s the first big-name pro I’ve ever fished with. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s a very unselfish person and he is definitely one of the best partners I’ve ever had. He really helped me out there today.”
Hults, who qualified for the Cup via Stren’s Southeast Division, said he targeted bass fishing worms in shallow water.
However, with the entire top-10 leaderboard separated by a mere 2 pounds, 9 ounces, Hults knows that he can’t rest on his laurels if he is to have any shot at the title.
“I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now,” said Hults. “It definitely feels good. But I’m going to have to go out there and do it again tomorrow. And that’s not going to be easy.”
Honeycutt snares third place
Keith Honeycutt of Temple, Texas, appeared to use the momentum of his 2007 Stren Series Championship win to turn in yet another stellar performance at an FLW Outdoors event. Using a catch of 8 pounds, 1 ounce, Honeycutt was only one of three co-anglers to break the 8-pound mark on the first day of competition. And he couldn’t have been happier.
“I’m pretty ecstatic right now,” said Honeycutt. “Coming into this tournament, I didn’t know exactly what it was going to take to lead this event. But with the summertime conditions being as they are on Lake Murray, I figured I’d need something like 8 to 10 pounds a day to make the top 10. So, I’m pretty happy with my performance today.”
Honeycutt said he used a Berkley chigger craw, targeting fish in shallow water – 5 feet or less – to land the majority of his catch.
“Today we were flipping at wood in stained water,” he said. “We really didn’t target anything else.”
But like his other competitors atop the leaderboard, Honeycutt knows that you can’t win the tournament on the first day.
“You really have to stay focused and stay positive because you never know what’s going to happen out there,” said Honeycutt. “I know if I can do that I can really put myself in good position to make the top 10. And that’s my goal right now.”
Best of the rest
Fourth place belonged to Masahiro Yanase of Nagoya, Japan. Yanase ultimately landed a total catch of 7 pounds, 14 ounces.
“I didn’t practice at all on this lake coming into the tournament so I feel really fortunate,” said Gift. “I fished a power worm, got four keeper bites and got them all in the boat.”
However, like his fellow competitors, he said his day on the water was far from easy.
“It was just a grind out there today,” said Gift. “You’d get a bite but then you could go over an hour without another bite. Fortunately, my partner Larry Nixon was on fish.”
Gift said that he targeting bass on a Carolina rig in 15 to 20 feet of water.
“Basically, I was just trying to stay out of Larry’s way today,” Gift joked. “But overall, I’m tickled to be where I’m at right now. It’s really a good start. And if I can catch them tomorrow, I will hopefully get a chance to fish (the finals) on Saturday.”
For the complete list of co-angler standings, click here.
Day two of Forrest Wood Cup action at Lake Murray continues at Friday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. (Eastern Time) at the Lake Murray Marina & Yacht Club, located at 1600 Marina Road in Irmo, S.C.