It’s almost as if Roy and Sunny Hawk switched bags.
The father-son duo came to the Forrest Wood Cup with big aspirations – Roy on the pro side and Sunny as a co-angler. So when a Hawk weighed in a limit for 13 pounds, 6 ounces on day one, that was exactly what they hoped would happen, though they probably didn’t think it would be Sunny who did it from the back of the boat.
Sunny’s bag nearly gave him a 3-pound lead over reigning Forrest Wood Cup co-angler champion Bryan New, but it also would have been good enough to place him seventh on the pro side. And it easily eclipsed the 8-13 that Roy weighed in, not that he cared.
“I was tearing up,” Roy says about hearing his son’s weight called on stage.
As for what Sunny was doing, he was particularly tight-lipped about the pattern. He did fish with Clark Wendlandt, and he says what he was doing was a swing-for-the-fences deal.
“I caught fish all day, but I never culled,” Sunny says. “My pattern could definitely hold up. I know I have to grind it out, because my mindset is to only go for big bites.”
2. Bryan New – Belmont, N.C. – 10 pounds, 15 ounces
Having won the Forrest Wood Cup a year ago, Bryan New is in pretty familiar territory right now, but that doesn’t make him any less nervous.
“When I caught my fifth keeper, my hands started shaking,” New says. “To win the Cup once was unbelievable, but when I realized the bag I had and the chance I had, I couldn’t believe it.”
Like Hawk, New didn’t get many keeper bites, but he converted five of the six he got while fishing with reigning Rookie of the Year Zack Birge. He caught that last keeper with 30 minutes left in the day.
3. Brett Rachal – Monroe, La. – 9 pounds, 2 ounces
Luck will always be a part of fishing, and Brett Rachal says it certainly was for him on day one.
Rachal and pro partner Jay Yelas caught fish all day in what seemed every way possible – topwaters, crankbaits, drop-shots. The only difference between their weights is that for whatever reason Rachal got the bigger bites. He weighed in 9 pounds, 2 ounces to Yelas’ 6 pounds, 14 ounces.
“I always tried to do something a little different from Jay – a different color or size,” Rachal says. “But I was just lucky.”
4. Eric Self – Lawndale, N.C. – 8 pounds, 10 ounces
After two hours, Eric Self was “tore up.”
Fishing with pro Adrian Avena, he only managed one squeaker and lost two good ones at the net in the early hours. Fortunately for Self, Avena was around plenty of fish, and better yet, the Jersey pro was able to calm Self down to allow the co-angler to grind out a limit with a shaky head.
“After those two I lost I was just trying to keep it together,” Self says. “Adrian was great and really helped me catch my fish.”
5. Todd Lee – Jasper, Ala. – 8 pounds, 9 ounces
There might not be a two-time Cup champion on the pro side, but there is on the co-angler side. And Todd Lee is looking to make himself a three-time champ.
Lee spent the day with Ramie Colson Jr., and the two had a serious midday flurry that produced a good number of their fish.
“Everything has got to go just right to win one of these,” Lee says. “I did lose a 4- or 5-pounder that broke me off right at the net. Hopefully that doesn’t cost me.”
Top 10 Co-anglers
1. Sunny Hawk – Salt Lake City, Utah – 13-06 (5)
2. Bryan New – Belmont, N.C. – 10-15 (5)
3. Brett Rachal – Monroe, La. – 9-02 (5)
4. Eric Self – Lawndale, N.C. – 8-10 (5)
5. Todd Lee – Jasper, Ala. – 8-09 (5)
6. Bob Burgess – Charleston, W.Va. – 8-06 (4)
7. Joshua Weaver – Macon, Ga. – 7-15 (3)
8. David Hudson – Jasper, Ala. – 7-05 (2)
9. Tee Watkins – East Point, Ky. – 7-01 (5)
10. Chad Randles – Elkhorn, Neb. – 7-00 (3)