Wheeler Lake Day 2 Coverage - Major League Fishing

Wheeler Lake Day 2 Coverage

It's cut day at the Cup
Image for Wheeler Lake Day 2 Coverage
John Cox Photo by Andy Hagedon. Angler: John Cox.
August 5, 2016 • MLF • Archives

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Day 1 coverage blog

Day 1 leader story

Day 1 top five patterns story


3:15: Final update

That's it for the day two coverage blog. Find out who makes the top-20 cut on FLW Live at 5 p.m. CT at FLWFishing.com. We'll continue to update the Twitter feed, so follow along until check-in time at 4 p.m.


VIDEO UPDATE: See John Cox in action in his sweet little creek


VIDEO UPDATE: Tracking Bryan Thrift


Todd Auten

2:35: Todd Auten slams a giant

Whew doggy, Todd Auten just dropped a stud in the livewell. The weight estimate for the fish is 6 pounds, 4 ounces. If that's accurate, the fish is the biggest one to be weighed in this week. It also moves Auten up into easy position to make the cut, and he'll probably be in the top 10.


1:25: Lawyer moving up the leaderboard

FLW Bass Fishing League All-American champ Jeremy Lawyer made a nice move with a recent 4-pounder. He's pushing 13 pounds for the day. By our estimates, the BFL representative is very near the top five overall based on two-day estimated weights.


1:20: Predicting the top-20 cut weight

While all of our weight estimates are just that – estimates – it looks like the top-20 cut weight is going to be around 17 or 18 pounds. Current bubble boys are:

17. Joseph Webster

18. Brandon McMillan

19. Terry Bolton

20. Darrel Robertson

21. Greg Bohannan

22. Matt Arey


Jacob Wheeler

12:45: Jacob Wheeler is trying to catch Cox

His rod exploded, but Jacob Wheeler still managed to land a 3 1/4-pound fish and cull out a 2-pounder. His marshal estimates Wheeler's weight to be 17 pounds, but our estimate is higher at 18 pounds. Either way, he's within 3 pounds or so of John Cox's two-day total.


Michael Neal

12:38: Two predominant patterns

Right now, two patterns are dominating the top 10. The first is the schooling bite. Jeremey Lawyer and Michael Neal have ridden it into top-10 territory, but many in the field are keying on schooling bass. The second is the shallow-cover bite. Jacob Wheeler and John Cox are both on this program, and so are Brandon Cobb and a few others. Topwater and soft plastics are the key baits around wood and grass.


Bryan Schmitt

12:20: Bryan Schmitt, the nice guy

Bryan Schmitt just stopped fishing to tow two elderly fishermen back to the boat ramp. Their boat was broke down, and they flagged him over. He only towed them 150 yards, but still, it's the Forrest Wood Cup. What a good dude.


Michael Neal

12:10: Predicted top 10

Based on our estimates for today's weights and yesterday's official standings, here's what we estimate to be the top 10:

1. John Cox – 29.75

2. Michael Neal – 25.12

3. Jacob Wheeler – 23.81

4. Shane LeHew – 21.93

5. Scott Martin – 21.12

6. Todd Auten – 20.25

7. Jeremy Lawyer – 19.43

8. Brandon Cobb – 19.12

9. Chris Johnston – 18.81

10. Ray Hanselman – 18.06


11:15: Tom Redington reports on Michael Neal's schooling bite


Michael Neal

11:06: Neal dishin' on the details

Brandon Perkins pulled up to Michael Neal a few minutes ago just to see how Neal was doing. When Neal replied that he had about 15 pounds, Perkins just shook his head.

"You better get to a schooling spot and pick them off with a topwater," Neal told Perkins.

Several of FLW's on-the-water media members have reported a stronger schooling bite today compared to yesterday, and it's certainly working for Neal. They reported seeing fish boiling all around the lake.


11: Cox culls up a pound

John Cox just keeps making it harder on the competition. His latest cull boosts him up a full pound to 13 pounds on the day.


10:45: Michael Neal picking off schoolers

Michael Neal is on fire, in case you didn't already know it. (If you didn't, then you need to follow along via the on-the-water feed here.) He's sitting out in open water, rod in hand, waiting for fish to come up and bust at the surface. When they do, he picks them off one by one like a sharpshooter. It's working great for him. Neal has about 14 3/4 pounds already. That's the biggest limit of the day.


10:35: Don't forget about the live on-the-water feed

Want the most up-to-the-minute reports from on the water. We've got it for you. Click here, and then scroll down the page to see the FLW on-the-water feed.


Brandon Cobb

10:30: A midday flurry

First there was a lull, and then there was a flurry of fish catches. Jeremy Lawyer, Shane LeHew, Brandon Cobb, Greg Bohannan, Wesley Strader and Scott Suggs all filled their limits in the last 45 minutes. Michael Neal has culled several times up to more than 13 pounds. Brandon Cobb is culling too. And several pros are stuck on three or four keepers, but have registered catches recently.

Overall, the bite is down from yesterday. The slowdown could be because of the fishing pressure of day one, or the post-frontal conditions that followed yesterday's storm. Whatever the case, John Cox is trying to distance himself from the field. He already has 12 pounds. Jacob Wheeler also has 12 or so but came into today about 8 pounds shy of Cox.


John Cox

10:05: How day one's top 10 pros have performed in the first three hours

There's a lot of time left to fish, but it already looks like there's going to be some changes in the top 10 today. Here's how the top 10 from yesterday have done through three hours of fishing:

(Name – Day 1 Weight – Day 2 Estimate)

1. John Cox – 16-11 – 12 pounds

2. Brandon McMillan – 14-14 – 3 pounds

3. Bryan Thrift – 14-7 – 2 pounds

4. Joseph Webster – 14-2 – 2 pounds

5. Mark Rose – 13-15 – 5 pounds

6. Bill Chapman – 13-8 – 0 pounds

7. Shin Fukae – 13-7 – 1 1/2 pounds

8. Shane LeHew – 13-3 – 2 1/2 pounds

9. Matt Arey – 12-8 – 1 pound

10. Cody Meyer – 12-1 – 1 1/2 pounds


9:55: Smallmouth photos

In case you needed proof of the degree to which smallmouths are in play, here are three of the day's biggest smallies:

Jimmy Reese

Mark Rose

Chris Johnston




John Cox

9:40: Wheeler and Cox on the same program

Jacob Wheeler only weighed in 8 pounds, 5 ounces on day one to land in 34th place, but he seems to have figured out what needs to be done to improve today. He's way up a creek, just like tournament leader John Cox, and has hauled in about 13 pounds already. Wheeler's marshal called the creek a "goat trail," meaning it's a narrow little stream more so than the large creeks we're used to in these big Southern impoundments.

Wheeler and Cox are both phenomenal shallow summer fishermen, and the fish they're targeting are unpressured. So if anyone is going to catch an upper teens bag today, it's one of these two.


John Cox

9:30: Check out the day-two John Cox photo gallery – click here

We were able to sneak photographer Andy Hagedon into the boat with John Cox for day two, and we'll be updated a Cox photo gallery all day long. Check it out by clicking here.


Michael Neal

9:20: Michael Neal has the hot hand

Michael Neal has already culled several times today. His catch reports just keep rolling in. Neal has about 10 1/2 pounds total, but mixed in with his small fish are some decent keepers that, if he can keep catching, might get him up into the low to mid-teens by day's end.


9:00: McMillan gets on the board

Finally, Brandon McMillan scores a keeper. It's a good fish. His marshal estimated it at 3 pounds. One of the photographers following McMillan says it's a 2 1/2. Whatever. He's on the board and can focus on chasing down Cox.


John CoxJohn Cox

8:40: Cox extends the lead

John Cox just put another good keeper in the livewell. That makes three. His next closest competitor from day one, Brandon McMillan, hasn't landed a keeper. McMillan has fish blowing up around him, but he hasn't managed to get any to bite.


Chris Johnston

8:35: On smallmouths

Smallmouths are proving to be a big player for the top 20 pros at Wheeler. Granted, the two leaders focused primarily on largemouths, but many of the rest of day one's top performers weighed in a mix of both. The smallmouth schooling bite seems to be pretty solid.

Chris Johnston is the first to capitalize on the brown bass on day two. He just landed a 4-pounder.


Jimmy Reese

8:30: Reese is a multi-species master

Jimmy Reese sure can catch fish, just not the proper species at the moment. His last two bites have been from a white bass and a big ol' drum, what he called an "Alabama smallmouth."


John Cox

8:25: John Cox scores twice

Now it's picking up for the leader. Cox is slinging a frog around and finally got a couple of bites. His second keeper was a chunky 2 1/2-pounder. That's what he needs to get started. A couple more big bites and he'll be in business.


Michael Neal

8:20: The first limit

Michael Neal is the first angler in the field to register a five-bass limit. His total is about 6 1/4 pounds.


Jacob Wheeler

8:15: Good start for Wheeler; slow start for McMillan

McMillan's troubles continue. He finally got a bite, swung, connected … and broke off. He's still sticking with the baitcaster.

Jacob Wheeler seems to be on better quality fish today. He has only two keepers, but his total weight is 7 1/2 pounds.


John Cox

8:05: Top 3 update

Thrift is being Thrift and junk-fishing around. He's got one keeper so far.

McMillan pulled back into his primary spot. It's a very small area. There's a ton of floating debris on it today, so he started off bombing casts with a frog but had no takers. Now he's moved in closer and is trying to power fish for a bite. Nothing yet. Yesterday McMillan did most of his damage with a spinning rod in hand. He did mention at weigh-in that there's only one bait that he can get bit on at the spot. He might have to go back to what brung him.

Cox was ocncerned about local anglers on his spot this morning after he saw a few boats at a nearby ramp. No biggie, as it turns out. He passed three local boats and none of them was fishing as far up this creek as him. Still no keepers for Cox.


Tyler Suddarth

7:50: They've arrived

Most of the pros have reached their first spots, save for a few who were making extreme runs.

Here's the early rundown:

Jamie Horton – two fish for 2 pounds

Tyler Suddarth – one fish for 1 1/2 pounds

Wesley Strader – one fish for 2 pounds

Clark Reehm – two fish for 1 3/4 pounds

Bryan Thrift – one fish for 1 pound


7:30: Company for Cox?

John Cox is pretty well hidden in the area he's fishing. Even some of the locals didn't know the spot was accessible. That makes it highly unlikely that he'll have any competitor boats fishing nearby.

The spectator crowd might prove to be a different story. He saw three boat trailers parked at a ramp in the creek he's fishing. Probably some local anglers are curious to know just where the heck he found his fish. Three more boats doesn't sound like much, but he's fishing in tight quarters and already has FLW's media and TV crews bird dogging him.

"That's not a good sign," he told his marshal when he passed the ramp.


7:23: First on the board

Wesley Strader gets the award for being the first angler on the board on day two. OK, that's not an actual award, but Strader does have a 2-pounder in the box. He caught it off the break wall outside of Ditto Landing, which is the takeoff marina.


7:15 a.m.: Who will challenge Cox?

Day two is underway. Florida’s John Cox is the leader at the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup, but there’s a crew of bass fishing superstars right behind him. Cox is banking on a shallow, tough-to-access creek to carry him into the weekend. But there are no guarantees that the area can hold up for a second day in a row.

Behind him is Brandon McMillan, who caught all his fish from a single area on day one. Then there’s Bryan Thrift. The North Carolina pro junk-fished all over Wheeler Lake on day one.

None of the top three are guaranteed to be able to repeat their performances from day one, so this really is anyone’s tournament to win.

You can follow along with all the action via FLW’s on-the-water Twitter feed here.


Takeoff photos

See the full gallery here.

Hampton Anderson

Brad Knight

Ray Hanselman

Michael Neal

Joseph WebsterMatt Arey

Wesley Strader

Stetson Blaylock



Temperature at takeoff: 75 degrees

Forecast high: 94 degrees

Sky: partly cloudy

Precipitation: zero percent chance

Wind: WNW at 7 mph


Tournament Details

Forrest Wood Cup Takeoff Show: 6:30 a.m. CT at Ditto Landing, 293 Ditto Landing Road, Huntsville, Ala.

Takeoff: 7 a.m. CT at Ditto Landing

Weigh-in: 5 p.m. CT at Von Braun Center (Propst Arena), 700 Monroe Street SW, Huntsville, Ala.

FLW Expo: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., at the Von Braun Center – More info: Seminars and Celebrities and Giveaways and Contests