Click here to see the up-to-date live leaderboard for the Forrest Wood Cup.
Watch FLW Live
FLW Live will kick off each morning at 6:30 a.m. ET from the Forrest Wood Cup takeoff at Dreher Island State Park. Coverage will continue through 12:30 p.m., with hosts Travis Moran and Rob Newell commentating from a special on-site set at the Forrest Wood Cup Expo at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. All weigh-ins will also be broadcast on FLW Live beginning at 5 p.m.
The Forrest Wood Cup Expo runs from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center at 1101 Lincoln Street. Be advised that backpacks and large bags are not allowed in the Convention Center.
Follow the Live Leaderboard until the anglers check in at 3:30. Click here
1:30 – Final update – the Live Leaderboard will stay active until check-in
The rain has sparked the bite, and pros are catching. Unfortunately, we have to sign off the coverage blog. Here are a few quick updates.
Travis Fox finally left his "Momma Spot" to go and try to scratch up a limit and save his chances at catching Atkins. That's the first time all day.
Scott Martin landed keeper No. 3 for an approximate total of 6 pounds.
And Michael Neal landed a 3 1/2-pounder to get on the board.
If you want to see how this one shakes out, either drive down to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, or tune in to FLW Live at 5 p.m. ET to watch the final weigh-in. Someone is going to win $300,000.
1:00 – The lull is over
After a lengthy lull, the action has finally picked up, possibly buoyed by the rain showers falling around the lake.
Here's a quick update:
Justin Atkins upgraded by about a quarter-pound with his latest keeper, which he caught throwing topwater over brush. He keeps pushing his limit out there, making it harder to catch him.
Scott Martin landed his second keeper for about 2 pounds.
Scott Suggs landed another keeper, but once again it won't help him.
Anthony Gagliardi is running and gunning, searching for a kicker bite.
Travis Fox just missed a good one on the first bite he's had in quite some time. He had a minor meltdown. That's been a bit of a trend for him today.
Wesley Strader has a keeper finally. It's a 3 1/2-pounder.
12:17 – There's something brewing
Dark clouds are starting to creep over Lake Murray, potentially bringing some rain and wind. There are several pros who believe that might help their bite, including Travis Fox. "I'm not complaining," he said about the change in conditions.
Fox is camping on one key spot – nicknamed the "Momma Spot." It's not the way he prefers to fish. In fact, he's feeling a bit anxious about it. But he believes it's the best place to try and catch Atkins.
Atkins recently picked up a drop-shot. He says he hasn't had a bite after 11 all day, so this is his attempt at figuring out how to catch one in the afternoon. His main bait all week has been an ima Little Stik.
Also, Gagliardi, Neal and Strader are all far upriver, while the rest of the field is still down lake. Here's a look at how they're spread out:
11:50 – Suggs culls, Atkins concerned about fish care, Cobb drop-shotting
Scott Suggs is culling now. He's up to 13 to 14 pounds and even landed another keeper that didn't help him.
Meanwhile, Justin Atkins is doing his best to keep his fish alive in the heat. He's doctoring them up to avoid any kind of penalty, and to make sure they can be released and caught again.
Brandon Cobb has switched up to a drop-shot to try and coax a couple bites and fill his limit. He's using it as a follow-up to the topwater bait.
11:20 – Thrift culls
Bryan Thrift quietly has put together a good bag of fish. He's got 15 pounds, but still has two 2-pounders that he could cull out.
Aaron Britt's day hasn't gone so well. He's busted a rod, lost his best bait and saw a 7-pounder get off during the maylay. Not good.
The schooling action has slowed tremendously, though Thrift is doing a little work in the brush with a worm and spinning rod. Justin Atkins is countering the slack time by running hard from spot to spot and trying to call one up with a topwater. No waiting for fish to bust, just casting and calling.
11:15 – Suggs finishes his limit, Fox's fish have stopped surfacing
Scott Suggs is doing OK today. He just finished a limit for about 11 1/2 pounds.
Travis Fox, who has a chance to catch Atkins, has seen his action wane. His fish have gone back down. They're not schooling anymore.
Boat traffic has really increased in the last hour or so. It's affecting everyone, except maybe Wesley Strader, who's way upriver.
10:56 – Cobb lands another good one
Brandon Cobb is trying to keep pace with his roomate Justin Atkins. He just landed a 3-pounder. He has three fish for about 12 pounds.
10:44 – A few updates
Travis Fox is still toying with some surface schoolers, but he hasn't added another keeper in awhile. He did land a nice-sized catfish.
Bryan Thrift landed a 2 1/2 for his third and a 2 for his fourth. He's fishing a worm in brush, which is a different approach than many of the other pros today.
Scott Suggs landed a 2 1/2 for his fourth.
Justin Atkins has landed a few nice keepers in the last hour or so, but they aren't big enough to help him just yet. He's got close to 21 pounds. Culling up from there is gonna take a big girl.
It's sunny, slick and hot out there right now, which isn't helping the bite a whole lot.
10:07 – Atkins culls, Suggs gets No. 3
Justin Atkins replaced a 2-pounder with a 3-pounder to surpass the 20-pound mark. He's putting together a tremendous bag.
Scott Suggs landed a 2-pounder for his third keeper.
10:00 – Strader heads upriver
Wesley Strader is the only pro to give up on the mid- and lower lake and run upriver. Here's a look at how the field has dispersed. Strader is the dot way over to the left.
9:55 – Another biggun for Fox
About a cast after he had a 6 or 7 roll over his bait, Travis Fox stuck a 4-pounder, and after a long fight he finally played it to the boat. He's throwing a Storm walking bait and has really picked up some steam on a spot that he believes has the winning fish.
9:50 – Atkins scores No. 5, Fox gets another giant
Justin Atkins just landed another near-4-pounder to fill his limit. He has about 19 pounds now. But Travis Fox is still coming after him. He says he's "scraping and clawing," and a 5-pounder to go with his first 6-pounder sure helps. Fox switched to a topwater and has had several good ones hit it but miss it. He claims the last one to miss was a 6 or 7. What a slugfest. The top three are dialed in on some giant fish.
9:42 – Fox is ripping a spoon
Most anglers in the top 10 are firing topwater baits and soft jerkbaits, but Travis Fox is bucking the trend and ripping a flutter spoon.
We have a report of a second keeper for Cobb. It's a 3-pounder, so the quality-fish trend continues.
Scott Martin, meanwhile, had a 5-pounder follow his bait but miss.
9:33 – A few updates
Bryan Thrift landed another keeper, a 1-pounder. And Scott Suggs hauled in a 2 1/2-pounder. He might've made another improvement but he lost a fish that would've weighed about the same.
Wesley Strader has missed about four bites now. Travis Fox had a similar missed opportunity. He was about to leave his spot when a fish blew up behind him. He fired a cast, hooked up, but the fish came free. A short while later, he lost another one at the boat.
Tournament leader Justin Atkins is still running and gunning, making a handful of casts at a spot and then moving on if no fish show.
Brandon Cobb is in second, but he's getting a little bit concerned because he thinks his bite window will be closed in about an hour. He only has the one keeper, and it's a good one, but it's nowhere near enough to get the job done.
9:05 – Fox has a giant, Martin on the board
Travis Fox got on the board in a big way with his first keeper, which weighs about 6 pounds. He's got some serious ground to make up due to Atkins' big morning, but if he's on that kind of quality, he might be able to catch up.
Scott Martin got on the board recently with a 2-pounder.
8:50 – We've got a slugfest; Atkins, Cobb both land giants
Brandon Cobb just smoked a giant with a soft jerkbait. We're talking 6 pounds, or maybe more. But he hadn't even gotten it in the livewell before Justin Atkins hooked up with a 4-pounder. Atkins had another equally big fish roll on the bait, but when it bit, the fish sort of turned the bait awkwardly in its mouth and never really got hooked well. These two young guns are absolutely battling on Murray this morning.
Gagliardi now has his second keeper in the boat. It's a 1 1/2-pounder.
8:40 – The chase is on
Most of the top 10 anglers have fished five or six spots already. Thrift has returned to his starting area, where he caught two keepers early, but he hasn't managed to add anymore to the livewell.
Scott Suggs did get on the board with a 2-pounder. He has a long, long way to go if he has any chance of catching Atkins.
One key to Atkins' technique seems to be a high-speed retrieve with a pencil popper. He's really working the bait hard to try and get a fish to commit.
8:30 – Atkins has three in the boat
Gagliardi and Cobb have lost most of their chase boats because everyone is heading to watch Atkins, who is dialed in on some surface fish. He hooked up with one, but had the fish pull off because the line slipped through his split ring. Before he could even re-tie, another one came up, and Atkins fired at it with his only other rod. He hooked up and landed a fish that we called a 2-pounder, but that might have actually been more like 2 1/2. We didn't get a great close-up look at it.
8:20 – The impact of FLW Live
Two things about FLW Live:
1. If you're not watching FLW Live this morning, you're missing out. Aside from up-close video of hawgs tracking Justin Atkins' baits, and footage of him catching giants, this morning we saw an osprey try to steal his topwater. There's non-stop action, and you need to tune in.
2. Word on the water is that most of the spectator boats around Gagliardi and Cobb are watching the live show, and they've heard about Atkins' catches. So now they're leaving the two local favorites and heading to watch Atkins. His day will probably get a little more challenging. Also, with everyone watching the show, and their volume turned up, it's possible that Gags and company have heard some of the action, and it's got to be weighing heavy on anyone hoping to keep up with Atkins' pace.
8:08 – Atkins bags two kickers
Justin Atkins has struggled to hook up early this morning, mostly because his fish were vaulting over his bait, but he finally managed to connect, and he did it in a big way. He saw a fish come up busting over a cane pile but wasn't able to connect. He fired back again afterward and hooked up with a 4 1/2-pounder. A minute later, he had a giant miss his bait but come back and get it. At first, he called it a 6-pounder, but it looks to be about a 5 1/2. He had to sit down and collect himself after that catch. The tank actually bent the hooks on his bait.
8:00 – Slow start on Murray
Other than Bryan Thrift, Anthony Gagliardi is the only pro with a keeper, a 1 1/2-pounder. Scott Martin, Justin Atkins, Wesley Strader and probably others have had fish blow up and miss on topwaters. Maybe it's the sun, or maybe it's the fishing and pleasure boat traffic that's to blame for the early struggles.
Gagliardi was a little frustrated in the first hour because, according to him, he wasn't dropping his casts right on top of the breaking fish. He thinks he missed a couple opportunities. One of his strategies is to throw a topwater at breaking fish, and if they miss, he follows up with a soft jerkbait. The soft jerkbait is also a secondary bait that he sometimes throws when there's no surface activity.
Michael Neal and Travis Fox wound up on the same spot this morning, and both were a bit frustrated with what they found.
Here's a look at how the top 10 pros are distributed across the lake this morning at about 7:30.
Justin Atkins, the day-one leader and runner-up coming in, has lucked out and doesn't have any chase boats following him. Cobb is concerned abot his gallery. He's worried that if he leaves a spot, the boats will run over his fish, and then they'll be less likely to eat when he comes back later.
Here's a look at where t
7:30 – The lower end is where it's at
The entire field is crammed into the middle and lower sections of Lake Murray, with everyone targeting surface schoolers or some type of offshore pattern. Most seemed a little turned off by the conditions, which are forecast to be slick calm and sunny most of the day, with intermittent cloud cover as some small rain cells move through parts of the region.
So far, Bryan Thrift is the only one on the board. He caught a 2-pound keeper on a soft jerkbait, while running the herring bite that everyone is "kicking his butt on," then soon followed up with a 4 1/2-pounder. He saw some fish busting, fired into the fray and hooked up with a big one.
Anthony Gagliardi has already left his starting spot. It wasn't happening.
Tournament leader Brandon Cobb is dealing with a lot of local spectator traffic this morning. He has about two dozen boats on his tail.
Temperature at takeoff: 74 degrees
Forecast high: 87 degrees
Sky: partly cloudy
Precipitation: 10 percent chance early, rising to 35 percent, with storms possible in the afternoon
Format: All 53 pros will compete for two days, with the field cut to the top 10 pros on day three. The winner is the person with the highest cumulative three-day weight.
Takeoff Time: 7 a.m. ET
Takeoff Location: Dreher Island State Park, 3677 State Park Road, Prosperity, SC
Weigh-In Time: 5 p.m. ET
Weigh-In Location: Colonial Life Arena, 801 Lincoln Street, Columbia, SC
FLW Live: 6:30 a.m. ET to 12:30 p.m. ET all three days