Fishing takes center stage at the Forrest Wood Cup in Columbia, S.C., next week, but fans won’t have to wait until the daily weigh-ins to enjoy all the excitement the event has to offer. The city of Columbia and its environs have lots to see and do, with special events associated with the Cup on tap. Here’s a reminder of some of the attractions waiting for you:
1. The Best Show in Town – The FLW Expo, free to the public, opens its doors in the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center beginning Friday. The show is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. each day through Sunday, with daily weigh-ins and concerts taking place afterward in the adjoining Colonial Life Arena. Sponsor booths set up by such companies as Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Lowrance, Mercury, Plano, Igloo and many others will display the latest equipment and fishing tackle, and sponsors such as Kellogg’s, Bridgford, Repel, George Foreman Grills, Scotch Blue Painter’s Tape, Cheez-It, Jif and others will provide free samples.
Retail booths such as the FLW Tackle Shop will offer hot deals on fishing lures, line and various articles of tackle throughout the weekend. Likewise, the convention center will be surrounded by outside booths that offer special show deals, samples and field-test opportunities. All sorts of children’s attractions – from a trout pond to a casting pool – make it a great opportunity for the entire family to get involved.
2. Autograph Sessions with the Pros – Dozens of FLW pros will be on hand throughout the week, and fans will have the chance to visit with all of them, as well as fishing celebrities such as Forrest L. Wood and Hank Parker.
3. Fishing Seminars – Starting with 3M Scotch Tape and Peltor pro Ray Scheide, a series of free fishing seminars will be staged throughout Expo hours. Among the anglers scheduled to appear are Hank Parker, Chevy pro Larry Nixon, 2014 Bassmaster Classic winner Randy Howell, Chevy pro Dion Hibdon, Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts pro Greg Bohannan, Chevy pro Jimmy Houston, Keystone Light pro Casey Martin, Dingo pro Vic Vatalaro and Livingston Lures pro Byron Velvick.
4. Bass & Barbeque – A special event hosted by The State newspaper in the span between the Colonial Life Arena and the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, Bass & Barbeque pits 30 of the region’s best grill cooks against each other with the winners getting cash prizes and the public’s favor. Samples of barbequed pork butt can be purchased on Saturday ($5 for five samples), with full meals of pulled pork, ribs or chicken available Sunday. See all the details at thestate.com.
5. Fish-Art Expo – South Carolina hosts the Southeastern Wildlife Art Exposition every February, indicative of the Palmetto State’s admiration for art that depicts fish and wildlife in natural settings. At the Forrest Wood Cup, visitors will get a sneak peek at some of the best wildlife art rendered by the country’s young artists. The Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Expo displays award-winning artwork from grades K through 12 from all 50 states plus Ontario. The contest’s “People’s Choice” award ceremony is set for Saturday afternoon in the Colonial Life Arena with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Director Alvin Taylor and FLW President of Marketing Trisha Blake serving as the hosts.
6. TBF Junior World Championship – The Bass Federation’s Junior Club program started in 1994 with only four states participating at first. Now it’s national in scope, and involves representatives of two age groups, 11-14 and 15-18, from every state where there is a Federation chapter. The tournament to decide the championships in each age group begins Friday morning at Clearwater Cove on nearby Lake Wateree. The finalists will fish Saturday, and the winners will be introduced prior to the Forrest Wood Cup weigh-in Saturday afternoon at 4:45 in Colonial Life Arena.
7. Concerts Galore – Music, from toe-tapping to foot-stomping, will play a big part in the Cup festivities. Free concerts will be staged beginning Friday evening from 8 to 9:30 with country music performer Jeremy McComb in The Tin Roof restaurant. McComb will also perform Saturday afternoon from 2 to 3 at the Outdoor Stage where the Bass & Barbeque festival is taking place. Sunday, country music artist Rodney Atkins will kick off the championship weigh-in show with a concert that runs from 4 until 4:45. The two performers also will be available for autographs and photos with fans at various times.
8. On the Water and Lakeside – Dreher Island State Park, about 45 minutes away from downtown Columbia, will be bustling every morning as the competitors take off for a day of fishing. The Folgers Morning Takeoff, which takes place Thursday through Sunday, welcomes visitors to free coffee and doughnuts from 6 to 7 a.m. before the boats take off. No need to be in a hurry to leave after the last contestant is gone, though, because on-the-water demos of Lowrance electronics take place from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 7:30 to 10 a.m. on Sunday.
9. Cup Insider – If you want to keep one eye on the tournament and the other on FLW Expo attractions, it’s possible with the Cup Insider LIVE updates that take place periodically. Look for the special Cup Insider stage. On-the-water reports provide a running account of what’s happening as anglers vie for tournament fishing’s richest prize of $500,000.
10. Freebies Galore – Rods and reels, sunglasses, lures, and even fishing trips with the pros are some of the goodies that await visitors. Check for updates at the Expo. The biggest prize of all is a fully rigged Ranger Z521 high-performance bass boat with a 250-hp Mercury outboard courtesy of WCOS-FM. Just remember, you have to be there to win.
You will be there, won’t you?