Photo by Christine Troyke
DULUTH -- Throughout the weigh-in of the first day of the Forrest Wood Cup bass tournament Thursday night at the Gwinnett Arena, one word was repeated by almost every angler.
With the midsummer heat sending the crystal-clear surface temperatures at Lake Lanier over 90 degrees, many competitors faced the same difficult conditions. Just 27 of the 78 professionals brought in a five-fish limit.
"It's just the time of year," Luke Clausen said, who brought in four fish for 7.5 pounds and 36th place. "It's just so hot. They aren't aggressive and aren't too thrilled about having a bait dropped in front of their face. But there are so, so many fish out there. I was seeing fish all day but I just couldn't get them to bite."
"I'm going to have to do something different tomorrow," the Gainesville resident said. "Anything different will be good."
One professional who found a gameplan in practice that worked on the tournament's opening day was Kevin Hawk, who took the lead after the first day with five fish that peaked the scales at 15 pounds, 4 ounces.
"I'm pretty pumped up right now," said Hawk, who still held the lead even after a dead fish penalty knocked his official weight down to 14-12. "Today I just wanted to cover water. I felt that was the biggest key because this is a big lake with a lot of spots to fish."
Hawk's strategy worked as he combed the waters on the lower third of the lake, using minnow-imitating lures throughout the water column.
Another competitor who is familiar with the lake experienced similar success, even though he echoed the sentiments of everyone.
"As good of a lake as Lanier is, it's going to be tough," Buford's Tom Mann Jr. said. "When the water temp gets over 90 and stays that hot, I don't care where you are, it's going to be tough."
Mann, who caught the bulk of his fish with a drop shot, was one of the 27 who had a limit but, like Clausen, couldn't get on the big fish as his five came in at 9-6, putting him in 21st place. Still, his knowledge of the lake may still be enough for him to make the cut in the top 30 after today's fishing.
"I've got a little advantage because I'm not going to run out of holes," Mann said. "Today I fished seven or eight spots to get one good bite. I'll run some of them tomorrow but eliminate of few of them and add some others.
Jason Meninger, another entrant from Gainesville, used his experience on the lake to boat five fish for 13 pounds, 3 ounces, putting him in sixth place.
"A lot of the good locals I fish against, 13 pounds in just an average bag," said Meninger, who qualified for the cup as a rookie on the FLW tour. "With the level of competition fishing this event, I felt I would need an average of 15 pounds. It really is a grind out there but this is a good start."
Meninger's fish came from a variety of tactics, throwing everything from a drop shot to a fishhead spin to topwater, hitting over 40 spots.
"It's basically junk fishing," Meninger said. "But I had a limit by 10:30 and was able to start culling then."
Day 2 of the tournament, which awards the winner $500,000, will begin on this morning at 6:30 a.m. at Laurel Park in Gainesville with the weigh-in at 5 p.m. at the Gwinnett Arena.
Forty eight of the competitors will be eliminated after today with the top 30 advancing to Saturday's third day and the top six competing in the finals Sunday.