DULUTH -- It was moving day at the Gwinnett Arena on Friday in the second day of the Forrest Wood Cup as the field of 78 scrambled for position in the top 30.
All it took was a two-day total of 14 pounds, 11 ounces or greater to continue at a chance for the $500,000 prize. But in a tournament where fish over four pounds are scarce, mere ounces could mean the difference in fishing on Saturday in day 3 or going home.
For pro Cody Meyer, who held 4th place after the first day with 14-3, those precious ounces added up as he brought in his second limit of the tournament.
Meyer's five fish on Friday hit the scales at 13-3, putting him ahead of the field at 27-6, one and a quarter pounds ahead of Larry Nixon.
The push for the top-30 went well for two locals still in the running as Tom Mann, Jr. of Buford and Jason Meninger of Gainesville each brought in limits. Mann's five fish weighed in at 12-13, moving him up nine spots to 12th place while Meninger brought in a weight of 11-14, keeping him in the top 5 at fourth place with a two-day total of 25-1.
"It was tough today," Meninger said. "About every two hours I would catch a keeper. It was slow and I pretty much had to grind it out."
"But I'm real excited to fish on Saturday because I'm in contention. We'll let the rest take care of itself."
Mann's five fish from Thursday had him in a disappointing 21st place but he was able to find better fish on Friday, leading to his bump up to 12th.
"Definitely a lot better than yesterday," Mann said. "I didn't do anything different but I got some quality bites. That makes all the difference in the world on this lake. If I have a good day tomorrow, I might have a chance. Anything can happen if you get in the top six."
Only five anglers have won both the Bassmasters Classic and Forrest Wood Cup titles. One competitor trying to become the sixth to do that is Jay Yelas, who was the 2002 Classic champion. Yelas made the cut with a two-day weight of 16-11, giving him a shot to become the sixth pro with both titles.
"I'm thankful to be in the top thirty but the tournament is about winning. That's why we're here," Yelas said, who sits in 20th place. I'm 11 pounds out of the lead and would have to have a huge comeback to have a shot. I found some decent fish up shallow but there's not enough of them up there. The way to win is to fish out deep for the suspended fish."
Ups and downs
The angler who made the biggest jump in the standings was Kyle Mabrey, who had two fish on Thursday at 3-2, leaving him in 68th place. He brought in four solid bass on Friday for 10-13, but it wasn't enough as his leap of 33 spots kept him out of the top 30 in 35th place.
The fisherman who had one of the day's most disappointing outings was Ott Defoe. Defoe went against the grain of conventional thinking on Thursday and chose to fish up the lake in the Chattahoochee River, finding big dividends with five fish for 13-10 and fifth place. However, heavy rains overnight surged the river up nearly a foot and muddied the waters, causing Foe to zero out on Friday and miss the cut altogether.
Last one in, first one out
Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala. was the angler who sits in 30th place with nine fish at 14-11, while Tom Monsoor dropped from 28th to 31st, four ounces out of the running.
Even though the number of anglers was reduced from 78 to 30, things will be a bit more crowded this weekend as locals and vacationers will show why Lanier is one of the most popular summer destinations in the southeast.
And with this weekend being the last one before the start of school, things might even be a bit more crowded than usual.
Pro Brent Ehrler, who brought in his second limit of the tournament for a two-day weight of 24-5, knows that dealing with the crowded conditions could be an issue.
"It's going to be tough out there at times because it will take longer to drive around," Ehrler said, who started Saturday in 6th place. "I hope it doesn't affect the fishing but last weekend in practice, it seemed to have an affect."
But for Larry Nixon, the traffic isn't a concern. In fact, he almost seems to look forward to it.
"They bit better with the boat traffic in practice (on Saturday)," Nixon said, who is competing in his 12th Forrest Wood Cup. "I almost felt like something was wrong because I felt like I couldn't shake them off my hook. I thought this was going to be one of those tournaments I wasn't going to catch crap. My goal was twelve pounds a day and I'm a hair above that, I guess."
So far, Nixon has been on the fish, bringing in limits both days, including Friday's five-fish total to lift his total weight to 26-2, putting him solidly in contention at second place for the cup.
"We had perfect conditions today," Nixon said. "We had lower light conditions until eleven and they stayed shallower. They were feeding early this morning. Yesterday we had bluebird skies and everyone caught their fish late."
By the numbers
Over the first two days, 492 bass have been brought to the scales for a total weight of 1,037 pounds, nine ounces (an average of just over 2.1 pounds). A keeper bass on Lanier is 14 inches and 52 limits of five fish have been recorded over the first two days.
The competition's third day will begin at 6:30 a.m. at Laurel Park in Gainesville with the weigh-in at the Gwinnett Arena at 5 p.m. The field of 30 will be whittled down to six finalists, who will compete for the title on Sunday.