DULUTH — Fishing on your home lake in a tournament is considered to be a blessing by some and a curse by others.
It could be argued that both of those sentiments came true for Buford’s Tom Mann Jr.
With one competitor left to weigh in after the third day of the Forrest Wood Cup on Saturday night at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, Mann strode the floor nervously, sitting in sixth place with a three-day weight of 34 pounds, 10 ounces.
Since the top six advanced to today’s finals, Mann’s precarious position depended on Day 2 leader Cody Meyer coming in with a weight of less than 7-5, but when Mann heard that Meyer brought a limit to the scales, he already knew the outcome before the weight was announced.
Meyer’s five fish went for 11-5, securing his spot in the finals in second place at 38-11, while settling the Buford resident one spot out in seventh place, missing by just seven ounces.
“It was about as good as you could expect,” Mann said of Saturday’s fishing. “I was fortunate to get one really good fish today.”
Mann had limits each day but his five on Thursday’s opening day was a disappointing 9-6, putting him in an early hole.
“That first day really hurt me,” Mann said. “That might keep me from going to the top six.”
Brent Ehrler, the 2006 Cup winner, has a terrific shot at becoming the first person to win the cup more than once as he took over the leader board with the day’s top weight of 14-14, putting him in the leader’s slot with a total of 39-3.
“It looks easy when you have five up there but I actually struggled today,” Ehrler said, whose 14-14 is the heaviest sack of the tournament. “It took me all day to get those. I may not catch five tomorrow but I know where some big ones live.”
“The General” Larry Nixon turned in another solid limit of 11-5 on Saturday, putting him in third place at 37-7, while Day 1 leader Kevin Hawk made the final cut in fourth at 36-1.
The only top six angler without a limit was Ronald Hobbs Jr., but his four fish of 11-0 was good enough for fifth at 35-3.
The host state still has a chance at one of its residents in keeping the cup in Georgia as Toccoa’s Troy Morrow, who brought in a limit 12-11 on Saturday, claimed the sixth and final slot at 35-1.
The state’s other competitor in Saturday’s top 30 was Jason Meninger of Gainesville, who entered Saturday in fourth place. Luck was not on his side on Day 3 as Meninger only brought three fish to the scales, adding 7-5 to bring his total to 32-6, leaving him in the top 10 at ninth place.
Meninger had a chance at a late surge but he lost two “big ones” in the last hour.
The finals begin this morning at Laurel Park in Gainesville with the competitors blasting off at 7 a.m.
Pros and cons
Fishermen are as about a superstitious lot you will find, but fortunately for South Carolina’s Dearal Rodgers, one of his superstitions didn’t come true.
Competing in the co-angler division, Rodgers told the crowd early in the tournament that he was a big Atlanta Braves fan, and as the Braves did well, so did he.
Coming into Day 3 as the leader after a Braves win, Rodgers’ fate didn’t look good as his team lost in extra innings to the Giants on Friday night. But for once, his superstition didn’t hold true as he brought in four fish for 9-3 and three-day weight of 27-3 for first place.
“Us fishermen are superstitious but ultimately it’s God that’s in control. That’s what happened today.” Rodgers said, who collected $65,000 for his efforts. “I had a hard time catching them today. At 1:15, I only had one keeper but you’ve got to have confidence in what you’re throwing.”
Rodgers won the tournament with a drop shot.
The future of fishing
The FLW pros weren’t the only ones competing as the National Guard Junior World Championship also took place.
Two age groups competed with Shane Edgar winning the 11-to 14-year-old division, while Greg Zellers took the title in the 15 to 18 age group.
“This is so exciting,” Edgar said, who won the event with a two-day total of two fish for 3-15. “So much is going through my mind right now.”
Edgar, a 12-year-old from Phoenix, Ariz., qualified for the tournament by winning the Arizona state championship earlier this year. His two keepers, one a spotted bass and the other a largemouth, came on a tried and true Lanier technique.
“I used a drop shot with a Morning Dawn robo worm,” Edgar said. “I was concentrating on offshore brush piles.”
Zellers boated three keepers for 8-15 to win his division, using another pair of time-tested Lanier lures, a Fish Head Spin and a Shakey Head.
Qualifying for the event by winning the Indiana state championship, Zellers was faced with the challenge of fishing waters much different that those in the Hoosier state.
“They’re different,” the 15-year-old Winomac, Ind., resident said of his lakes back home. “They’re natural lakes and a lot shallower.”
“I’ve fished the youth tournaments since I was twelve and last year I decided I wanted to qualify for this. Those youth tournaments are more competitive than some of the adult events.”
Both anglers received a $5,000 scholarship as top prize.