Youngest angler reels in biggest haul on Day 1 at Forrest Wood Cup

DULUTH -- When the Forrest Wood Cup came to Lake Lanier in 2010, the leader after the first day of competition held the top spot with 14 pounds, 12 ounces.

While that weight was a solid total, it would've only been good enough for fourth place after the first day of the 2012 event.

Day 1 of the Forrest Wood Cup wrapped up Thursday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center with 35 of the 46 anglers bringing limits to the scales.

Six of those competitors topped 14 pounds, but the big sack of the day went to the tournament's youngest angler in Jacob Wheeler.

Wheeler, a 21-year from Indianapolis., stunned the crowd when his five fish tipped the scales at 21-15.

"Having a day like this is unbelievable," Wheeler said.

While Lake Lanier is one of the most renowned spotted bass lakes in the country, Wheeler proved what many others were saying -- that a good sack of largemouth could make a big difference in the tournament.

"I'm going against the grain, that's for sure," Wheeler said of his five largemouth. "I went into this tournament knowing the norm was spotted bass. I said I was going to fish my strength, do what I was confident with. I may have to make some adjustments through the day tomorrow, but when you're confident, you're dangerous."

While not specifying what baits he was using, Wheeler did acknowledge that all of his keepers were caught in 10 feet of water or less, contrasting to the deep-water techniques being used by the bulk of the field.

That deep-water technique may eventually prove to be the winning pattern as Scott Canterbury of Springville, Ala., culled a strong limit of four spots and one largemouth to sit in second at 16-9.

"They were down deep and feeding good," Canterbury said. "I wasn't catching a lot today (with seven keepers), but the bites I was getting were good ones."

Two other anglers were right behind Canterbury in a tie for third with 14-15 in Dion Hibdon and Cody Meyer.

Meyer also relied on fishing deep, targeting the areas between brush piles and the timber line with a drop shot.

"I was moving around with my electronics and video game fishing," Meyer said. "A lot more of the fish are grouped up this year. If you can find structure in the right water column, you can have success."

Cody Bird of Granbury, Texas, worked a mix of deep and shallow patterns for a solid Day 1 total of 14-11 for fifth place, while Scott Martin joined the 14-pound club in sixth place at 14-9.

"This lake didn't treat me as well two years ago," Martin said. "I found plenty of fish then but couldn't figure out how to get them to bite. Since then, I've learned to catch fish deeper and caught a lot today like I did last year on Lake Ouachita. Confidence is such an amazing part of fishing and it's paying off for me right now."

Martin, who won the event last year on Lake Ouachita, is looking to become the first person to win the Forrest Wood Cup more than once.

The weather may play a big role in today's numbers as rain and storms are in the forecast. While many feel that sunny skies favor the spotted bass bite, the clouds and shade may offer different avenues.

"This is one of the best spotted bass fisheries in the country, it's too bad that we're here in August because that's the toughest time to catch them," Luke Clausen said. "However, I think changing conditions are an opportunity to figure things out."

Clausen, who is also seeking his second cup after winning the 2004 tournament, sits in 10th place at 12-5.

The co-angler division also saw some impressive numbers as six fisherman had eight pounds or better with Nick Hensley of Cumming leading the way at 12-2.

The tournament's second day will begin today at 7 a.m. from Laurel Park in Gainesville. After today, the field will be trimmed down to 30 anglers, who will compete Saturday for the final 10 positions in the finals Sunday. The weigh-in will be held in the Gwinnett Arena at 5 p.m.