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Wheeler stays on top at Forrest Wood Cup

DULUTH -- While being known as one to the top spotted bass fisheries in the country, the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup has revealed one thing -- largemouth are back.

Day 2 of competition Friday brought about another impressive set of weights and the field of 46 anglers was trimmed down to the top 20 for today's third round of fishing.

Jacob Wheeler, the leader after Day 1 with a stunning limit of largemouth of 21 pounds, 15 ounces, brought another limit to the scales at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. Even though he didn't find the big fish bite that he had Thursday, his four spots and one largemouth clocked in at 11-12, keeping him atop the field at 33-11.

"I knew a day like that happens only once in a blue moon," Wheeler said of his first day's success. "Today was more of a grind and I worked hard for every bite. I was more worried about catching five and staying consistent."

After having a lead of over five pounds after the first day, the field started to make its move on Wheeler, especially veteran Jay Yelas.

Yelas, who is no stranger to big tournaments as the winner of the 2002 Bassmasters Classic, brought in the heaviest sack on Friday with three largemouth and two spots that weighed 18-11, moving him up from 11th place into second, just three pounds and three ounces behind the leader with a two-day total of 30-8.

"The largemouth were a no show two years ago because the water level was so high," Yelas said. "There was too much flooded cover to go out and find them."

But with Lanier holding about eight feet lower than it did two years ago, the largemouth have become a factor in the 2012 event.

Yelas gambled a bit, going after the big fish instead of playing it safe and chasing a limit, and it paid off, putting him in position to become the sixth angler to win both the Classic and the Forrest Wood Cup.

While five fisherman have won both the Classic and the Cup, no one has been able to win the Forrest Wood Cup more than once. However, Scott Martin has put himself in prime position to accomplish that.

Martin, who had a solid first day with 14-9, was even better on Friday, bringing in 14-11 to put him squarely in third place at 29-4.

"It's going to take 15 to 16 pounds a day to win this thing," Martin said. who won last year's tournament on Lake Ouachita. "Jacob (Wheeler) and Jay (Yelas) are going to keep catching their bags. I've just got to go out and get my own."

Fourth place after the second day went to Scott Canterbury, who brought in 12-7 for a two-day total of 29-0, while Dion Hibdon brought in two spots and three largemouth at 14-1 to tie Canterbury at 29-0.

"The largemouth have come back," Hibdon said, who won the Cup on the Red River in 2000. "I stuck shallow quite a bit today, everything I weighed in was a shallow fish. Some of these fish are coming from areas no one would throw at."

Cody Bird also had a solid day, getting three largemouth and two spots to stay in contention in seventh place at 27-2. The day got off to a slow start for Bird as he did not have a fish when the noon hour rolled around, thanks in part to yesterday's heavy rain.

"My best hole was muddied so bad I couldn't even fish it," Bird said, whose Day 2 limit weighed 12-7. "It had been a little muddy earlier but that's what had been making them bite. I only threw in there three times and left."

The last fisherman to make the cut was Glenn Browne, whose 10-14 brought his total up to 20-15, edging out Ryan Patterson by one ounce.

With Wheeler's lead trimmed in half, the 20 remaining anglers will not only have to compete with pressure of making the cut for Sunday's final 10, but will also have to do it amongst the heavy recreational traffic Lanier attracts on weekends.

Some of the competitors welcome the activity, as they feel the extra choppiness to the water stains the waters along the shoreline and provides additional cover for the ambushing fish.

However, others have been fishing in skinnier water, making the added traffic an unwelcome nuisance.

The tournament's third day will blast off this morning at 7 a.m. at Laurel Park in Gainesville. The competitors will return to the Gwinnett Arena at 5 p.m. for the weigh in.

FORREST WOOD CUP

DAY 2 TOP 10

  1. Jacob Wheeler 33-11
  2. Jay Yelas 30-8
  3. Scott Martin 29-4
  4. Scott Canterbury 29-0
  5. Dion Hibdon 29-0
  6. Bryan Thrift 27-7
  7. Cody Bird 27-2
  8. Andy Morgan 25-6
  9. David Dudley 24-5
  10. Troy Morrow 24-5