Wheeler on verge of becoming youngest Forrest Wood Cup winner

DULUTH -- The Forrest Wood Cup has been held 15 times and, each time, a different angler took home the trophy.

But today, it looks like history will be made in one fashion or another.

21-year old Jacob Wheeler, who has led the entire tournament, has an outstanding chance to become the Cup's youngest winner. Entering today's final round of action, Wheeler is atop the field with a three-day total of 48 pounds, two ounces, nearly six pounds ahead of Scott Canterbury, who is in second at 42-5.

After opening the tournament with heaviest limit seen so far at 21-15, Wheeler saw his lead shrink to three pounds after the second day when Jay Yelas charged into second with an impressive five fish at 18-4.

Feeling the pressure, Wheeler responded with a Day 3 limit of 14-7, the top weigh-in on Saturday.

"That was a huge confidence booster," Wheeler said of extending his lead, "(Today) is the biggest day of my life. I know it and I'm so excited."

Another piece of history the field is trying to make is crowning the first repeat champion. Four of the remaining 10 anglers are past champions, but getting past the juggernaut Wheeler will be a tall task.

"The potential is there for a huge bag," Scott Martin said, who won the cup last year. "That's what it's going to boil down to for me, getting a couple of big bites."

Martin, who will start today in fourth place at 39-11, had a limit on Saturday but saw the readout on the scales announce his lightest weight so far of the tournament at 10-7.

"The quality for me was missing this morning," Martin said.

Luke Clausen, the 2004 Cup winner, had a solid 12-13 on Saturday to move up from 12th place into the top 10 at six, putting him 11-2 behind the leader. 2003 Cup champion and current Angler of the Year David Dudley also survived the final cut, sitting in ninth at 35-7.

"I fished a lot of new water today and have pretty much committed shallow," Dudley said, whose Day 3 weight of 11-2 would've been much higher had a big fish not come unbuttoned. "I scarred my voice today, screaming out of frustration."

The final qualifier was Dion Hibdon, who fell five spots from fifth place to 10th after bringing in three fish at 6-3. He enters today with a three-day total of 35-3.

Yelas had put himself in great shape after Day 2, but the big fish bite wasn't there for him on Saturday. He did bring in a limit, but they only totaled 10-7, causing him to slip from second back into fifth at 37-2.

"I fished the same way today as I did yesterday," Yelas said. "When you're trailing you have to go after the big fish and I went back to where I was yesterday but couldn't get another one to move up. Absolutely an opportunity missed."

Canterbury solidified his spot in second with a 13-5 limit on Saturday to move up two slots, while Bryan Thrift is still in shouting distance of Wheeler in third place, moving up three spots after a limit on Saturday of 12-8.

Others in today's final are Andy Morgan in seventh place at 36-14, while Troy Morrow, the only finalist from Georgia, sits in eighth at 36-7.

The co-angler division crowned its champion on Saturday and a retired Air Force colonel flew past the pack to capture the title. Timothy Dearing, who started Saturday in eighth place, snagged four fish for 11-4, putting his final weight at 22-13.

Dearing caught the majority of his fish on a drop shot in 25 to 35 feet of water, using a Morning Dawn Roboworm that he slightly altered by coloring the head of the worm chartreuse. Dearing, who netted $50,000 with the win, said that the color change on the head of the worm caused the fish to bite more agressively instead of just nipping at the tail.

Cumming's Nick Hensley, who is the Co-Angler of the year, finished eighth.

The fourth and final day of the Forrest Wood Cup will begin today at 6:30 a.m. at Laurel Park in Gainesville with the final 10 fisherman blasting off at 7 a.m. The final weigh-in will take place at the Gwinnett Arena at 5 p.m.

Forrest Wood Cup

Day 3

  1. Jacob Wheeler 48-2

  2. Scott Canterbury 42-5

  3. Bryan Thrift 39-15

  4. Scott Martin 39-11

  5. Jay Yelas 37-2

  6. Luke Clausen 37-0

  7. Andy Morgan 36-14

  8. Troy Morrow 36-79. David Dudley 35-3

  9. Dion Hibdon 35-3