By Mark Fong
Images courtesy of FLWOutdoors.com
The 2017 FLW Forrest Wood Cup returns on August 11 – 13 to Lake Murray, South Carolina for the premier championship event of the summer. Spanning some 50,000 acres and with approximately 500 miles of shoreline, the Saluda River impoundment will present a challenging venue for 53 of the top bass anglers in the country. Among them are Yamamoto Fishing Team Members: Shin Fukae, Roy Hawk, Larry Nixon, and Darrel Robertson. The Inside Line caught up with each of the them as they shared a quick take on the upcoming tournament.
GYCB Pro Shin Fukae will make his twelfth career Cup appearance at Lake Murray. A fourteen year veteran of the FLW Tour, Fukae won the coveted AOY title on his first year on tour in 2004.
This is the third time Fukae will fish a Cup event on Lake Murray during the middle of the summer season. Fukae is hopeful that he will find something good, perhaps a “magic spot” but he acknowledges that he will probably have to junk fish. He anticipates the fish to be scattered. Some will be shallow and some will be deep, so moving back and forth will be important.
With this in mind, Fukae will have an assortment of different baits at the ready. He says the D Shad, Senko, Curly Tail Grub and Shad Shaped Worm will all factor into his game plan.
Fukae says that you must fish in the moment to be successful. While he knows that the schooling blue back herring bite will play a role in the outcome of the Cup, he also knows this bite is very unpredictable.
When competition begins, Top Western Pro, Roy Hawk from Lake Havasu, Arizona will make the second FLW Cup appearance of his career. Hawk spent about a week on Lake Murray during the pre practice period. Lake Murray has lot of different options and patterns available but Hawk is of the belief that the tournament can be won in four different ways: real shallow, mid depth, out deep or on schooling fish out over deeper water but not deep in the water column. As such Hawk is leaving nothing to chance.
“Yamamoto makes a whole line of baits and I will have a bunch of them tied up,” says Hawk. “Their buzzbait is phenomenal for rigging with a soft plastic. This was one of the other key patterns that guys used to place high the last time the Cup was at Murray. The buzzbait has a narrow head and you can slide on a Yama Frog or a D Shad over the head. There are a lot of docks and the Flappin' Hog works great as a jig trailer. It has a good wide body, and will make the jig skip easily up under the docks. Great profile and great colors. And of course the D Shad and Senkos are always good around shallow cover.”
Hawk, like all the competitors has his own take on the blueback bite.
“It's feast or famine,” says Hawk. “If you get on it when its happening you can catch them quick. It is really sporadic as schooling fish can be. I think it will be a part of the tournament, but I don't think that it will win the tournament. You might get around a school and catch a couple that will add to your bag for the day. Where ever you are, you need to keep a close eye out and be ready to get out there as fast as you can so that you can get a couple of them.”
'The General' is a true living legend, having captured a number of the most prestigious titles in the sport of bass fishing. With over forty years as a professional angler, there is not much that the fifteen time Cup qualifier has not done or seen in the sport and his observations regarding Lake Murray are astute.
“Things gotta go your way early in the morning,” says Nixon. “It's very important that you get a good start early in the morning because there are aggressive fish and hopefully you can get in on that and get three or four in the box because the rest of the day can be tough. These can be schooling fish or occasionally you might hit a little wad of them on a point or a drop off, but they don't hang out long. If they don't come to the surface they are almost impossible to catch, they need to be relating to cover or busting on the blue back herring.”
No one knows himself as an angler better than Nixon and he is betting on his strengths.
“There are a tremendous number of patterns that are available on the lake, says Nixon. “It's just a question of which one is going to work work best. I am a soft plastics guy, I am going to concentrate on fish that I can catch using my style of fishing. You have got to find fish that suit your abilities. A 6.75” Pro Senko is right down my ally. I can take a shakey head, rig it up and fish any depth of water from 4' to 30'. I can also put it on a Carolina Rig or I can take a 5” Thin Senko and put it on a drop shot. This is my style. These are the baits I really hope will work for me.”
The 1999 FLW Cup Champion is excited to be fishing the championship event at Lake Murray. Robertson has fond memories of the lake. In the Spring of 2003, he caught a remarkable two day FLW Tour record total of 49lbs, 8 ounces. The twenty one year FLW Tour veteran believes that there will be a good mix of both shallow and deep water fish available at the Cup.
“The lake has a lot of water grass in it and if the water is up, there will be a lot of fish caught out of the water grass,” says Robertson. “You'll probably need to throw a topwater, maybe swim a jig or a Senko.”
“Docks may figure into it, a lot of time during the summer when the sun shines bright, the fish may go to the docks. If the sun is out there are always fish in brushpiles. You'll want to get a soft plastic bait like a Senko or a worm down into the brushpiles.”
While the blue back herring really affects the way the lake fishes, Robertson says that he won't chase the herring bite but will be at the ready should the opportunity arise.
Robertson stresses the importance of being open minded and adaptable. He anticipates his strategy to revolve around multiple patterns during the event.