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Pro anglers, families enjoy their Lanier visit
FLW Outdoors Forrest Wood Cup wraps up four-day competition
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Anglers lowered their rods for the final time Sunday as the FLW Outdoors' Forrest Wood Cup and the National Guard World Junior Championship came to a close.

The stakes were high during the final weigh-in as the pros were competing for the title of Forrest Wood Cup champion, the most prestigious award in professional bass fishing, which came with a top prize of $500,000.

Despite the heat, Robert Cartlidge, president of The Bass Federation, said that anglers and their families enjoyed their stay while fishing on Lake Lanier.

"The kids and families are having a great time in the city of Gainesville and have mentioned that on multiple occasions," said Cartlidge.

"Every request that we have made and needed for this event has been taken care of since we have been here. We are really happy with the support from the community."

While kids and spouses enjoyed touring the area and shopping over the past couple of days, the fishermen were busy on the lake.

"The fishermen get to fish for what will bite," Cartlidge said with a laugh. "The fishing just hasn't been the best that it could be, but we don't have any control over that."

Like many followers of the tournament, Cartlidge believes that the Outdoors' Forrest Wood Cup is like the super bowl of bass fishing.

"FLW Outdoors runs the very best events on the adult side in the business, and they have the best adults in the business fishing here this week," Cartlidge said. "And the junior program is one of the most important programs in the fishing industry."

Fishing fan Clay Cunningham, who has been keeping up with the tournament online on the FLW website, grew up fishing on Lake Lanier and got into the sport while working in a local bait shop while in high school.

Cunningham, who owns Catching Not Fishing Guide Service in Dawsonville, believes that with fishing, every day is a learning experience.

"I like to compare it to the stock market," Cunningham said. "You can see trends and patterns about what the fish are going to bite but so many factors are involved, so it is never a guarantee that they will bite."

Cunningham realizes that it takes a lot to make it to the FLW Outdoors Wood Cup.

"These guys had to qualify by doing well in other events all of last year," he said. "Some of these guys actually moved here months ago just to prepare for the event."

Cunningham said that over the course of the last 10 years, the fishing has improved dramatically on Lake Lanier with the unintentional addition of blueback herring.

"The herring have greatly increased the average size of the spotted bass and the striped bass," Cunningham said. "Besides the fishing, it has been great to see the surrounding counties get involved in improving some of the ramps like Hall County did with Laurel Park so that we will have the facilities to host this type of event."

Cartlidge said that he believes the angler's strategy begins with catching a fish - just one.

"And then when they get two, they will worry about three, but you have to catch that first one before you can catch the fifth one," he said.

Cartlidge said that although some folks believe that luck is the deciding factor, he is not a subscriber to that theory.

"Those guys that are out there fishing on the pro side are professionals, and they consistently catch bigger and better and more fish because they are professionals," Cartlidge said. "There is a certain amount of luck in bites, obviously, but skill certainly comes into play as well."

As things wrapped up Sunday, anglers packed up their rods and supplies and many said their goodbyes to Lake Lanier.
Although it was sad for some, Cartlidge points out that the person who won the $500,000 would "be tickled that it is over."

"The rest of the anglers certainly will be happy that they made it because these two events are a once-in-a-lifetime chance," Cartlidge said. "Saddness is sweet sorrow that the event is over, but at the same time, these people will be happy to say, ‘I made it.'"