Jay Yelas is hungry for a win at the Forrest Wood Cup. Already one of professional bass fishing’s top anglers on the Walmart FLW Tour, Yelas knows that a win in the sport’s largest event this weekend on Lake Lanier would satisfy one of the biggest voids in his career.
Winning the four-day event against the other 45 best anglers would also send him home with the top prize of $500,000. Second place angler takes home $100,000 and third place grabs $75,000. The tournament’s top co-angler walks away with $50,000.
“I’m so excited to be here on Lake Lanier,” said Yelas, who placed 21st two years ago when the Forrest Wood Cup was first contested on Lake Lanier. “I’d love to win it and hopefully this is the year.”
Fishing begins Thursday morning with anglers leaving from Laurel Park in Gainesville. Weigh-ins are conducted each evening starting at 5 p.m. at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, with anglers submitting their best five catches for the day’s total. Only the top 20 anglers advance to Saturday’s third round, and top 10 for the final day on Sunday.
“I can’t wait to get started,” said Bryan Thrift, the 2010 Angler of the Year. “The opportunity to fish for $500,000 doesn’t happen very often.”
Yelas’ past accomplishments are extensive, including the 2002 Bassmaster Classic Champion and FLW Angler of the Year title, 2003 Bassmaster Angler of the Year, and 2007 FLW Angler of the Year. He even grabbed an ESPN Espy Award in 2003 as the Top Outdoors Athlete.
Still, wrangling in the biggest bass on Lake Lanier has proved a challenge for the 46-year old resident of Corvallis, Oregon. From practicing earlier this week, Yeles noted that spotted bass are much more plentiful than the largemouth bass currently on Lake Lanier.
“The key is to get as many 4 pounders as you can to go along with the 2 pounders,” added Yelas.
Cody Meyer, the runner-up in 2010 on Lake Lanier, said the spotted bass are traveling great distances as they pursue the blueback herring they love to feed on. It also makes it a bit more challenging as Lake Lanier is about 10 feet below full pool of 1,071 feet, and doesn’t have as many fresh brush piles as during Meyer’s last excursion two years ago on Lake Lanier.
“Finding the big fish right now is more of a challenge than it was two years ago,” said the 29-year-old Meyer of Auburn, Calif.
Anglers are also scrambling to see which baits are working best during practice.
The field of 46 in the Forrest Wood Cup is made up of the following: The top 35 pros and
co-anglers from the 2012 FLW Tour Majors, top five pros and co-anglers from the 2011 FLW Tour Opens, 2011 EverStart Series pro and co-angler champions, 2012 BFL All-American boater and co-angler champions, 2012 TBF boater and co-angler champions, 2012 FLW college fishing champions, 2011 Forrest Wood Cup pro and co-angler champions and 2011 FLW Tour Angler and Co-Angler of the Year.
In 2010, the Forrest Wood Cup introduced entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens as an equity partner, along with Walmart’s return as title sponsor.
Other anglers to watch this year include: David Dudley (2011 Angler of the Year); Brent Ehrler (First in Forrest Wood Cup in 2006 and fourth in Forrest Wood Cup in 2010) and Kevin Hawk (2010 Winner of the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier).