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Battle tight for top spot at Forrest Wood Cup
Co-angler Spencer Shuffield of Bismark, Ariz., hooks his bait onto a line Thursday during the first day of the Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing, at Laurel Park. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Forrest Wood Cup
Professional division

Kevin Hawk    14-12
Jason Christie    14-8
JT Kenney    14-6
Cody Meyer    14-3
Ott DeFoe    13-10

Co-angler division
JR Wright    12-5
Brandon Hunter    9-5
Dereal Rodgers    8-15
Frank Divis Sr.    8-12
John Niedosik    8-7

DULUTH — There are no winners and losers in the first round of the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier.

After just one afternoon on Lake Lanier, Kevin Hawk, from Ramona, Calif., leads with a five-bass limit of 14 pounds, 12 ounces.

However with three days remaining and only nine ounces separating the top four professional anglers, it’s still anyone’s tournament to win.

“I wasn’t expecting to be in first place after the first day,” Hawk said. “But I can’t get too excited yet.

“This tournament is a marathon and not a sprint.”

As fishermen took to the podium at the Gwinnett Arena on Thursday for weigh-ins, they all told the same story. Fishing for the largemouth and spotted bass from the time they set out from Laurel Park and all the way through the heat of the afternoon was tough with the temperature and humidity.

However, some of the local anglers knew some of the tricks of the trade to navigate Lanier’s waters during the hottest portion of the afternoon. Gainesville’s Jason Meninger led briefly during weigh-ins and finished with the sixth best total of the day with a five-bass limit of 13-3.

After catching about 10 fish worthy of keeping during this catch-and-release tournament, Meninger worked everything from brush piles to deeper water looking for the best possible catch. He expects to need to stay around 14 pounds the next three days to stay in contention.

“I used eight different rods out there (Thursday),” Meninger said. “It’s almost junk fishing out there.”

After Hawk, the rest of the top five from Day 1 is Jason Christie (14-8), J.T. Kenney (14-6), Cody Meyer (14-3) and Ott DeFoe (13-10).

Kenney, from Palm Bay, Fla., arrived three days early to begin fishing and learn the characteristics of fishing Lake Lanier. Early on, he learned the hot spots to catch fish. He went back to those same shallow spots then out to deeper waters to find his limit of keepers.

“I feel good at 14 pounds right now,” Kenney said.

Another local fisherman and expert with regard to fishing Lake Lanier, Tom Mann Jr., from Buford, finished the first day of the tournament with a bass limit and a net total of 9-6. Luke Clausen, who now resides in Gainesville and was the 2004 FLW Cup winner, ended the day with four fish and 7-5.

Mann only emphasized how difficult the fishing is this week during typical summer conditions on Lake Lanier.

“It’s been tough fishing all week,” Mann said. “If it stays this hot, it’s going to be hard to catch the big fish.

“You might have to hit seven or eight different spots just to get one bite ... it doesn’t make for good fishing.”

Meanwhile, the co-angler division is not quite as tight after Day 1 as JR Wright, from Truckee, Calif., jumped out to a commanding lead of 12-5. Brandon Hunter is in second (9-5) and Dearal Rodgers is third (8-15).

After today’s second round, the field will be trimmed to 30 professional anglers.

Pros are competing for the title of Forrest Wood Cup champion, the most prestigious award in professional bass fishing, as well as a top award of up to $600,000 — the sport’s biggest award. Co-anglers are fishing for a top award of $60,000 this week.

Weigh-ins begin each evening at 5 p.m. at the Gwinnett Arena.

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