COLUMBIA, S.C. – The world’s best bass anglers convened on Lake Murray in Columbia, South Carolina, Thursday to kick off the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of professional bass fishing. The three-day event, which awards a $300,000 top prize to the victor, featured a full field of 53 anglers competing today and Saturday before being cut to the final 10 on championship Sunday.
FLW Tour rookie Justin Atkins of Florence, Alabama, secured the early lead after weighing in a five-bass limit totaling 21 pounds, 5 ounces – the largest limit ever weighed on Lake Murray in Forrest Wood Cup competition. Atkins’ limit was enough to edge local favorite Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, South Carolina, by just four ounces, who caught five bass weighing 21-1, good for second place.
“Today was really good,” said Atkins, who finished runner-up in the 2017 FLW Tour Rookie of the Year race. “I caught two real quick this morning, then finished out my limit by 7:40 (a.m.). Then I just started running areas from practice that looked like they would be productive and managed to catch a couple of good ones. Around 10:30 I caught a 5-pounder at a spot that I had saved, then I went to another place that I had found that was a little off of the wall and caught a 6-pounder on my first cast there.
“I didn’t want to burn through a bunch of 3½-pounders that could help me later, so I spent the afternoon graphing and looking for more areas, just getting ready for tomorrow.”
Atkins said that he fished just one bait throughout the entire day. Although he withheld specifics, he did say that it was a topwater bait and that he caught 20 to 25 fish throughout the day.
“I’m comfortable catching them on a worm or a few other baits here if I need to, but it was one bait all day, today,” Atkins said. “I’m fishing more of a pattern rather than certain areas or spots.
“I thought I’d catch around 17 pounds, which would have been a good Day One goal,” Atkins…