Wheeler owns BASSfest
Let there be no doubt that the top pros fishing the FLW Tour can go toe-to-toe with the best the Bassmaster Elite Series have to offer. Today, Plano pro Jacob Wheeler proved that. With his limit of 22 pounds, 1 ounce his final weight (90-6) was on top of the inaugural BASSfest field at Chickamauga Lake. Wheeler took home a cool $125,000 and earned a berth to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic with the win.
BASSfest was the first Elite Series event Wheeler fished and it sure proved he is one of the best in the business adding this title to his previous major wins at the BFL All-American and the FLW Forrest Wood Cup.
In the runner-up spot was Nitro pro Kevin VanDam who made a final-day charge, but fell short with (84-12).
Rounding out the Top 5 were in third pro Matt Herren (83-15). In fourth was pro Gerald Swindle (74-10). In fifth was pro Brett Hite (71-5).
Wheeler learned from his mistakes
"I finished 92nd at an FLW event here last year," said Wheeler. "I was mad about that. I wanted some payback from Chickamauga. I learned from my mistakes this year.
"I had plenty of knowledge about this lake coming into the event. I fish here about 10 times per year. I know where a lot of the small, subtle spots are that other anglers might not know about. I look for places off the beaten path that most anglers miss. I found a spot previously when the water was down. I didn't think anybody else would find it, and they didn't. That is why I saved it for this morning.
"I had about 17 pounds before I headed out to fish the deeper ledge fish today. I knew I needed to save that spot. It was a good feeling having 5 fish early."
Wheeler stuck with small schools
"I was trying to catch bigger fish that I knew lived in the smaller isolated schools," said Wheeler. "There are big fish in the mega-schools most of the anglers were fishing, but I felt the bigger fish were in the smaller isolated schools."
Wheeler's primary baits were a hair jig, a swimbait fished on a 3/40ounce VMC jighead and a Rapala DT-20 crankbait.
"I fished everything close to the bottom," said Wheeler. "I used 14-pound Suffix fluorocarbon to get the lures down in the current.
"I used the swimbait when the current wasn't as heavy. The DT-20 was a key bait on the first day, even though I couldn't get them going on a crankbait in practice. Also, the hair jig played a big role on Day 2.
"I generally kept the baits on bottom, but would often burn them and kill it to trigger a strike. That produced some key fish for the event."
Wheeler jacked for the opportunity
"This means the world to me," said Wheeler. "I was simply fishing to win. I wanted to come home with the hardware. It was all about the 'W' for me."