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Posted By The Bass Hog

Feb. 12, 2017 KNOXVILLE/JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — At only 26 years of age, Jacob Wheeler has already won more than his share of big-money bass tournaments.

But he’s never won one under the same set of circumstances he faced this week during the Bassmaster Elite at Cherokee Lake — and he’s quick to admit that he may never do it again.

After a week of adversity that some anglers don’t face in an entire season, Wheeler won the event and its $100,000 first-place prize with a four-day total of 69 pounds, 13 ounces. A final-day catch of 18-3 — his biggest of the tournament — helped him jump from third place into the winner’s spot.

Jamie Hartman finished second with 69-3, and Jesse Wiggins, who held a slim lead through the first three rounds of fishing, placed third with 69-0.

“I’ve won a few tournaments in my day,” Wheeler said. “But this one is by far the craziest, coolest win I’ve ever had — there’s nothing even close to it.

“Just all of the adversity that went down was so crazy — and through all of that, to go out and not only catch a limit every day, but to also catch winning bags every day, that’s just amazing.”

Wheeler had a fairly normal opening round, catching 17-10 to land in second place. But on the second day, things got crazy.

During pre-practice, Wheeler said he graphed the entire lake and had 1,600 waypoints marked from one end of the fishery to the other on his depthfinder. But an electronics mix-up on Friday left him without half of those waypoints, and he had to do much of his fishing by memory.

Then on Saturday, one of his batteries malfunctioned, leaving him without a working trolling motor. So he took advantage of a little-known B.A.S.S. rule that allows a stranded angler to fish with another competitor as long as a marshal is present.

While fishing with Elite Series rookie Dustin Connell, Wheeler caught two of his biggest fish of the day and brought 17-1 to the scales to land in second place heading into Championship Sunday.

“I had a lot of places to fish on this lake,” Wheeler said. “I think that’s what helped me fight through all of the things that happened as much as anything else.”

On the final day, having a wide selection of areas to choose from made all the difference.

“I had a backup card with all of my waypoints, so I had them back for days 3 and 4,” Wheeler said. “I could run to every rock, every boulder, every piece of structure I had found in practice.

Wheeler relied all week on a VMC Moon Eye Jighead with a 3-inch soft jerkbait in simple pearl white. He was watching for smallmouth on his Lowrance depthfinder and literally dropping the bait to specific fish in 20 to 30 feet of water.

He caught the biggest part of his limit during one 10-minute stretch around 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

“It was absolutely crazy,” Wheeler said. “I was fishing a little pond, and I came across a wad of fish. There were so many of them that I thought they might be stripers. But I know the difference between stripers and smallmouth on my graph, and I thought those looked like big, old smallmouth.

“I dropped my bait down and about 20 of them came up at one time. It was crazy.”

“Later in the day, I went to fish a place down near the dam where I caught a lot of my really big, big fish this week,” he said. “I went there, I hooked one, and it was a 3 3/4-pounder. That was the winning bite, and it happened about 20 minutes before quitting time.”

Courtesy of BASS Communications.


 
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