As the crow flies, Table Rock Lake sits almost 2,000 miles from the West Coast and more than 1,000 miles from the East Coast. So some last week might have been surprised to see Jacob Wheeler dominate a Major League Fishing tournament with a swimbait designed for coastal fishing – a Storm® 360GT Largo Shad.
But Wheeler, a Rapala® Pro, wasn’t surprised when a Largo Shad helped him win his first MLF Bass Pro Tour tournament. He’s been catching freshwater fish on the saltwater bait for about a year and a half. Storm is a Rapala Respected Brand.
“This Largo Shad is the sleeper swimbait that nobody knows about,” Wheeler said last month on camera in a Bass Pro Tour competition.
Everyone knows about it now.
The Largo Shad’s coming out party was celebrated live last week in the MLF Now! webcast, when Wheeler fished them to catch 88 bass, weighing a combined 129 pounds, 14 ounces, on the first day of the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour Stage 7 competition on Table Rock Lake in the Ozarks region of Missouri and Arkansas.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better” than that epic day of fishing with a Largo Shad, Wheeler said onstage in MLF’s Postgame Show following the final competition day, minutes before raising a championship trophy above his head. “It was an unbelievable week.”
Unbelievable indeed. Consider this stat – in the five days of competition en route to his win, Wheeler caught 213 bass weighing a combined 315 pounds, 9 ounces.
Wheeler’s victory was his first in the inaugural season of MLF’s Bass Pro Tour. Previously this year, he finished second in a BPT tournament in North Carolina. And in earlier in the year, he led in the Bassmaster Classic, but ended up in second place.
“I knew today I would have an opportunity to win, but I didn’t know if it was going to happen,” Wheeler said onstage in the postgame show.
“I told myself if I ever got in that position again – leading into the third [period] – that I would run as hard I possibly could,” he added. “It means so much to me to have this opportunity. … to finally get it where it happens – you win.”
It wasn’t happenstance however that Wheeler was throwing a Largo Shad on the day he caught close to 130 pounds of Table Rock bass. That swimbait – one of several in Storm’s 360GT Coastal collection – has been in Wheeler’s arsenal since shortly after its product launch almost two years ago.
“I started using them in an umbrella rig around the house, fun fishing when I was back home,” he explained. “It was great, because I very rarely had to replace them in a day of fishing and had a lot of success. After that, I started to try them as a single swimbait and realized how good the bait really was.”
A rare combination of durability and fish-enticing action make the Largo Shad Wheeler’s go-to soft swimbait.
“You can catch 10 fish or more on one swimbait,” Wheeler said. “You can’t do that with any other swimmer that I know of. And you might think it might hurt the action of the bait, being so durable, but it swims great!”
On Table Rock last week, casting a Largo Shad into large, offshore schools of bass was Wheeler’s “primary deal” on most days. “Man, that Largo Shad has saved me a ton this week!” he said at one point on camera in the MLF Now! webcast of the tournament.
Wheeler rigged his Largo Shads on 3/8ths oz. prototype VMC® jigheads and threw them on 12-pound-test prototype Sufix Advanced Fluorocarbon (the line will be unveiled officially next month at ICAST, the sport-fishing industry’s biggest new-product showcase).
VMC terminal tackle and Sufix® line comprised Wheeler’s drop-shot set-up, which also produced several bass on Table Rock – VMC Finesse Neko™ Hook: prototype VMC Tungsten Tear Drop Weight; 8-pound-test Sufix® Nanobraid®; prototype 8-pound-test Sufix® Advance® Fluorocarbon; straight-tail finesse worm. Wheeler also caught scorable bass on a VMC Shaky Head Jig dressed with a finesse worm, “when those fish started acting weird,” he said. “That definitely helped me catch a few more fish.”
Rapala and Storm Pro Brandon Palaniuk finished runner-up last week on Table Rock. His top baits were a Storm® Arashi® Topwalker and a drop-shot rig comprising a VMC Finesse Neko Hook dressed with a finesse worm. Rapala and VMC Pro Ott DeFoe finished 6th. His top baits were Rapala® DT®-10’s, DT-14’s and BX®-Brats.
Storm® Arashi® Topwalker
Rapala® BX® Brat
VMC® Finesse Neko™ Hook
Largo Shad Features Slow Roll, Exaggerated Tail Swing
Swimming with a slow body roll and an exaggerated tail swing, Largo Shads feature boot-tails that produce strike-inducing action on both the retrieve and during free fall. They can be customized by cutting or removing a unique tail tendon for a wider tail action.
“I’m big on throwing something that’s unique than what other people are throwing on a lot of our fisheries,” Wheeler said. “The Largo Shad’s profile and action both are completely different than anything that is available on the market.”
Largo Shads come pre-packaged with either a VMC Coastal Black weighted swimbait hook or a boxer-style jig head, as do all the other baits in Storm’s 360GT Coastal line-up. They come in packs containing one jig head or swimbait hook pre-rigged on a body, plus two additional bodies.
Largo Shad bodies, made from premium phthalate-free plastic, feature two- and three-color injection molding. They have a solid head and strategically placed belly and back slots for easy rigging.
Largo Shads are available in two sizes (3-inch and 4-inch) and 18 color patterns, including third-color hot tails. The color patterns are: Arkansas GLOW, Blue Moon Chartreuse Tail, Electric Chicken, GLOW Chartreuse Tail, Green Back, Houdini, Hot Mama, Kickin’ Chicken, Limetreuse, Mangrove Red, Morning Glory, New Penny, Chartreuse Tail, Pilchard, Pearl, Rootbeer Chartreuse Tail, Silver Mullet, Salt and Pepper Chartreuse Tail and Tiger Style.
The 3-inch Largo Shad bodies come with either a 3/0, 1/8th oz. swimbait hook or a 3/0, 1/8th oz. jig head. The 4-inch bodies are available with either a 5/0, 3/16th oz. swimbait hook or a 4/0, 1/4 oz. jig head.