As they did most of last season, Rapala Pros Ott DeFoe and Jacob Wheeler scored Top 10 finishes Monday in a Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour tournament. A Rapala OG Slim® 6 of his own design helped DeFoe to a 7th-place showing. Rapala® Jigging Raps and Storm® Largo Shads helped Wheeler to an 8th-place showing, his 7th-consecutive Top 10 finish.
In Monday’s Championship Round, DeFoe caught 13 scorable bass weighing a combined 25 pounds, 1 ounce, to earn his first top-10 finish of the 2022 Bass Pro Tour Season. Wheeler, MLF’s reigning 2021 Angler of the Year caught 12 scorable bass Monday, weighing a combined 24 pounds, 5 ounces. Last year, DeFoe finished runner-up to Wheeler in the AOY race, winning two Bass Pro Tour tournaments — one less than Wheeler’s three wins — and finishing in the Top 12 three additional times.
“Making the Championship Round was a big accomplishment for me,” DeFoe said. “I did most of my work in the Knockout Round — to make the Championship — on that OG Slim. I love that bait. It really did well for me today.”
The “OG” in “OG Slim 6” stands for “Ott’s Garage,” the location of the workbench at which DeFoe carves and sands prototypes of balsa-wood baits he designs for Rapala. A non-rattling, easy-casting crankbait that swims with a medium wobble and tight side-to-side action, the OG Slim 6 sports a lightweight, circuit-board lip. It will dive to six feet when fished on 12-pound-test line – hence the “6” in its name.
DeFoe did not catch a single scorable bass in the first two periods of his second Group B Qualifying Round – which MLF anglers, writers and pundits often refer to as “The Elimination Round,” because anglers who don’t finish above a cut-line of 20th place are sent home. But DeFoe’s fortunes changed dramatically in the third and final period, when an OG Slim 6 bite suddenly caught fire, yielding 10 scorable bass that weighed a combined 22 pounds, 10 ounces. DeFoe finished the day above the cutline, in 18th place, to qualify for the Knockout Round.
“My week didn’t start off very good, but the second day, late – last period – I picked up ‘Slim’ and started up the lake, crankin’ dirty-water, windy points,” DeFoe recounted. “That was what got me into the Knockout Round, thankfully.”
In Sunday’s Knockout Round, DeFoe caught 16 scorable bass weighing a combined 34 pounds, to finish sixth out of 38 competitors. He caught almost all of them on an OG Slim 6. His two best color patterns were Hot Copper Green Shad and Chartreuse Rootbeer Crawdad. He threw his Slims on a 7-foot, medium-heavy action baitcasting rod with a 6.8:1 gear-ratio baitcaster spooled with 14-pound fluorocarbon line.
Hot Copper Green Shad
Chartreuse Rootbeer Crawdad
DeFoe and the Knockout Round’s seven other top 8 finishers advanced to Monday’s Championship Round, where they were joined by the Group A and Group B “Elimination Round” winners, each of whom earned automatic berths into the final day of competition. Earlier in the week, Wheeler won the Group A Elimination Round in dominant fashion.
Wheeler Gets Hot with ‘Ice-Fishing’ Baits, Storm Swimbait
En route to his 8th-place finish – his third Top 10 in as many tournaments this season – Wheeler dominated the first two days of Group A Qualifying Round action by targeting spotted bass suspending above submerged timber. One of his best bass-catchers was an odd-looking bait likely more familiar to walleye-targeting ice-fishing experts.
“It really came down to an old-school technique – it’s called a … Jigging Rap®,” Wheeler said. “I’ve caught some fish on this over the last handful of years. It’s really has become a major player with foward-facing sonar – something that you might have not heard about.”
In addition to a No. 9 Rapala Jigging Rap, Wheeler mixed in another similar “ice fishing” bait, a No. 6 Rapala Flat Jig. In both the Jigging Rap and the Flat Jig, he used silver-black color patterns that matched the roaming schools of small baitfish that spotted bass were chasing in and above deep submerged timber.
“They were constantly moving, and the name of the game was matching the hatch to what they were eating — which was about 3-inch threadfin shad,” Wheeler said. “This week it really came down to fishing the areas that had bait. I had to move with a lot of the fish every single day.”
Long predominant as ice-fishing lures, Jigging Raps in the last few years were proven equally productive as open-water baits after several Rapala professional anglers and others won or placed high with them in tournaments. The Flat Jig builds on that success, allowing the “Jigging Rap technique,” to work in deeper and other tough conditions.
Wheeler caught additional scorable bass on a 3-inch Storm® Largo Shad paddle-tail soft swimbait rigged on ¼ oz. and 3/8th oz. VMC® Hybrid Swimbait Jigs. Wheeler threw his ¼ oz. jig with a spinning combo spooled with a main-line of 8-lb-test Sufix® Nanobraid® connected to a long leader of 10-lb-test Sufix® Advance® Fluorocarbon. He threw his 3/8th oz. jig on a baitcasting combo spooled with 12-pound-test Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon.
The Hybrid Swimbait Jig’s hook features a very wide gap, which helps anglers maximize their hook sets, and a hybrid bend for extra strength. The Hybrid Swimbait Jig is 1X strong and made from Hi-Carbon Steel with a forged shank. It’s “the perfect swimbait head,” Wheeler said upon the jig’s initial release. “It’s the real deal.”
Wheeler caught 11 bass for 23 pounds, 12 ounces to add to his 57-1 from Day 1, advancing to the Championship Round. As he’s done several times before, including just last week on Lake Fork in Texas, Wheeler made winning his group look easy. He came into Qualifying Day 2 with a 26-pound advantage and spent much of the day looking for new water, but he still won the group by 24-11. As he did in the first Group A Qualifying Round, he spent much of his second day in open water targeting spotted bass in extremely deep submerged timber.
“All of the fish that I was targeting were suspended between 10 foot of the surface to about 30 feet down,” Wheeler said. “If they were high in the water column, I would throw the 3-inch Largo Shad. If they were down deeper, I would target those fish with the Jiggin’ Rap or the Flat Jig.”
Featuring a balanced, weighted minnow profile, Jigging Raps swim in tantalizing circles on the fall. With single reversed hooks on the nose and posterior, and a center treble hook hung from a belly eyelet, they don’t allow for missed bites — regardless of how a fish attacks, it’s running smack dab into a hook. “When you’re hopping it, and it’s darting left and right, if a fish just snaps at it, he’s hooked,” Wheeler has said of the bait previously. “It’s a mousetrap waiting to happen!”
Whether fished in open water or through the ice, the Flat Jig’s namesake flat minnow profile creates a responsive, long-gliding searching action in even the most demanding conditions. At 80 percent heavier than a Jigging Rap of similar length, the Flat Jig will produce in even heavy current and very deep water, giving multi-species anglers the world over a great new tool for tough conditions.
Like Jigging Raps, Flat Jigs feature a balanced, weighted minnow profile and swim in a long-gliding wide searching action. Armed with single reversed hooks on the nose and posterior, as well as a center treble hook hung from a belly eyelet, they don’t allow for missed bites.