Jacob Wheeler took a second-place finish yesterday in the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour Stage 5 tournament on New York’s Lake Cayuga. A Rapala DT-16 in the Bluegill color pattern was his main bait in his runner-up effort, which greatly increased his lead in the Tour’s Angler of the Year race. “I threw that DT16 on straight 12# Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon. I have so much confidence in that line, it’s my go-to crankin’ line” stated Wheeler.
“That DT-16 played a huge role throughout the whole week,” said Wheeler, the 2021 Bass Pro Tour Angler of the Year.
Wheeler’s other key technique on Cayuga, where he targeted offshore and grass-dwelling largemouth was a dropshot armed with a 1/0 VMC Finesse Neko Hook dressed with a soft-plastic finesse worm and a VMC® Tungsten Tear Drop Weight. He threw the dropshot on 8# Sufix® NanoBraid connected with an FG knot to 10# Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon.
In the Championship Round yesterday on Cayuga, one of New York state’s famous Finger Lakes, Rapala crankbaits, VMC Neko Hooks and Sufix tackle all helped Wheeler catch 27 scoreable bass weighing a combined 80 lbs, 9 oz. In Wednesday’s Knockout Round, his relied on his Rapala, VMC, Sufix combo to catch 23 scoreable bass weighing a combined 73 lbs. 3 oz.
Wheeler’s best day of fishing in the tournament came in his first day of Qualifying Round action, when he caught 37 scoreable bass weighing a combined 107 lbs. 15 oz.
“This place is absolutely insane!” Wheeler gushed in a post on his Facebook page after his 100-pound-plus Day 1 Qualifying Round.
Most of the bass Wheeler caught to enter the 100-pound “Century Club” that day bit his Rapala DT-16 in offshore spots in 15 to 20 feet of water. He’d work that same pattern, off an on, throughout the rest of the tournament, sometimes moving into the 10- to 15-foot depth range. In many of his best areas, the largemouth were in and around submerged vegetation – AKA “grass” in the lingo of bass pros. He also caught key bass in the tournament by switching, from time to time, from his crankbaits to his VMC Finesse Neko Hook-armed dropshot rig.
Soon after the conclusion of yesterday’s Championship Round, Wheeler praised the tournament’s champion, his buddy and traveling partner Dustin Connell.
“Congratulations to my friend Dustin Connell – you did a good job,” said Wheeler, an Indiana native who lives now in Harrison, TN. “I had a heck of a week out here and I’m pumped up to see him hoist [the championship trophy] this week. And no doubt, I battled all day. … But if I can’t win, no doubt, you want to see one of your best friends win the event and he did that – put his time in. He’s one heck of a dang fisherman and it’s really cool to see him succeed.”
Wheeler has placed in the Top 10 in 5 of the first 6 competitions, including two runner-up finishes and two 3rd-place finishes. “One of the most impressive years I’ve ever seen,” said Marty Stone, a MLF Now! co-host.
With his runner-up finish yesterday, Wheeler increased his lead in this season’s Angler of the Year (AOY) race to 459 points – 65 points more than the nearest competitor – greatly increasing his odds of winning a second consecutive Angler of the Year (AOY) title. Only one tournament remains in this season.
“If he can just back it off the trailer at the next event, they’e going to hand him the trophy,” MLF’s Stone said, only partially in jest. All Wheeler would need to do on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake in the season’s final tournament is qualify for the Knock Out Round – something he has done in every tournament this year.
‘Scoreable Bass’ & Bass Pro Tour format Boilerplate
In every Bass Pro Tour tournament, Major League Fishing determines a “scoreable bass” weight appropriate for the waterbody. On the St. Lawrence, a bass had to weigh at least 2 pounds to count as “scoreble” Every scoreable bass caught legally by an angler counts towards his total, cumulative weight on each competition day.
Bass Pro Tour Championship Round competitors must advance first through two, full-day qualifying rounds, finishing in the top 20 in either the Group A or Group B field of 40 of the world’s best bass fishermen. Both the Group A and Group B Qualifying Round winners advance directly to the Championship Round, getting a day off during the Knock Out Round. They are joined in the Championship Round by the eight anglers who catch the heaviest combined-weight totals in the Knockout Round. Anglers’ weight totals from the Qualifying and Knockout rounds are not carried over to the Championship Round, in which each of the ten competitors begin the day with a zero-weight blank slate and an equal oppotunity to win the tournament.