Jacob Wheeler continued his domination of professional bass fishing, dredging ledges on Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga with a Rapala® DT®-20 to win the first-ever FLW Pro Circuit Super Tournament. On the final day of the 4-day event, he caught an 8-pounder on a DT-20 to seal the win.
“This has been an unbelievable week,” Wheeler says. “This was something that was on my check-list. I put more time into preparing for this event than any other event I’ve fished. And it worked out. I’m truly blessed.”
Wheeler’s winning weight of 93 pounds, 12 ounces was a whopping 11 pounds, 13 ounces more than the runner-up angler’s total. His four 5-bass limits weighed 24-9, 22-1, 25-12 and 21-6. The field at Chickamauga in FLW’s first-ever Super Tournament comprised 150 FLW Pro Circuit pros and 54 MLF Bass Pro Tour pros.
Dock talk before the tournament suggested it would be won on deep, offshore ledges, for which Chickamagua and other Tennessee Valley Authority-managed reservoirs are famous. Indeed, of the 50-some spots Wheeler fished, many were on deep ledges, and that’s where Wheeler caught key fish on DT-20s and DT-16s, including the 8-pounder in the championship round. He rotated in other baits on his ledge spots as well, after the schools of bass broke up once a few had been caught with DT’s. He also rotated in some shallow spots throughout the tournament too.
“That is the biggest thing on TVA – you have to understand when to leave, how to rotate your baits, how to switch your angles up,” Wheeler says. “That is everything.”
“DT” stands for “Dives To.” Built of balsa wood, Rapala’s signature material, a DT-20 will get down to its maximum depth of 20 feet sooner than – and thus stay in the strike zone longer than – lookalike crankbaits. The way its balsa body wobbles while swimming and digging its bill into the bottom make it the perfect tool for triggering bites from bass in deep-water post-spawn and summer haunts.
Because they’re made of balsa, DT-16’s and DT-20’s trigger bites from pressured ledge bass better than “harder-thumping” molded-plastic crankbaits, Wheeler says. And there are few – if any – ledge bass that get pressured more heavily, week in and out, than the largemouth in TVA reservoirs.
“When they get pressured, you throw this thing in there, it’s a little bit more subtle on the action,” Wheeler explains. “It just triggers those bites. That’s been my key the last couple events I’ve fished on the TVA, that DT-20’s played a huge role.” Wired2Fish caught up with Jacob in early June and filmed this great video below on how he locates and catches bass from TVA ledges.
Two new DT-series color patterns (which will be officially unveiled next month via a virtual ICAST) triggered big bass to bite for Wheeler on Chickamauga. Citrus Shad, which he caught the 8-pounder on, features a sky-blue/green back, chartreuse and metallic white sides, a chartreuse belly and an orange throat. The Big Shad color pattern features a metallic green-and-purple back, a gold lateral-line stripe, silver sides, a gray-green belly and black shad spot. Big Shad is “a little more subtle” than Citrus Shad, Wheeler says. “So if I have a school fired up and they get off Citrus Shad, I’ll throw that Big Shad and catch ‘em pretty well. That has been the deal.” If the color Big Shad rings a bell that is likely due to Jacob’s buddy Ott DeFoe winning a Bass Pro Tour event on Lake Fork with a DT10 in the color Big Shad.
Wheeler’s main tournament circuit is the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour, which he has been dominating in its first two years of existence. MLF also owns Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) and its numerous national and regional tournament trails. In the last two years, Wheeler has won six top-level comepetitions: the 2019 Major League Fishing Challenge Cup, the 2019 Major League Fishing World Championship, two MLF Bass Pro Tour regular-season tournaments, an FLW Toyota Series earlier this month, and now the FLW Pro Circuit Super Tournament. And in his last Bassmaster event before joining the MLF Bass Pro Tour, he finished second in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic.
Rapala DT-series crankbaits have been key in many of Wheeler’s recent wins, including the FLW win earlier in June, where a DT-20 was his best ledge bait on Pickwick Lake, another TVA reservoir. A DT-20 gets down to the strike-zone fast with the help of a metal disk embedded in its ultra-thin polycarbonate lip. Swimming with a side-to-side action only balsa crankbaits can achieve, DT-20’s pull with ease despite the depth to which they dive. Perfectly weighted to hit the water in a nose-down, quick-dive position, they can be easily cast 150 feet.
DT-20’s measure 2 ¾ inches, weigh 7/8 oz. and come armed with two No. 3 black-nickel VMC® trebles. They feature a specially tuned internal baritone rattle, premiere finishes in all the right color patterns to match local baitfish across the country.
Wheeler throws DT’s on Sufix® Advance® Fluorocarbon – 12-pound-test for a DT-20. Advance Fluorocarbon is the most supple, sensitive and strong fluoro line Sufix® has ever engineered. It features a higher density index than traditional nylon lines, a quality that helps anglers feel bottom and bites better. Its inherent qualities and exclusive G2 Precision Winding make it virtually memory-free, preventing the dreaded line coils that jump off your reel with most other fluorocarbons.