VMC® tackle and Sufix® line helped Rapala Pro Jacob Wheeler win back-to-back Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour tournaments in New York this summer. Even more remarkable? His win this week, which came on Lake Champlain, earned him a history-making third Bass Pro Tour trophy in one season.
“What other superlatives can be thrust upon the most successful angler in Bass Pro Tour history?” asked MLF writer Mason Prince, reporting on Wheeler’s win at majorleaguefishing.com. “Not only is it another win for Wheeler – his third of the season and his fifth in three years on the Bass Pro Tour – but it’s another win in dominating fashion in the Championship Round.”
In Tuesday’s Championship Round, Wheeler boated 27 bass that weighed a combined 88 pounds, 2 ounces – 30 pounds more than the runner-up finisher caught.
Wheeler caught most of his Champlain bass on VMC-armed drop-shot rigs. VMC-armed Ned Rigs and paddle-tail swimbaits accounted for several bass as well. His drop-shot rigs were comprised of a No. 2 VMC Finesse Neko Hook, VMC Tungsten Tear Drop Weights in three sizes (1/4, 1/2 and ¾ oz.) and Ned-style and fluke-style soft-plastic baits in green pumpkin, shad/smelt and perch color patterns.
Wheeler favors Finesse Neko Hooks for drop-shotting because they feature an adjustable bait-keeper on the hook shank that holds finesse worms firmly in place. “I’m a big fan of threading plastics on [the hook],” he told Bass Blaster’s Jay Kumar. “I feel like I get a better hook-up ratio, and I can reel fish in and be more efficient that way, with more gap.”
Additional features of Finesse Neko Hooks include a black-nickel finish, wide gap, 3-degree offset point, resin-closed eye and a forged, long shank. They’re available in four sizes: 2, 1, 1/0 and 2/0.
Wheeler fished his drop-shot rigs on 8-pound-test Sufix® Nanobraid® tipped with 8-pound-test Sufix® Advance® Flurocarbon leader line. “That’s my favorite line on a spinning rod” he told Bass Blaster’s Kumar.
Wheeler’s Ned Rigs comprised a ¼ oz. VMC® Ned Rig Jig (a new product released last month at ICAST, the country’s foremost sportfishing convention) rigged with Ned-style soft-plastic stickworms in various colors. He also caught bass on a 3” Storm® Largo Shad® swimbait rigged on a VMC® Hybrid Swimbait Jig. He threw that combo on baitcasting gear spooled with 12-pound-tes Sufix® Advance® Flurocarbon.
A unique beveled-edge conical keeper on the Ned Rig Jig’s hook shanks holds soft-plastic Ned worms so securely, you’ll get much more casts and hooksets out of each one you thread on. VMC designed the jig with an optimal distance from its keeper to its jig-head to allow a soft-plastic worm to remain in place on the hook shank by collapsing tightly in that area, creating superior holding power.
The Hybrid Swimbait Jig’s hook features a wider gap to maximize hook sets and a hybrid bend for extra strength. It’s 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. I’m really pumped about it. It is phenomenal.”
With one tournament remaining in the Bass Pro Tour season, Wheeler is second in the Angler of the Year race, 12 points behind leader Ott DeFoe, a fellow Rapala Pro.
“I love Ott to death, that son of a gun reels ‘em in everywhere he goes,” Wheeler said. “And it’s going to be a battle. You slip up one time, one day, that’s all it takes [to take you out of contention to win AOY]. I would assume that whoever wins Angler of the Year would have to make a Top 10 in Detroit … on [Lake] St. Clair. We have our work cut out for us.”
The St. Clair tournament – the final competition of the Bass Pro Tour season – kicks off on Sept. 10. Bass Pro Tour tournaments are catch-weigh-release competitions. All bass caught that meet a minimum weight are considered “score-able” and count toward a competitor’s daily weight total.
The first of Wheeler’s back-to-back Bass Pro Tour wins came in July on New York’s St. Lawrence River. His first BPT win of the season came in May on Lake Travis in Texas.
Rapala OG Slim, OG Tiny Crankbaits Help DeFoe to 3rd Place Finish, Maintain AOY Race Lead
DeFoe placed third on Champlain this week to maintain his lead in the Bass Pro Tour AOY race. He caught most of his bass on two Rapala® flat-sided crankbaits that he helped design, the OG Slim™ 6 and the OG Tiny 4. The latter is a new bait unveiled last month at ICAST.
“It just has a nice little quiver to it,” DeFoe said of the OG Tiny 4, which will run as deep as four feet on the retrieve. “It’s very similar to Slim in a lot of ways, including the line-tie being in the nose of the bait. It makes the bait more natural, more subtle and keeps the action tight.”
Featuring a thin balsa body and a lightweight circuit-board lip, OG Tiny moves less water than more-aggressive, bigger-profile baits, while offering a sensitive feel of bottom structure.
OG Slim 6 is a non-rattling, easy-casting flat-sided crankbait that dives as deep as six feet and swims with a medium wobble and tight side-to-side action. It too features a lightweight, circuit-board lip.
DeFoe said 60 to 70 percent of the bass he caught came on OG Slim and OG Tiny. The two biggest bass he caught came on Tiny. He caught all the other bass with a pegged 3/16oz VMC Tungsten Worm Weight ahead of a 3/0 VMC HD Worm Hook dressed with a 5-inch soft-plastic stickworm.