VMC® tackle and Sufix® line helped Rapala® Pro Jacob Wheeler to a runner-up finish last Friday in the FLW Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Erie. In three Super Tournaments, Wheeler has finished an amazing 1st, 2nd and 2nd.
And he almost won this last one too. The tournament winner edged him out by only one ounce, catching in four days four five-bass limits weighing a combined 79 pounds, 2 ounces, to Wheeler’s 79-1.
While Wheeler acknowledged that “one ounce is a tough one to lose by,” he said he “spent some time thinking back through my days of what I would have changed, or if you didn’t lose this fish or that one.” But “at the end of the day,” he said, “I left it all out there on the water.”
Wheeler, a Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour competitor, has dominated the top ranks of professional bass fishing this season. In addition to the FLW Super Tournament he won and those in which he placed second , he also won a Bass Pro Tour tournament and an FLW Toyota Series tournament.
“What can I say, it’s been one heck of a year!” Wheeler said, adding that “no matter how much success I have I try to step back and reflect on how lucky I am to be where I’m at.
“This has been a dream of mine to fish professionally for as long as I can remember,” he continued. “That being said, competition is what helps push you harder and to become better. Win, lose or draw I try to be the same person every day. I’ve seen success change people way too much and that is something I promised myself I wouldn’t let happen. I’m just a kid from Indy living out his dream.”
On Erie last week, Wheeler drop-shotted a few different finesse-size soft-plastic worms and flukes rigged on a No. 2 VMC Finesse Neko Hook and kept in the strike zone with a VMC Tungsten Tear Drop weight. He also threw a Ned Rig that comprised a 1/4 oz. VMC Finesse Half Moon Jig dressed with a few different “ned style” stick-worms. He threw both presentations on 8-pound test Sufix Nanobraid with a Sufix fluorocarbon leader.
In Wheeler’s historically successful season, he has competed against the best of the best pro anglers. FLW Super Tournaments are open to both MLF pros and FLW Pro Circuit pros. Fields in those competitions surpass 200 anglers. FLW Series competitions are open to qualifying FLW member anglers and are comprised of about 150 competitors. MLF Bass Pro Tour berths are by invitation only. Fields in those tournaments are limited to 80 anglers, most of them former Bassmaster Elite Series pros, plus several former standouts from the FLW Tour.
VMC® Finesse Neko Hook
Finesse Neko Hooks features an adjustable bait-keeper that holds finesse worms firmly in place. “That’s what keeps [my bait] threaded on,” Wheeler explained on camera last Friday during “FLW Live,” a real-time webcast of tournament action from the leaders’ boats. “So I don’t really have to use super glue.”
The Finesse Neko Hook expands on the success of the original Neko Hook, which VMC created originally as a key component for Neko Rigging, a modern take on traditional nail rigging. But Rapala pros soon began using it as their go-to hook for wacky rigging and drop-shotting as well, touting a landing-percentage advantage that borders on ludicrous.
“I’ve lost a lot of big smallmouth in my day, before Neko Hooks came out, so if I can throw that Neko Hook in anything I’m doing, I’m going to,” Wheeler has explained previously. “Because I feel like when I get that bite, I’m going to make it count. That fish is coming in the boat.”
Wheeler demonstrated the sticky-sharpness of Finesse Neko Hooks last Friday during FLW Live, after he landed his first keeper bass of the fourth and final day of the Super Tournament on Erie.
“You are not coming off that Neko Hook!” Wheeler said, laughing, as he attempted to remove a Finesse Neko from a big smallie’s mouth. “Please sir, let go. … I’m just trying to unhook you!”
Finesse Neko Hooks feature 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.
A super-sensitive micro-braid that casts a mile, Sufix Nanobraid increases hook-up ratios, works well in the wind and doesn’t require a special knot to tie. Wheeler has said Nanobraid gives him an advantage because it comes off the spool faster and allows him to keep his bait in the strike zone longer.
Made from 100 percent HMPE fibers, Nanobraid boasts both an ultra-thin diameter and extreme sensitivity. Ten-pound-test Nanobraid measures only 3/500th of an inch in diameter; 2-pound test measures a mere 1/1000th of an inch. That also makes it ultra-sensitive for superior bite detection and practically invisible in water.
For best results, tie a Sufix fluorocarbon leader to a Nanobraid main line with a uni-to-unit knot. Using Nanobraid does not require learning a new, complicated knot. Just about any knot that you are used to using with regular braid you can use with Nanobraid.
VMC® Finesse Half Moon Jig
The head of VMC’s Half Moon Jig features a hollow back, which allows a worm to fit snug for a more natural presentation. The jig’s unique pleated weight distribution provides a wider profile. Featuring a glitter finish, the jigs are manufactured with a light-wire, premium hi-carbon steel hook, forged shank and super-sharp needle point.