Who can forget Evinrude Pro Jacob Wheeler; he entered the record books last year as the youngest angler to win the FLW Cup. Jacob’s Cup win was on Lake Lanier; the competition included FLW greats like Scott Marin, Larry Nixon and he even fished within sight of Jay Yelas throughout most of the event. Using what he calls a “Wild Card”, he brought 20 pound limits of bass to the scales during an event where 15 pound stringers were believed to be strong.
As defending FLW Cup Champion, Jacob has a lot on his plate. In the history of the FLW Cup, no angler has won it twice, much less twice in a row. I asked Jacob what he thought about this and if he puts any extra pressure on himself. Jacob was humble in his reply, “There isn’t any more pressure than the fact that we are fishing the World Championship of bass fishing. I fish each event to win and I give it my all. Sure, I’ve thought about repeating, but you can’t let that get you worked up. It’s about this tournament, and it’s important to stay mentally focused; it’s important to stay focused on catching that next bass.”
Let’s get down to business, how is Jacob Wheeler going to win his second FLW Cup. In the Lake Lanier event, Jacob played his wild card all the way to victory. That wild card was heading as far up the main river arm as possible in a boat looking for the largemouth bite, while the rest of the field chased spotted bass over brush piles in deep clear water. To reach his spot, Jacob battled his boat through long mud bars and over laydown trees. Once at his upriver location, he found quality largemouth bass willing to strike various baits, from top water to plastics. I asked Jacob what he thought the wild card for Red River FLW Cup will be. He replied, “It’s going to be Pool 3. Not many anglers are going to chance running that far and risking two locks to get to bass with only a maximum two and half hours to fish. The run is going to take up a lot of time, and you will have to get fuel for the return trip. However, if an angler can find quality bites, it will be worth the run.” When I asked if that was something he planned to do, Jacob continued, “I plan to check it out one of the practice days. The biggest problem with this wild card is that you will have to find a midday bite. An angler can’t expect to be fishing in Pool 3 before 10 A.M., and will have to leave around noon. But, I’ll do it for the right bites.”
Jacob and I talked quite a bit about the ‘Wild Card’ in events. Jacob said that he likes to find wild cards, “…because the bass are less pressured and are easier to catch”. He went on to say, “A wild card can be a technique, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a location. If everyone is tossing crankbaits, an angler might be able to fish right behind them with a large swimbait. If you have bass in the area, it’s just a matter of finding something the bigger bass will eat, or the time of day when they will eat. A top water bait in the middle of the day can be a wild card.” Jacob mentioned that a wild card is just something different, something the other anglers are not willing to try. He does like to find wild card locations; these locations are less pressured overall and make it easier to find something larger bass are willing to eat. Jacob also stated, “With any wild card, I’m looking for 7 quality bites, I like to have cull options.”
Jacob was very forthcoming with possible patterns that could produce on the Red River. He said he loves to power fish, and thinks his power fishing knowledge will produce well on the Red River. Jacob did say that the river is wide open and there will be many productive patterns. His goal is to find a few key areas that hold quality bass and rotate between them throughout the tournament. He stated, “While I plan to use my power fishing abilities to put larger bass in the livewell, I know that shakey heads and drop shots on the levees will produce numbers. There will also be an early top water bite the anglers will have to capitalize on. I’ll bet the guys that like deep cranking will also find bass. Its summer time, and everything will catch bass.” Jacob continued, “I think it’s going to be won power fishing, stick and move to find quality bass.”
I asked Jacob what he thought he needed to bring to the scales each day to win the FLW Cup on the Red River. He was cautious but said, “I’m shooting for 11-12 pounds a day; I think if an angler can do that and get a kicker throughout the competition they will win it. I think the top 10 cut line to fish the last day will be around 30 pounds. So, that’s what I’m shooting for.”
The Red River is a treacherous place to travel. With floating debris, submerged rock levees, and stump filled backwaters putting your boat and motor in harm’s way; I asked Jacob how he combats the aggressiveness of the Red River. Jacob was quick to reply, “My Ranger and Evinrude E-TEC are tough. Whether it is long runs or dangerous idling, my Evinrude is flawless. That is very important when fishing events like this. Take the run to Pool 3; should I decide to go there, I’ll need every second I can squeeze out. If I had to worry about whether or not my motor would start and perform, I couldn’t justify that run. With the Evinrude E-TEC I have the confidence to go anywhere and never think twice about it, I just go.”
In the interview with Jacob after his Cup win last year, I asked him what it was like for a young angler to fish against anglers he has watched and aspired to be. Back then he said that it was very difficult, but it was important to trust his abilities, put all that out of his head, and just fish. He talked about how his stomach would churn, and his mind would race as he was heading to his first location; however, once he picked up his rod and made that first cast, it was all back to business. I asked Jacob if fishing against the legends of bass fishing still somewhat intimidated him or if he had become more comfortable fishing against these proven bass fishing greats. Jacob quickly responded, “The anglers are fantastic, we all joke and tease each other in practice and when off the water. However, once the tournament starts its game face time. To answer your question, we’re all good friends, and there is a lot of mutual respect between all the anglers.”
As you can see, Jacob is very excited to get to the FLW Cup and put the power to the Red River bass. He pre-fished a couple days before cut off and liked what he saw. Jacob told me that if things go as planned, “I should find bass fairly quickly. Before the official practice is over I’ll have several locations that will produce larger than average fish.” Being a power fishing angler, he’s looking for isolated cover that’s going to hold and replenish with quality bass. There is a lot of this type of cover in the Red River–Jacob is going to be very busy.
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