May 19, 2011 by David A. Brown
SHREVEPORT, La. - Jacob Wheeler's a nice young man with zero animosity for co-anglers. However, the current BFL All-American leader at Cross Lake was not going to stand for an upstaging from the back of anyone's boat.
See, when the Indianapolis, Ind. pro took the stage to weigh in the final bag of day one, co-anglers Shane Winchester and Greg Gilley had been reveling in the fact that their respective weights of 12-2 and 11-8 were larger than any in the pro field - so far. That was before Mr. Wheeler laid a bass bomb on the scale.
A little chest-up for his pro brethren? How `bout 18 pounds and 6 ounces of Louisiana green fish? That bag pushed him well into the pro lead by a margin of 7 1/2 pounds.
Prior to weighing his fish, Wheeler gave big props to his sister Kaitlin who joined him in the parking lot for a pre-launch prayer. Wheeler said that got his squared away mentally and the day just seemed to flow from that point on.
As for the fishing part, Wheeler said the lake's protected slot limit (fish from 14 to 17 inches must be released) made it tough to put together a quality stringer. His success hinged on frequent moves and strategic timing.
"It was just a lot of moving around," Wheeler said. "Cross Lake, with the slot limit, is really hard to fish. So I had to fish a lot of spots - and a lot of productive spots."
Wheeler said that despite his hurried schedule of movement, he tried to slow down and fish each individual spot thoroughly. He said his fish bit a variety of flipping baits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits.
"I had 10 rods on the deck and I was rolling," Wheeler said. "I burned a full tank of gas just rolling from area to area and covering a lot of water."
Having caught his fish in a variety of scenarios from docks to cypress trees, Wheeler said he focused on whittling down Cross Lake's abundant habitat and identifying the sweet spots.
"I think there are fish everywhere in the lake - you just have to be in the right general areas," Wheeler said. "Specific docks have brush on them and that's key. Specific trees are deeper or shallower than others and that was good.
"You had to find those scenarios and run a pattern. It really wasn't necessarily a pattern because the fish were scattered. You'd catch one here, you'd catch one there. You'd catch one on a dock, you'd catch one on a tree and then you'd catch one on a brush pile."
Wheeler said he'll probably repeat some of his day-one work tomorrow. One thing, he said, is a certainty: "I'll definitely have my sister come out and pray with me again."
Second-place Picket goes deep
Lloyd Pickett, of Barlett, Tenn., knew what he wanted, but Mother Nature wasn't listening. "We had high winds and cloud cover. I really wanted sunlight and no wind. With a lot of sun to put them in shady spots, I could have run a swimbait or a crankbait through them and get them to bite.
"I started with a topwater, but that wouldn't work, so I scrapped that and went deeper. I was fishing the bottom with a Texas rig, a Carolina rig and a crankbait."
Pickett said his choice of habitat is nothing unique, however, his depth range is setting him apart: "I'm staying on the trees like everybody else, but fortunately, the trees I'm keying on, I have them to myself."
While much of the field worked in one to three feet, Pickett fished in six to seven feet. His adjustment netting him a nice day-one limit that went 10-14.
Postspawn plan puts Goodwin in third
A devout powerfisherman, Shon Goodwin, of Moore, Okla., focused on covering a lot of water and put together a limit catch of 10-3. The recent full moon, he said, had the fish a lot more persnickety than he had found them in practice, but Goodwin dialed in on a pattern that proved consistent.
"What I was able to figure out is that the fish I found a couple of weeks ago in the very back ends of the creeks were pulling out and I just had to relocate them," he said. "I'm just trying to stay in front of those fish so they'll come to me."
Goodwin caught most of his fish on hand-carved and hand-painted crankbaits and topwaters made by a friend who prefers to remain anonymous. He found his fish in ditches running out of the spawning areas.
Carter works the trees for fourth
Kip Carter, of Loganville, Ga., caught only three keepers on day one, but his 9-6 total indicated that he found quality fish. Carter said he fished finesse baits on 10-pound line. The key for him was fishing far back in the cypress trees. Reaching deeper into the cover, he said, enabled him to reach the ones he was looking for.
"The farther back and the shallower you go, the cleaner the water gets," Carter said. "That's another reason I'm fishing light line."
Taking fifth place, Derik Hudson of Hurt, Va. caught four fish for 9-2. He used a variety of plastics made by Power Team Lures.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the BFL All-American:
6th: Charlie Russler, of Hedgesville, W.Va., 8-11
7th: Jake Morris, of McKee, Ky., 8-5
8th: Michael Roy, of Ivy, Va., 7-10
9th: Charles Cummings, of Leeds, Ala., 7-6
10th: Mike Brower, of Texarkana, Texas, 6-15
8-pounder gives Winchester a big boost
It was around midday when Glasgow, Ky., co-angler Shane Winchester pitched a finesse bait next to an old fallen dock post. He had hoped a fish would be holding there, but what he found was much more than he expected. A hungry 8-pounder ate Winchester's bait and put on a memorable show.
"He just kind of swam off, but once I set the hook I knew it was a good fish," he said. "He came out and went up in the air. I didn't think a fish that big could jump that high but it was pretty exciting."
Sacking up three other fish, Winchester took the co-angler lead with 12-2.
Greg Gilley, of Orange Beach, Ala., placed second with 11-8; Kevin Crady, of Desoto, Mo., was third with 10-8; Kermit Crowder, of Matoaca, Va., took fourth with 7-9; and fifth place went to Gerrit Goins, of Cleveland, Tenn., who had 7-7
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the BFL All-American:
6th: David Williams, of Fredricksburg, Va., 6-10
7th: Jason Hester, of Haleyville, Ala., 6-4
8th: Tony Grubb, of Ann Arbor, Mich., 5-7
9th: Jeff McCarnan, of Henderson, Ky., 5-3
10th: Kyle Radake, of Cape Girardeau, Mo., 4-13
Day two of BFL All-American on Cross Lake continues at Friday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:00 a.m. (Central) at the American Legion Hall located at 5315 South Lakeshore Drive in Shreveport.