UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Erie

Wheeler Crushes 25-12 to Retake Lead

Wheeler Crushes 25-12 to Retake Lead
Jacob Wheeler

He may be the best in the sport right now. He’s on his home waters. And he’s got a near 5-pound lead going into the final day after crushing the biggest bag of the tournament, unofficially.

Can anyone catch Jacob Wheeler?

If today is any indication, the only thing that may stop him from winning the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Chickamauga is himself. Wheeler caught fish early and often, and he sent a jolt through the live coverage when he cracked a 10-pounder – only to give back two of those pounds due to a penalty for making a cast with six fish in the box. Still, his 25-12 official weight for the day was by far the biggest bag of the day, and his 72-6 overall weight has set him up for his second major victory on Chickamauga.

Complete results

“Going out there today, I knew I had my work cut out for me,” says Wheeler. “These guys are unbelievable; great fisherman. I knew I needed a big bag, and I was very fortunate to catch that big fish and anchor that bag.”

After watching some giant bags get brought in by Jason Reyes and Cole Floyd on Wednesday, Wheeler mentions that in order for him to make a run at winning this event, he’d have to do the same at least once over the final two days. He didn’t waste much time. 

Just before 9 a.m., Wheeler stuck a “gosh dang” 10-pounder fishing a spot that has been one of his key offshore areas throughout this event. Admittedly, catching one that big came as a shock even to him.

Jacob Wheeler

“That’s a giant bite,” says Wheeler. “A big bite is a 7- or 8-pounder on this lake. A giant is a 10. Man, I was so excited when I got that fish in the boat.”

So excited, in fact, that he put the big girl in his livewell without culling out a fish. So, when he made his next cast, he had six fish in his livewell, which is a 2-pound penalty.

“When you catch one that big in a tournament, you know, you get a little flustered,” says Wheeler. “It doesn’t happen all the time. I throw her in my livewell and I’m so excited to make another cast. I go up there, fire out there and I’m like, ‘gosh dangit.’ I culled it on my Rapala scale but didn’t make the cull. So I called it in immediately.”

Beyond the penalty, though, the rest of the day could hardly have gone better.

Throughout the tournament, Wheeler has been getting into a rotation between shallow and offshore spots. He figures the best chance to get a big bite is up shallow – his offshore 10-pounder from today notwithstanding – while his offshore areas have been producing solid 3s, 4s and 5s. 

Jacob Wheeler

Today, he sampled a bit of both as usual, but he spent most of his time out deep. Part of that was catching a double-digit fish out deep and the quality he got throughout the day, but also because he has some places up shallow he’s saving for tomorrow. After all, despite having the lead and the home-lake advantage, it’s still Chickamauga, and the two closest guys behind him – Reyes and Floyd – have both brought in bags over 25 pounds (with Floyd nearly cracking 30 pounds if not for a lost giant).

On a lake with as many big fish as Chick has, Wheeler knows he can’t let up.

“You’re going to need to catch a really big bag [tomorrow to win],” says Wheeler. “Here’s the thing: I know I’m up a good amount, but it’s so easy for someone else to catch a 10-pounder tomorrow and have a 30-pound bag. 

“I have to catch another 20-plus-pound bag. I told myself I needed three 20-pound bags to have a chance to win. That was my goal, and I did that. Now my goal is to catch another 20-pound bag tomorrow, and if I lose, I lose. I left it all out there. But for me, my goal is to keep catching 20s one more day.” 

 

Jason Reyes

2. Jason Reyes – Huffman, Texas – 67-9 (15)

Reyes knows the fish he needs to catch Wheeler are swimming around the shallow pepper grass he’s been fishing. Unfortunately, he only got one to bite today. 

“I know there is quality in there,” says Reyes, who caught one near 7 pounds today. “It’s showed it to me for two days. It gave me a glimpse again today. Three casts could change it from 17 pounds to 25. I can’t stop doing what I’m doing. I’m dialed in, and I feel if I stay in there, that’s my best chance to win.”

While most pros are burning water and tanks of gas, Reyes is the polar opposite. He’s fishing slow, “plinking” around a Yamamoto Senko with a nail weight in and around clumps of pepper grass. Most of the time he’s basically casting and dead-sticking it there, giving the big Florida-strain largemouths a taste of how many anglers back in Florida fish. 

Because of the technique, covering water is hard, as it takes an hour for him to go even 100 yards. He’s only hit a few key stretches, but today he expanded on one and was rewarded with his lone big bite. 

“I made a few moves today and right away caught some fish,” says Reyes. “I may need to expand and cover new water. I’ll think about it tonight and come up with a game plan as to how I want to maneuver around in there. I can’t move too fast or I’ll start fishing too fast. So, tomorrow, I’ll go out, put my blinders on, keep my head down and we’ll see what happens.”

 

Cole Floyd

3. Cole Floyd – Leesburg, Ohio – 62-3 (15)

If Floyd is going to make up his 10-pound deficit, he’s going to need another day like Wednesday as opposed to today.

“I had a really good day today, actually,” says Floyd. “You know, I caught 40 or 50 fish. I caught more quality, nice fish today. Yesterday, I had those really big bites. I just never had that really big bite today.”

All week long, Floyd has been keying on offshore structures, but don’t think deep. Just offshore. The spots are actually quite shallow, and Floyd has a pretty good idea what’s making them so attractive to bigger bass. 

Today, he only fished his big-fish area for an hour or two, just hitting it sporadically to see if a big girl had moved up. But tomorrow, he says he’ll feel out the spot a bit more and probably camp on it longer to try and get the big bites he needs to chase down the win.

“I’m going to swing for the fences,” says Floyd. “I may not come in with five. I mean, I probably will, but do or die, it’s the final day. I’m going to try and have a day like yesterday. You never know. I may catch a couple 10s.”

 

Cody Meyer

4. Cody Meyer – Auburn, Calif. – 57-1 (15)

Another day of bouncing community holes. Another solid bag of fish for Meyer.

“I’m not doing anything crazy,” says Meyer. “I’m just fishing community holes. 

“I started on a spot I hadn’t fished all week and caught a good one. Then, I went to where I caught them yesterday. I caught a 5-pounder and couple 4-pounders. That set me up well.”

No surprise, Meyer is fishing finesse gear “like you would for spotted bass.” His tools have been a Strike King Finesse Worm on a drop-shot and a Neko rig, using 6- and 8-pound-test Daiwa J-Fluoro fluorocarbon. It’s allowing him to catch fish that have been pressured all week.

“These fish are so pressured,” says Meyer. “You get out there and you see hundreds of fish out there. It takes everything you’ve got to get a bite fishing.”

In fact, of the dozen places Meyer hit today, he says he only generates bites consistently in three of them, and he has to keep cycling back through them. 

 

Miles Burghoff

5. Miles Burghoff – Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. – 55-6 (15)

The winner for the most unique pattern this week clearly goes to Burghoff.

While he spent day one offshore, Burghoff has seen his weights increase every day of the event by switching gears and focusing on the mayfly hatch in some specific locations. 

“Yesterday, I was scrambling around, and I ended up running a pattern I found in practice that I didn’t know was as good as it was,” says Burghoff. “I’ve been able to refine it. I have one little area that’s absolutely loaded with 4- and 4 1/2-pounders. And I know there are a lot more.”

In terms of location, Burghoff says “it is on the bank,” but he won’t get specific about what type of bank. He did say timing is a big deal, though current, not so much.

The biggest thing, he says, is that there’s a pile of fish there, and they’re willing to bite, as he caught fish on his first six casts of the day today. He’s hoping for more of the same tomorrow to get into the low 20s. After that, though, he figures he’ll need to go hunting for really big fish. 

“I haven’t seen a 6-pound fish there,” says Burghoff. “I’ll need to do something different, and even then, these guys are going to have to stumble.”

 

Top 10 pros

1. Jacob Wheeler – Harrison, Tenn. – 72-6 (15)

2. Jason Reyes – Huffman, Texas – 67-9 (15)

3. Cole Floyd – Leesburg, Ohio – 62-3 (15)

4. Cody Meyer – Auburn, Calif. – 57-1 (15)

5. Miles Burghoff – Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. – 55-6 (15)

6. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 55-1 (15)

7. Alex Davis – Albertville, Ala. – 54-11 (15)

8. Joshua Weaver – Macon, Ga. – 53-2 (15)

9. David Williams – Maiden, N.C. – 51-15 (15)

10. Alton Jones – Lorena, Texas – 51-14 (15)

Complete results

Tags: sean-ostruszka  headline-story  2020-06-23-chickamauga-super-tournament 

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