HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Jordan Lee didn’t take long to dispel much of the drama surrounding who would win General Tire Stage Six Presented by John Deere Utility Vehicles at Lake St. Clair. Lee continued his dominant week by catching a 23-pound, 4-ounce limit of smallmouth bass in Thursday’s opening period and ultimately cruising to a win by 1-3 over Alton Jones Jr.
As has been the case throughout the event, however, another intriguing battle continued to play out.
The stage is now set for the most dramatic finish to the Bally Bet Angler of the Year race in Bass Pro Tour history. Jones will head to Stage Seven at Saginaw Bay in first place of the season-long points competition. Three other anglers lurk within 10 points of his 390.5 total.
Jones came to St. Clair in third place but vaulted to the top of the standings after both former leader Ott DeFoe and second-place Dakota Ebare failed to qualify for the Knockout Round. He is now 7 points ahead of Jacob Wheeler, the two-time reigning winner of the award. Wheeler finished third at Stage Six with a two-day total of 43-12. DeFoe, who entered Stage Six with a 48.5-point lead over Jones, trails Wheeler by 2 points. And rookie Matt Becker is 1 point back of DeFoe.
The decisive battle for the trophy should be intense. And no matter who prevails, the storylines will be juicy.
Wheeler is taking aim at a rare three-peat. If he can pull it off, it would represent an unlikely rally. After his 75th-place finish at Stage Three on Lake Murray, Wheeler was 25th in the AOY standings. Meanwhile, if Jones wins AOY, he might be able to lay claim to the best season in BPT history. His General Tire Heavy Hitters win and second-place finish at REDCREST aren’t even reflected in the points. DeFoe will try to finally break through after finishing second in three previous AOY races. Becker would be a rare rookie winner of the award on a national-level tour.
Throw in the variable that just about no one in the BPT field has recent tournament experience at Saginaw Bay, and it should truly be anyone’s crown to claim.
Lee’s final margin of victory doesn’t tell the full story of how soundly he defeated the rest of the field this week. Here are a few numbers that illustrate just how impressive his wire-to-wire victory was.
Like the rest of the Championship Round field, Jesse Wiggins never truly threatened to erase Lee’s lead. But he made himself some additional money with his 21-12 bag on Thursday, which vaulted him from eighth place to fourth.
Wiggins’ strong showing also continued a promising trend.
The Alabama angler is well-known as a spotted bass guru. He also won a BPT stage by catching largemouth at Lake of the Ozarks last year. But for much of his career, fishing for smallmouth up North has vexed Wiggins. Until now, it seems. Wiggins’ Top 10 marked his second such finish in his past three events on northern waters. He narrowly missed making it three-for-three, finishing 14th at Cayuga Lake in Stage Five.
Overall, Wiggins has now logged top-15 finishes in seven of his past 11 BPT events. That doesn’t include a win at a BFL Regional last year or a fifth-place finish at the All-American this spring. Add it all together, and that’s seven Top 10s and two wins for Wiggins in the past 16 months. If he can continue to catch smallmouth like he has this season, look for him to factor into the AOY conversation in future seasons.