Wheeler Leading Group B Comfortably; Watson & Coulter Find Their Sight Fishing Groove - Major League Fishing
Wheeler Leading Group B Comfortably; Watson & Coulter Find Their Sight Fishing Groove
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Wheeler Leading Group B Comfortably; Watson & Coulter Find Their Sight Fishing Groove

Image for Wheeler Leading Group B Comfortably; Watson & Coulter Find Their Sight Fishing Groove
Jacob Wheeler shows off one of his 15 scorable bass he caught on Sunday on Lake of the Ozarks. Photo by Garrick Dixon
May 1, 2022 • Mason Prince • Bass Pro Tour

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – The sight-fishing derby also known as the Bass Boat Technologies Stage Four Presented by Bass Cat continued Sunday on Lake of the Ozarks for Group B’s first day of competition. The conditions were ideal for sight fishing and the 40 pros in Group B took advantage — mainly leader Jacob Wheeler who caught 15 bass for 47 pounds, 9 ounces. Missouri pro James Watson made himself right at home on Lake of the Ozarks, finishing his day in second place with 10 bass for 31-4.

Doesn’t Matter How, Wheeler Can Flat-Out Catch ‘Em

Same story, just a different day and lake. Wheeler ended his Sunday on top of SCORETRACKER® after flexing his sight-fishing muscles to a 16-pound cushion over Watson in second place. Wheeler can use his forward-facing sonar better than anyone, but Sunday was all about showing that’s it’s not just his mastery of electronics that make him one of the world’s best bass anglers.

“I learned how to sight fish before I ever learned how to use electronics,” Wheeler said. “I wouldn’t say I’m the best sight fisherman in the world, but I’m comfortable doing it when it calls for it. But this tournament won’t be won sight fishing, so I pretty much burned all the stuff I had to the ground today to build a bigger lead because I know that I won’t be doing much sight fishing in the coming days.”

It wasn’t as easy as Wheeler made it look, though. The first period was a struggle for Wheeler, only catching two bass for 5-3. However, when the sun got to where Wheeler liked it in the second period and he could start seeing more clearly, he quickly shot up to the top of SCORETRACKER® and never surrendered his lead.

“I feel like I was catching fish that a lot of people were overlooking,” Wheeler said. “They were spawning a little bit deeper in about 4 to 5 feet of water, and sometimes all I would see is a few shells and that’s all I needed to see to know they were there. Again, I don’t think I can win this thing sight fishing, so Tuesday is really going to be about finding something else that’ll work.”

Watson in Second Place in His Home State

James Watson is off to the best start of this 2022 season on Lake of the Ozarks. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Watson looked comfortable sight fishing his way to a second-place finish. The Missouri pro finished the day 9 ounces ahead of third-place Brandon Coulter.

Watson wound his way around boat docks and cables, sight fishing a body of water he’s very familiar with. Last March, he was able to grab a second-place finish on Lake of the Ozarks in a Phoenix Bass Fishing League event.

It hasn’t been the best start to the season for Watson, as he currently sits in last place in the Bally Bet Angler of the Year standings – but maybe a Bass Pro Tour event in his home state is just the pick-me-up he needs.

Coulter Feeling Great Sitting in Third

“It was just one of those days that you dream about. I think I caught every fish I saw today,” Coulter said with a big smile.

Coulter finished his day with nine bass for 30-11, and the confidence he gained in his sight fishing abilities on Sunday is immeasurable.

“I’m a good sight fisherman (in general), but against this field, I’m not a good sight fisherman,” Coulter said. “Generally, I get my teeth kicked in if I try to go toe-to-toe with these guys sight fishing. But today, I saw fish better than I’ve seen them in a long time. I don’t have any explanation as to why, it was just one of those days where it all went right.”

Coulter will need to close a 16-14 gap if he wants to catch Wheeler for first. But that’s not necessarily where his main focus will be, come Tuesday’s second qualifying day.

“Chasing Wheeler down for first is going to be pretty tough with the lead he has, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to,” Coulter said. “I’m going to run all new water on Tuesday and start looking for fish for the Knockout Round. That’s a huge advantage, to basically get another day of practice if you can catch enough to feel comfortable. I’m hoping it will help me down the line.”

Daily Leaders

  • The Berkley Big Bass of the Day was Stephen Browning’s 5-13 largemouth.
  • Wheeler had the most weight on SCORETRACKER® with 47-9.
  • Wheeler also had the most scoreable bass with 15.

What’s Next & How to Watch

Group A returns to the Lake of the Ozarks on Monday to finish out their Qualifying Round of Stage Four. The 40 anglers will look to add to their weight totals they collected on Saturday and try to move above the Toro Cut Line. The Top 20 anglers on SCORETRACKER® after three periods of fishing will move on to the Knockout Round, and the winner of the Qualifying Round will advance straight to the Championship Round. Lines are in at 8 a.m. CT. Live coverage begins at 7:45 a.m. CT on the MLF NOW! live stream. Watch for free on MajorLeagueFishing.com, the MLF app, or the MyOutdoorTV app.