OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – A cloudy, cold, wet day was in store on the fourth day of Bass Boat Technologies Stage Four Presented by Bass Cat as 40 pros fished Tuesday for 20 spots in Wednesday’s Knockout Round on Lake of the Ozarks. Although the weather was subpar, the fishing remained impressively steady as the anglers showed why they’re some of the best in the world.
Jacob Wheeler held his lead all day despite a solid run to the top by second-place angler Keith Poche. However, Wheeler came away with a 7-pound, 2-ounce round win and is onto another Championship Round in his dominant Bass Pro Tour career.
Wheeler is advancing to his fourth Championship Round of the 2022 Bass Pro Tour season — well, really his fifth if you include his third-place finish at REDCREST 2022. Wheeler brought in a two-day total of 19 scorable bass for 62-4 to win the round.
The Tennessee pro spent his day sight fishing, keeping a somewhat comfortable distance between himself and the rest of the field. But when Poche started making a run toward the top of SCORETRACKER®, Wheeler had to decide on whether tot catch a few fish he was hoping to save for the Championship Round to hold off Poche.
“As the time started winding down, I really kept going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to catch this last fish,” Wheeler said. “I have multiple 4-pounders located on beds that I didn’t have to touch today, and I feel like those are the fish that’ll give me the best chance to win. Luckily, I didn’t have to go to those today.”
The Academy Sports + Outdoors pro may have shaken off a few today to save them for Thursday, but he still brought in four for 16-9 on the day. He was mainly using a white craw-style bait to try to trigger the fish into biting; something he picked up on while essentially practicing for the entirety of Tuesday.
“For some fish you had to throw more natural colors, and for others it was more of a visual thing with brighter colors,” Wheeler said. “I think I figured out a lot of things today and I have a couple of different colors and bait styles in mind to try and get the win.”
Poche is moving on to his third Knockout Round appearance of the season, but he was just 7-3 short of automatically advancing to his first Championship Round. The Alabama pro came in second to Wheeler but had the best day out of anyone on the water.
The Berkley pro caught 14 bass for 40-15 on Tuesday, moving him from 15th place to start the day all the way up to second. Poche was sight fishing around shallow docks, using a green pumpkin 5-inch Berkley PowerBait MaxScent The General on a shaky head. Poche lost what looked to be a 5-plus-pounder late in Period 3, a fish that would have put him within one scorable bass of passing Wheeler for the lead. However, Poche isn’t playing the “what if” game, instead he’s focusing on tomorrow’s Knockout Round.
“I fought so hard today and lost some key fish when it really mattered,” Poche said. “That’s just the way it goes sometimes. The water color is really great for what I’m doing right now and I’m finding the right banks as well. We’ll see if I can get them tomorrow.”
What has been a sight fishing derby for the first four days of competition may shift into, well, something else. There are many anglers who made the move above the Toro Cut Line on Tuesday by backing away from sight fish and instead focusing more on other patterns.
With clouds, cooler water temperatures and drizzling rain covering most of the Lake of the Ozarks for much of the day, Dave Lefebre made a move up to 14th place fishing in about 10 to 12 feet of water with a football jig. Zack Birge moved up into fourth place focusing on fishing a jig around docks. Wesley Strader and Dean Rojas both were working with vibrating jigs on Tuesday in deeper water around points.
Sight fishing may very well remain a factor throughout the final two days of Stage Four, but clouds and possible showers are in store for Wednesday and Thursday. The anglers who have something in their back pockets besides shallow-bedding fish may very well have an advantage.
Stage Four continues with the Knockout Round on Wednesday. The 38 anglers that advanced through the Qualifying Rounds will now have their weights reset to zero. The eight anglers with the most weight on SCORETRACKER® at the end of three periods of fishing will move on to the Championship Round where they will meet Wheeler and Jesse Wiggins. 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.