ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. – The one title that has always eluded Jacob Wheeler throughout his career is an Angler of the Year title. On a Tuesday afternoon in the Detroit River, the Tennessee angler cleared that hurdle for the first time. Wheeler is the Bass Pro Tour 2021 Angler of the Year, beating out Ott DeFoe in the Knockout Round of the CarParts.com Stage Seven Presented by Covercraft.
Seven other anglers, including round winner Andy Morgan, will join Wheeler in the Championship Round on Wednesday where they will face off against Qualifying Round winners Wesley Strader and Michael Neal for one final time in the 2021 season.
While the story of the day belongs to Wheeler, Andy Morgan was the man who ended the day on top of SCORETRACKER®. While the majority of the field was on the hunt for smallmouth, Morgan spent his time flipping matted vegetation up the Detroit River in search of largemouth. The Tennessee pro ended his day with 28 largemouth bass for 93 pounds, 1 ounce, all coming on a flipping bite, including the Berkley Big Bass of the Day with a staggering 6-5.
Morgan was in a class of his own on Tuesday, separating himself from the rest of the field by more than 20 pounds. Not only did the Favorite pro catch the most fish in the Knockout Round, but if you took his best five fish into consideration, they would have weighed in at over 25 pounds. It was a day of quality and quantity for Morgan.
With the success he had on Tuesday, one should expect to find Morgan right back in the Detroit River tomorrow doing the exact same thing that got him to the Championship Round—flipping for largemouth.
Alton Jones Jr. said he was already planning on starting his drive home to Texas after he fell outside the top eight in the final period of the day. However, after a lightning delay halted fishing for around 45 minutes, Jones was able to regroup and locate a group of smallmouth near the man who was ahead of him on SCORETRACKER®, Bradley Roy.
When fishing resumed at 5:25 p.m. ET, Jones brought in five smallmouth for 13-1 in the final 25 minutes, pushing him past Roy and into the top eight. Roy would finish in ninth place, 3-8 below the Toro Cut Line.
The number was laid out in front of Wheeler before the day started: he needed to finish Stage Seven at least 13 spots ahead of Ott DeFoe to win the AOY title. Those numbers started to look bleak when DeFoe clinched a spot in the Knockout Round with his performance on Monday, but Wheeler remained steadfast and confident in himself.
Wheeler began his morning with a hot start, catching 16 bass for 40-12 while DeFoe found himself scoreless. After the second period, Wheeler’s odds looked even better thanks to DeFoe’s continued struggles near the bottom of the pack.
Although DeFoe tried to make a run up the leaderboard in Period 3, it was too much for him to overcome, and he will end Stage Seven in 32nd place. Wheeler can finish no lower than 10th. With the numbers in his favor and his first AOY victory confirmed, Wheeler was emotional but thankful for a season for the record books.
“People won’t understand how much this means to me,” Wheeler said on the verge of tears. “I’ve been close a few times before, but I thought after my poor performance at Stage Three (51st place), I wouldn’t have a shot this year. To win this AOY, against this group of anglers, I’m speechless. Shout out to Ott on an amazing season. He made me fish harder and I respect him as a competitor, angler and person.”
Wheeler has a chance to make more history on Wednesday, as he goes for his third straight Bass Pro Tour victory and his fourth in 2021.
The 2021 Bass Pro Tour regular season comes to an end tomorrow with the Championship Round. The 10 anglers’ weights will reset back to zero and the lone angler on top of SCORETRACKER® after three periods of fishing will be named the Stage Seven champion. Weather is expected to be partly cloudy and calm in the area on Wednesday.
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