OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – If you wanted drama, you got it at the end of Monday’s second Qualifying Day for Group A during the Bass Boat Technologies Stage Four Presented by Bass Cat. We saw a late jump for the top spot on SCORETRACKER®, with two anglers rocketing from the bottom of the leaderboard to inside the cut, and big names missing out on the Top 20, almost certainly damaging their chance for a Bally Bet Angler of the Year trophy.
Jesse Wiggins is moving on straight to the Championship Round after winning Group A’s qualifying round with a two-day total of 24 scorable bass for 63 pounds, 4 ounces. Wiggins was able to narrowly beat out Alton Jones Jr. for the top spot by just 11 ounces.
The Alabama pro began his day in seventh place on SCORETRACKER® and was more than 8 pounds behind the then-leader, Shaw Grigsby. But thanks to his consistency, Wiggins never went without a scorable bass for more than two hours, and he was able to secure the second Qualifying Round win of his Bass Pro Tour career. However, this is the first time he’ll enjoy the benefit of the automatic berth to the Championship Round.
“I found an area late in the round on Saturday that had a bunch of fish in there, so I knew that’s where I was going today,” Wiggins said. “Nobody was really pulling away with it today, so I knew if I could just hang around the top and get on a hot streak, I could pull ahead.”
With only five minutes left in the day, Wiggins found himself trailing Jones by just 1-7. One scorable bass is all it would take to push him ahead. The Jackall pro was able to reel in a 2-2 as a wave of joy mixed with relief and stress washed over him.
“It was such a great feeling because it had been such a crazy day,” Wiggins said. “I was so close all day and to finally get to the top with just five minutes left was crazy. I kept telling myself, ‘Just catch this fish and we’ll see what happens.’ That was my mindset all day and it paid off.”
Wiggins caught all of his fish on Monday with a homemade shaky head and a Jackall Flick Shake that he cut down to just 5 inches. He said that shorter length gave the bait’s tail an action that those bedding bass couldn’t resist. He caught 13 scorable bass on Monday, and that’s not including what he estimated to be 50 non-scorable bass. Wiggins knows that if he wants to win, he’s going to need to find both quality and quantity.
“I’m still around a bunch of fish, but I put a beating on them today,” Wiggins admitted. “It’s going to be important to not only find a stretch with fish on it, but scorable fish. Everyone’s catching them, but the guys who are finding the right ones are the guys who are doing well.”
Saturday definitely wasn’t the start that neither Todd Faircloth nor Terry Scroggins were looking for on Lake of the Ozarks. Both anglers began their second day of competition well below the Toro Cut Line —Faircloth in 31st with 8-10 and Scroggins in 36th with 5-1 — but both found themselves on the right side of the Top 20 when the day came to an end.
Scroggins finished the day in 13th place on SCORETRACKER® after an amazing third-period comeback in which he caught 10 bass for 33 pounds, pushing his total weight to 38-1. Faircloth’s bite was more consistent, and he was able to sight fish his way into the Top 20 with a two-day total of 34-13 and a 19th-place finish.
Scroggins had the most work to do. He even found himself perplexed, still needing to make a move with only one period remaining in his day. That’s when he made a decision to move locations and change up his strategy completely.
“I started by the dam on Saturday; but when I got to my spot, all the sight fish that I had found during practice were gone,” Scroggins said. “I struggled again through the first two periods, then decided I wasn’t gonna go down like this. I thought the conditions were right for a buzzbait, so I picked it up and caught 33 pounds in the final period to make it.”
As for Faircloth, he spent the day in a new area as well. His original game plan was to run up the Osage River, but thanks to connectivity issues, he was forced to abandon that plan on Saturday. That led to a lackluster first day. Once Monday came around, he had a new plan and new confidence.
“I just decided to stay close to the ramp and fish some areas I had in practice, and it paid off in a big way,” Faircloth said. “I was sight fishing and Lake of the Ozarks is all about finding an area that’s got ‘em. Fish live in certain areas here, and I think it’s important to keep going until you find ‘em.”
Three anglers in the Top 20 in the Bally Bet Angler of the Year race are heading home early after falling below the Toro Cut Line on Monday. Third-place Bryan Thrift, 14th-place Michael Neal, and 17th-place Dustin Connell will all miss out on the Knockout Round.
Ott DeFoe is fresh off a Heavy Hitters victory on Lake Palestine just a couple of weeks ago, but he was also unable to make the cut. DeFoe finished in 37th place for Group A.
Bobby Lane is a month removed from his triumphant 2022 REDCREST win, but he won’t be adding a Stage Four trophy to his mantle as he placed 36th in Group A.
Group B returns to the Lake of the Ozarks on Tuesday for their Qualifying Round 2 of Stage Four. The 40 anglers will look to add to their weight totals they collected on Sunday 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 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.