ALPENA, MI – They were two of the most impressive smallmouth that MLF Summit Cup Angler Jacob Wheeler has landed during official competition hours in his eight-year professional career: a 5-pound, 9-ounce giant, and a 4-11 chunk, caught on a drop-shot on back-to-back casts.
Even more notable, though, is that those two smallmouths were only Wheeler’s third and fourth fish of the day in his Elimination Round at the 2018 Summit Cup on Lake Hubbard in Alpena, Michigan. With less than two hours left in Period 3, they brought his running SCORETRACKER total from 5-5 to 15-8, and put him in position to advance to the Sudden Death round.
“The second I set the hook on that first fish, I knew it was a good one,” Wheeler said. “SCORETRACKER was telling me that several 3- and 4-pounders had already been caught, so I knew there were some good fish in that lake. I just finally found a couple and took advantage of a chance to go from near the bottom to advancing.”
Wheeler did even better: he followed up just over 30 minutes later with a 4-13, and then added another 4-11 as time ticked down in Period 3, eventually finishing the day with nine fish, 29-7, and a spot on top of the round’s leaderboard.
Mike Iaconelli finished second (25-15), followed by Brent Chapman (22-3), Shaw Grigsby (18-15), Timmy Horton (17-6) and Andy Montgomery (14-11), all of whom advance to Sudden Death. Ish Monroe, Greg Hackney and Alton Jones failed to move on.
“The last hour of that last period was kind of a crazy whirlwind,” Wheeler said of his late charge. “It was more about forcing myself to pay attention: it’s pretty easy to get down on yourself when you’re not catching fish, and things where s-l-o-w for me the first two periods. I knew I still had the potential to make it out of the round, so I just kept covering water and waiting for my opportunities.”
Those opportunities revealed themselves when Wheeler graphed a series of isolated structures and steep breaks on a broad flat in the lower end of Hubbard, and then cast a 3 ½-inch green pumpkin finesse worm to fish that his Lowrance showed him were hovering on those structures.
“Once I caught those two big fish, I realized that fish were relating to the deep breaks pretty heavily, so I started fishing those breaks more,” Wheeler said. “There were just a lot more fish on that lower end of the lake, it just came down to figuring out the reason why they were all there.”
NOTES: The round looked like it would belong to Chapman and Horton through most of the first and second periods: the pair caught nine of the first 12 fish registered on SCORETRACKER … while the vast majority of fish caught on Lake Hubbard were smallmouth, three of Hackney’s four fish were largemouth.