Wiley Leads on the Mississippi - Major League Fishing
Wiley Leads on the Mississippi
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Wiley Leads on the Mississippi

Pool 9 pays out for the Alabama pro on day one
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Scott Wiley Photo by Cobi Pellerito. Angler: Scott Wiley.
July 29, 2020 • Sean Ostruszka • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

At some point, someone, some place or species will set itself apart. For now, though, everything on the Mississippi River is tough and tight.

As expected on the river, the weights are bunched together after the first day of fishing in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament presented by OPTIMA Batteries. More than a quarter of the field are in the 11-12-pound range, and 10 pounds marked the exact halfway point of the field. That means leader Scott Wiley only has a 5-pound, 3-ounce lead over half the field after weighing in 15-3. Worse, his lead is only 5 ounces over, Jacob Wheeler, who is sitting in second after winning the last Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Chickamauga.

Complete results

Day one coverage blog

Needless to say, Wiley was happy to be leading, but not exactly comfortable.

“We have a lot of fishing left to do,” says the Bay Minette, Ala., pro. “These guys are good. You have to stay on them.”

Thus far, the top guys have been staying on them throughout the three pools. Wheeler, Derrick Snavely, Ron Nelson, and Tom Monsoor all at least started in Pool 7, while Joey Cifuentes, Bradford Beavers and Jesse Wiggins hunkered down in Pool 8. As for Wiley, he was the lone representative of Pool 9, though, he got a lot of help from Pool 8.

With an hour and a half fog delay to start, Wiley admits he felt “really rushed” by the time he locked down and made it to his starting spot; a feeling only made worse when he struck out.

“After that, I just ran around a little bit,” Wiley says. “I went to one little spot and caught a limit in about 45 minutes and left.”

Fortunately, that one little spot clued him in on what he hopes is a much larger pattern; one that he says there’s plenty of – it’s a specific location/cover pattern – down in Pool 9. Unfortunately, it requires hitting a lot of places, and the quality isn’t the greatest.

With that, after catching his limit – all largemouth, which was the case for the majority of the leaders thus far – Wiley locked back up to Pool 8 and stuck a pair of 3 ½-pounders in the final hour to give him his slim lead.

As for tomorrow, despite the boost from Pool 8, Wiley still feels more confident in the pattern he has running in Pool 8. Thus, he figures he’ll at least start down there; hopefully with less fog so he has much more time to fish.

“We’ll just see what tomorrow brings. I don’t know if I have a lot of fish left in Pool 9, but we’ll go down there and see what we can do.”

 

Jacob Wheeler

2. Jacob Wheeler – Harrison, Tenn. – 14-14 (5)

There is no angler anyone wants to see in their rearview mirror less than Jacob Wheeler right now.

Wheeler’s last four finishes have been a win at the Toyota Series event on Pickwick, a top 10 at the MLF Toyota Heavy Hitters event on the Kissimmee Chain, top 20 at the Bass Pro Tour event at Sturgeon Bay and a win at the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Chickamauga. And he’s in position for another great finish after today.

 “I’m just having fun out there,” says Wheeler. “Things are going well. When you go into a tournament and you have confidence you’re going to catch them, that’s sort of how it works.”

It certainly worked today, especially to start.

Wheeler locked up to Pool 7 and hunkered far back in a backwater area, where he was able to catch a limit, including a 3 1/2-pounder and a 4-pounder, while missing a couple more quality fish. Knowing the spot probably is too small to replenish, he left and hit a few more places in Pool 7 with nothing to show for it before locking back down to Pool 8 to cull out three of his initial limit.

As for a pattern, he said he’s just “hodge podging around” between both backwaters and main-river areas; trying to hit places where he found groups of fish in practice. Because of that, and the fact he was worried about putting a ton of stock into his starting spot today – it takes a bit of time to get back in it and it may not replenish in a day – Wheeler says he’s keeping his options open for Thursday.

“I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do tomorrow, for sure,” says Wheeler, who weighed in all largemouth today. “I might stay down here in Pool 8 tomorrow and then go up. It's just going to depend on weather conditions and what I feel like.”

 

Derrick Snavely

3. Derrick Snavely – Piney Flats, Tenn. – 14-8 (5)

Everything looked like it was lining up for Snavely to have an awful day. He’d never been to La Crosse before, he had a short day made shorter by the fog delay, and then he lost his first fish of the day in epic fashion.

“I set hook on what looked like a 3-pounder and the reel came off the rod,” says Snavely. “So I lost that one and was all bummed out about that. Luckily I made up for it.”

That he did. Despite only fishing in Pool 7 from 10 a.m. until he locked back at 1 p.m., Snavely was able to get far back into a couple areas and get some quality largemouth bites. Best of all, he has a much longer day tomorrow and a few places he never hit today.

“I feel good about tomorrow,” says Snavely. “I didn’t get to fish all my areas. Some of them are somewhat hard to get to; you have to be really careful. So it’s time consuming get back in those places. But they’re worth it, and I’m hoping the ones that are even harder to get to will be even more worth it.”

 

Joey Cifuentes

4. Joey Cifuentes – Clinton, Ark. – 14-6 (5)

One spot and one bait made Cifuentes’ day today.

Fishing in Pool 8, the Arkansas pro bounced around most the morning with only three keepers to show for it. But around noon, everything changed.

“I hit a place where I got a few bites in practice, and I culled everything out there on one spot within hour and a half,” says Cifuentes.

The spot is not very big, but Cifuentes feels there are two separate schools in it. Best off all, they’re more than willing to eat a frog. And tomorrow, he should get plenty more time to let them eat it.

“I was boat 195 this morning,” says Cifuentes. “So didn’t get to start there. Tomorrow, with the early boat number, I’m going to sit there all day long. It’s just too good a place.”

 

Jesse Wiggins

5. Jesse Wiggins – Logan, Ala. – 14-5 (5)

While the rest of the top five had bags solely comprised of largemouth, Wiggins actually had a pair of nice smallmouth in his bag. One was planned, but the other showed how special of a spot he may have.

“The second smallmouth I caught while largemouth fishing,” says Wiggins.

The reason his surprise smallie popped up probably had a lot to do with his area.

“It has a ton of bait,” says Wiggins, who stuck to Pool 8. “You can walk across it there’s that much.”

The protected area is just off the main river, and Wiggins figures he didn’t lift his trolling motor up more than three times today. All told, he caught probably 10 keepers.

“I feel pretty good, especially not getting to fish the morning bite,” says Wiggins. “I figured if today could go as good as it could go I could catch 12. Then I caught two big ones around 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. that really helped.”

 

Top 10 pros

1. Scott Wiley – Bay Minette, Ala. – 15-3 (5)

2. Jacob Wheeler – Harrison, Tenn. – 14-14 (5)

3. Derrick Snavely – Piney Flats, Tenn. – 14-8 (5)

4. Joey Cifuentes – Clinton, Ark. – 14-6 (5)

5. Jesse Wiggins – Logan, Ala. – 14-5 (5)

6. Ron Nelson – Berrien Springs, Mich. – 14-4 (5)

7. Tom Monsoor – La Crosse, Wis. – 14-3 (5)

8. Bradford Beavers – Summerville, S.C. – 14-2 (5)

9. Robert Nakatomi – Sacramento, Calif. – 14-1 (5)

10. Mitch Crane – Columbus, Miss. – 13-15 (5)

Complete results