In his second year as a professional on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, Jacob Wall finds himself in a position he never thought possible with one event left in the regular season. This week, Wall will not only have a chance to win the final Pro Circuit Super Tournament of the year on Lake Erie, but he’ll also be competing for one of the most coveted titles in the sport as he sits second in the Pro Circuit points race – Angler of the Year.
With a lot at stake, I took the chance to jump in the boat with the 25-year-old pro to see how he was getting ready to tackle this massive fishery on the second day of official practice.
Wall pulls into the Mazurik Boat Access on Lake Erie a hair before 6:45 a.m. ET and quickly realizes the landing is much more packed than it was on Friday. Walleye anglers are just as eager to hit the lake as he is, so Wall pulls off to the side and begins to prep his boat for launching.
After a few minutes of waiting, Wall dumps his boat in the harbor and promptly gets the truck parked. He’s on the fence about chasing largemouths or smallmouths to start his day, despite having spent the majority of his first day of practice looking for largies.
As we idle out of the ramp a little past 7 a.m., Wall still isn’t sure what to do. As we get on plane, he finally makes a decision.
“Screw it, I’m going after largemouths first,” says Wall.
Entering a nearby marina, Wall starts launching a buzzbait next to some riprap and scattered weeds. It doesn’t take long for Wall to connect with the first willing participant of the morning. It’s not the size he’ll need this week, but at least he’s got the skunk out of the boat early.
After a few minutes of fishing, Wall is already digging more rods out of the locker as he sees what the marina has to offer inside. Despite putting a few new weapons on the deck, Wall sticks to the buzzbait to cover water.
As the sun starts to rise higher in the sky, Wall hooks up with another largemouth, though it won’t do him any good during the tournament. Still, it’s a good sign of life.
Meandering around the boat slips, Wall spots some good matted grass and eagerly picks up his flipping stick.
“I know it’s probably too early to flip a big weight, but it just looks too good,” Wall says.
For as good as it looks, it doesn’t produce any bites and he keeps pressing on.
With the luscious grass not yielding much worth note, Wall decides to try a few boat docks. He grabs a wacky-rigged Nishine Namazu and starts skipping it around.
A few skips later and he connects with his first solid keeper of the day.
As he releases the fish, I ask about his decision to put so much emphasis on largemouths in practice.
“I’ve just been fishing really well shallow this year and it’s where I feel the most confident,” says Wall. “I’d rather be comfortable and confident all day than out doing something where I feel out of my element.
“It’s going to take a lot to catch Ron [Nelson] this week. I think I can find something to cash a check with by doing something I’m comfortable with. At the end of the day, I’m here to do my job and cash a check.”
Wall spots more matted grass ahead of him and picks his flipping rod back up after digging out a new Gambler Stinger to put on it.
As he probes the grass, I ask him what he thinks about being second in points with one event to go in his second year as a pro.
“It’s crazy,” he laughs. “I need to think about it a little more, but if you would have told me I’d be where I’m at right now at the beginning of the season I would have said ‘no way.’ I’ve just been doing my thing this year, where last year I’d get stuck on one thing during a tournament and it’d cost me. This year I’ve been trusting my gut and making good decisions and trying to stay consistent.
“It’s also nice to know that this year was the foundation I need to pursue [fishing] as a lifelong career. I’m just taking it all in and enjoying every second of it.”
As Wall looks out across the vast basin of Lake Erie he decides he better go see what’s happening out in smallmouth country. So, he stuffs a few baitcasters in the locker and swaps them for a Ned rig and a few drop-shots.
The weather is gorgeous, with very little wind and plenty of sunshine, so the run out in the lake shouldn’t be too bad – which is the main factor behind heading out there now.
Wall now resides in New Hope, Ala., but is originally from Oregon, so he’s used to fishing for smallmouths. However, he’s quick to point out that fishing for brownies back home is a lot different than chasing them on Erie.
“The smallmouth back home in Oregon are trout eaters,” he says. “I’m used to being able to pull up on something that looks good and find fish. Not out here. There’s so much stuff out here that looks good and they don’t always live on it. It’s harder to find them I feel like, but I know I need to put some time in doing it.”
After idling a few different places, Wall finally stands up and fires his Ned rig out. Almost immediately he hooks up with one of the thousands of drum that call Erie home. Though it provided a brief moment of excitement, Wall quickly gets back to work.
There’s no shortage of rock on the bottom of Erie and attached to those rocks are hundreds of zebra mussels. The shells of the zebra mussels are like little razor blades and Wall finds himself breaking off several Ned rigs in his prospect for smallmouths.
In an effort to try to cover water a little quicker offshore, Wall ties up a Nishine Finesse Football Jig. A few casts in and he hooks up with yet another drum. So, he pulls the trolling motor and gets back to idling.
With the sun beating down now Wall makes sure to reapply some sunscreen. It also seems like a nice break from staring at his graphs as we move along a deeper break. Of course, snacking and idling go together like peanut butter and jelly, so Wall also utilizes the time to grab a CLIF bar.
Finally, he sees something he likes and drops the trolling motor.
Opting for a drop-shot to try to avoid losing any more Neds, Wall connects on his first cast. The feisty smallmouth immediately comes flying out of the water as if to give Wall reassurance that he’s found the right species. The smallmouth wouldn’t keep, but Wall seems just fine to know that he at least is casting at structure that holds smallmouths.
Wall digs out another Nishine Drop Shot Minnow and makes several more casts on the spot without any takers.
As it nears noon, more and more pleasure boaters have taken to the lake and it becomes very apparent how busy it is as Wall bounces around the front deck thanks to all the boat wakes.
Making a move to a nearby marina to get away from the boat traffic, Wall fields a few phone calls from his parents and girlfriend, Michaella. Fishing along, he spots several small bass of both species and convinces a feisty smallmouth to try his jerkbait. Knowing he’s got to make a move, he makes the call to pack up and head back to the ramp to drop me off.
It’s almost 2:30 by the time we get back to the ramp and Wall needs to run to his truck to get another hat after losing his on the bumpy ride back in. With a fresh lid in hand, Wall hops back in his boat and heads back out to look for some more largemouth water. Having four days of practice for this tournament, Wall feels he can take advantage of the extra day by sampling some stuff he may overlook if there were just three days. So, it’s back to the bays and harbors of Erie’s south shore to follow his gut and instincts, which have treated him well this season. Good luck, Jacob.