Reel Chat transcript with JACOB WHEELER - Major League Fishing

Reel Chat transcript with JACOB WHEELER

Wheeler shares his thoughts on winning the Cup, how to get started in tournament fishing, funny travel stories and much more
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Forrest Wood Cup champion Jacob Wheeler holds up the hardware. Photo by Brett Carlson. Angler: Jacob Wheeler.
August 23, 2012 • MLF • Uncategorized

Welcome to FLW Live Reel Chat. Today we’re joined by Fatheadz pro Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, Ind., who recently took home the top prize of $500,000 after winning the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier.

After winning the 2011 BFL All-American, 21-year-old Jacob Wheeler took the bass-fishing world by storm after completing a wire-to-wire victory at the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier in Duluth, Ga. In the process, Wheeler rewrote the record books, becoming the youngest angler in FLW history to win the Forrest Wood Cup. Wheeler, who took home a first-place prize totaling $500,000, also grabbed the record for the largest margin of victory in Cup history after out-fishing his next closest rival by 7 pounds, 5 ounces.

Leading up to the Cup, fishing in his very first season as a pro on the FLW Tour in 2012, Wheeler netted a string of impressive rookie performances, finishing eighth overall on Ketucky/Barkley lakes and ending the season ranked 30th overall. Wheeler now boasts six top-10 finishes and nearly $675,000 in total winnings since his FLW career began in 2010.

Today, Jacob Wheeler is here to take questions from you, the fans. So, without further delay, let’s get started.

Q: Jacob, how did you go about scouting your primary locations on Lake Lanier leading up to the tournament?
— Pat Zak (Oakland, CA)
A: The biggest thing for me was that I was looking for areas that fit my personal style – those I was very confident in in pre-practice. I wanted to stick with my strengths rather than going out trying to do something different. A lot of it was trial and error – I didn’t know what was there until I looked. It was time on the water that really put that second piece of the puzzle together. I had two primary patterns – one area was up the river and the reason it was good was that there were a lot of bites there but the water temperature was 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the lake. There was a lot more oxygen than a lot of the other areas and it had a good amount of baitfish.

Q: What does it mean to you to be the youngest angler to have ever won the Cup?
— Jim Interlandi (Chicago, IL)
A: It means the world to me. It’s everything wrapped up into one. It solidifies your career and to be the youngest is an honor. To have won bass fishing’s biggest event at this age is really a blessing. It’s unbelievable.

Q: Jacob, at what point in the tournament did you realize that you had a real chance to win the Cup?
— Matt Hunt (San Diego, CA)
A: Mid morning on the first day I decided to start running the bluegill beds and finding good fish there I realized I had the fish to make it happen. I already success running up river, I had a limit at 9:30 a.m. and left. So when I realized both of those patterns were working I knew I had something going.Those were the game changers for sure.

Q: Jacob, I think you said that you used a variety of different baits during the Cup. Could you go into some detail as to which ones were the most effective and how you used them?
— Jon Pageler (New York, NY)
A: Basically I break it down to river baits and brim-bed baits. With the river baits, a very important bait for me the first day was a vibrating jig – similar to a ChatterBait. It worked well because there was plenty of current. Along with that though was a Trigger X tube. With that bait I was able to flip a few key fish out and get out of my area by 9:30 a.m. Once the fish got accustomed to that tube, I switched up and started using baits like the Trigger X Goo Bug. With regard to the bluegill beds, I used two primary baits – a whole bunch of different hand-carved prop baits as well as the Rapala X-Prop bait. If they wouldn’t commit to the X-Prop I’d throw a 5-inch Trigger X Flutter Worm in watermelon red rigged Wacky style. The fish had a little more time to pick up that type of bait.

Q: Great job on winning the Cup with the largemouths, you’re an inspiration buddy. I noticed you have also co-angled a few tournaments. What would you say was more beneficial to your career, participating as a co-angler in EverStarts or as a boater on the BFL circuit?
— Brandon (Tempe, AZ)
A: It’s a very good question. They’re both pretty important. The BFLs gave me the confidence I could compete. The BFL has some good anglers so that really helped me with my confidence. But fishing the EverStarts, I learned a lot technique wise. Drop-shotting for example wasn’t big in Indiana but when I went out to Table Rock I really got a good look at that technique. The one thing I’ve learned over the years is to never be too cocky or arrogant to take the time to learn something new. So seeing the different techniques in all regions of the country was very helpful.

Q: I am an aspiring young angler and wanted to ask you what is the best way to work your way to the top with sponsors? Also what different tournaments trails should I register for?
— Dakota Peoples (China Grove, NC)
A: I think the first thing before we talk about sponsors is to establish yourself in the industry. I’d probably start off fishing the BFLs. It’s a great way to gain confidence in your ability and see how you measure up. You have to have success locally before you get your name established statewide. Sponsors want someone who is established. But more importantly, sponsors want to know how you can help them. If you can demonstrate that, then later on, you will see all the benefits.

Q: I’ve been bass fishing since I was young but I just started tournament fishing this year. So far, I haven’t had any luck at all even though I’ve seemingly tried everything. Any thoughts on what I should try to do?
— Patrick (Ringgold, Va)
A: I think that the biggest thing, before somebody jumps into tournament bass fishing, it’s learning the fundamentals. You first have to understand the concepts before jumping into a tournament. And that’s a good rule for all aspiring tournament fisherman – learn how to flip, pitch, cast, practice those fundamentals. And that’s going to help you that much more once you get into tournaments. But if you know the basics and are still having trouble, I’d also suggest going back to a spinning rod – throw a Shaky Head with an 1/8-ounce weight, and 10-pound test line. Keep it simple. Target main-lake points or secondary points. Stick to the basics, start off slow and try not to get caught up in too many different things. Have a few baits you have confidence in and when you’ve mastered them, start adding more baits to your repertoire.

Q: Jacob, we all know what a great win this was for you to pretty much dominate from beginning to end, but how will you keep it going in upcoming events?
— Bill P (Elmwood Park, NJ)
A: You know, from here on out, I don’t live in the past. I’m proud of what happened, but for motivation from here on out, I have to look at it as each tournament is the most important of my entire life. I’m very competitive and that really drives me. And with all of the great pros out there, if you’re not getting better every tournament, they’re going to whoop you that’s for dang sure.

Q: Jacob congrats, I can just imagine the kind of preparation you went through leading up to the FLW Cup. But my question is this: When during the tourney did you say to yourself, “Hey, I’m going to win this thing?”
— Bill P (Elmwood Park, NJ)
A: I didn’t want to believe I could win the tournament. I just wanted to keep fishing and focus on what I needed to focus on. I really didn’t want to think about winning at all. But if there was one moment, I’d have to say after that third day, after catching the biggest bag and reestablishing my lead, it reconfirmed my thought that I just might be able to do this.

Q: Jacob, what do you feel has been your biggest advantage in allowing you to claim a legitimate place at the top of our sport at such a young age?
— Robbie Walker (Nicholasville, KY)
A: I think a lot of it was my drive, how much I love to fish and how much I strive to always get better. Before I started fishing professional, I was out on the water 350 days. A lot of it too was me appreciating what got me here. I had to borrow a boat to fish BFL and I didn’t have new equipment. A lot of people helped me out along the way. And remembering that, and remembering the help I got and wanting to show that all of their help paid off, was motivation for me.

Q: Jacob, many young fishermen don’t realize how much money and expenses are involved in becoming a professional angler. Can you tell us the about the “behind the scenes” expenses that you’ve seen? Also, what happens if you can’t get sponsored?
— Chris (Silver Spring, MD)
A: There are a lot of expenses for people who fish professional. Fishing eight tournaments this year, I’ve spent about $70.000 – that includes entry fees, gas money, equipment, etc. And that’s not being too crazy. So without sponsors, it’s really difficult to do. That’s why it’s so important to market yourself to sponsors.

Q: I’m looking to join the Bass Federation but do you have any advice on how to sign up?
— Erik (Acworth, GA)
A: Finding a club close to you is pretty important. You can also go online at:

Q: How hard is it to travel over the road all year long? Do you have any funny stories about your travels?
— Eddie B. (Mt. Washington, KY)
A: Traveling and driving is part of professional bass fishing. Everyone does it, everyone drives around the country. Some of it is enjoyable and some of it’s not. I’ve seen parts of the country that many people twice my age haven’t seen. There’s always funny stories. One story, I was fishing tidal waters and ready to run to another lily pad field, I stop, get off plane and my co-angler starts freaking out. I look back and there is a copper head there. I was fine but my co-angler was freaking out. He wanted to be taken to bank and have his wife picked him up. He said he didn’t care if he walked home. But I just grabbed a net, netted the copperhead and threw back in the water. Then the snake started swimming back to the boat and my co-angler started freaking out again. It was definitely one of those moments where I was laughing about as hard as I’d laughed all year.

Q: Did you try throwing a 12-inch worm during the tournament?
— Trip (Mt. City, KY)
A: I personally did not. The conditions really didn’t set up for that. However, if I was on Kentucky Lake that time of year I might have.

Q: What’s the difference between a spin-cast and a bait-casting reel??
— Austin Hronich (West Des Moines, IA)
A: A spin-casting reel in my opinion is designed for lighter baits and geared for more finesse tactics – drop-shot and Shaky heads. A bait-caster is more of a power-fishing reel. It’s a little more versatile. You can pitch with it, it’s more precise. And you control that with your thumb – you stop the line with your thumb. Getting used to how to those baits are thrown on that particular reel is key.

Q: Jacob first of all Congrats!! You’re a true champ at such a young age. In particular, for your younger fans and those trying to break into pro bass fishing, what advice or words of encouragement can you give them?
— Bill P (Elmwood Park, NJ)
A: The biggest thing I’d say is never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to come overnight. But the question is: How many sacrifices are you going to make to make it happen. While my friends were out partying, I was home tying jigs. If you want it that badly, you can do it. And don’t let anyone ever take that dream away from you.

Q: Jacob, thank you for returning my rainsuit last Thursday night. I checked all the pockets and didn’t find any $. Where did you stick it? 🙂 Yours Truly ! Bill B
— Bill Bauer (Carmel, IN)
A: It was very kind of you Bill to let me borrow your rainsuit. It’s there you just have to look a little bit harder. 🙂

Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have to chat with Jacob Wheeler today. Thanks, once again, to all the fans who tuned in and participated in today’s Reel Chat. And a special thanks to Jacob Wheeler, the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup champion, for giving us his time and insights into bass fishing.