By Tyler Brinks
BRANSON, Mo. – After flooding caused Bass Pro Tour Bad Boy Mowers Stage Seven Presented by Covercraft to be moved from Grand Lake to Table Rock Lake, Jacob Wheeler was ready to get another shot at the Ozarks. He had finished fifth at Table Rock just days before during Stage Six, and was highly in tune with what the fish were doing.
On his second trip to “The Rock,” Wheeler walked away with the big trophy and a $100,000 payday. Here’s how he was able to amass 56 bass for 84-0 on the final day, and hold off a late charge by Brandon Palaniuk to secure his first Bass Pro Tour victory.
Three Main Deals
Wheeler said three techniques played a role in his victory as he targeted points, humps, submerged trees, and other offshore locales. Toward the end of the Championship Round, he also keyed on docks that he felt had less pressured bass.
“It was three main techniques on the final day: a drop-shot, swimbait, and a Neko rig around docks late in the day,” Wheeler said.
The Duckett Fishing pro started by casting the swimbait and then relied on the drop-shot as a mop-up bait.
“My first cast to each area was with the swimbait to try to catch the easy ones if they were grouped up. Then, I switched to the drop-shot and could pick off individual fish,” Wheeler added.
Overall, Wheeler said the drop-shot rig was his best producer during the last day. He used a hand-poured straight tail worm, as well as a Googan Baits Drag n Drop, both in the Morning Dawn color, which he rigged on a 1/0 VMC Finesse Neko Hook with a 1/4-ounce VMC Cylinder Drop-Shot weight.
Wheeler said Texas-rigging the bait, as opposed to nose-hooking, was a key.
“I was dropping it into brush and timber, and a nose-hooked bait hangs up more,” Wheeler said. “Plus, I think you hook them better with a Texas-rig.”
His drop-shot gear included a 7-foot-2 medium-heavy Duckett Jacob Wheeler Signature Series spinning rod with a 3000-sized spinning reel attached. He spooled it with 8-pound Sufix NanoBraid mainline and a 10-pound Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon leader due to the heavy cover he was fishing.
The swimbait Wheeler relied on was initially designed as a saltwater bait, but Wheeler and others have learned that freshwater bass like it as well. He fished both a 3- and 4-inch Storm 360GT Largo Shad in the Pearl color, rigging it on a 3/8-ounce prototype VMC jighead.
“I catching suspended fish around trees and in schools on the points,” Wheeler said.
He fished the swimbait on a 7-foot medium-heavy Duckett Jacob Wheeler Signature Series casting rod paired with a 6.3:1 Duckett Fishing 360 Series reel spooled with 12-pound Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon.
Neko Rig Gear
The Neko rig was an essential tool for Wheeler late in the day as he secured the victory.
He fished a 5-inch Googan Baits Lunker Log in the Baby Bass color rigged on a Size 2 VMC Neko Hook, and inserted a 1/16-ounce VMC Nail Weight. His rod, reel, and line setup were identical to what he used with a drop-shot.
“The other places I was fishing were getting harder to catch, and I knew that the fish around the docks were not as beat up,” Wheeler shared. “Those fish on the docks really saved me.”