Is there a Chiropractor in the house?

Ott DeFoe is about as still as a statue. Standing in the front of the boat, fishing straight down, with his head bent forward and staring at his Humminbird unit. There's no casting with this style of fishing. It's more like playing a video game. Watch the fish on screen and wait for the bite. It takes patience. He fished the same way yesterday.

"I'm going to need a chiropractor for my neck," said DeFoe.

World, meet Wiggins

World, it's time to meet Jesse Wiggins. That is if you hadn't been introduced to him already. The 27-year-old from Cullman, Ala., won the Southern Open on Harris Chain (Fla.) last month, and the Open on Smith Lake (Ala.) in 2016. This is just his ninth Bassmaster event, and his first Elite. He made the 2017 Classic with the Smith Lake victory, and he qualified for the 2018 Classic by winning the Harris Chain tournament. To my knowledge he's the first angler to make two Classics without fishing one. He made the Elites by finishing third in the Bassmaster Southern Opens. Oh and he was the 2016 Angler of the Year for the Alabama Bass Trail.

Wiggins actually qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series once before by finishing second in the 2014 Southern Opens. But he passed on that opportunity, perhaps he wasn't ready financially. It appears the additional years of fishing have set him up well to compete with the big boys.

He's still working on getting the money right. Wiggins is a respiratory therapist and continues to do that between tournaments.

He has 15 pounds of bass today, and currently leads the field in BASSTrakk. Even if doesn't add to that weight he's likely to make the Top 12. Not a bad start to his Elite Series career.

Hartman cool and calm

Yesterday I spoke with Jamie Hartman and he was as cool and calm as it gets. I asked him why he was able maintain such composure in his first Bassmaster Elite Series event when he was positioned in third, and he said it was because of practice.

Hartman's practice was a tale of two months as he caught plenty of fish in pre-practice and actually felt he could win the event. With that being said, he arrived and conducted the three days of official practice this week, and he was left scratching his head. He was not on what he would consider the winning fish and had to settle for the little that he had confidence in.

"When you are on fish, that's when you get the butterflies in your stomach because you can't wait to try and load the boat," Hartman said. "But I was in survival mode so I had to stay calm and dialed in on the little area I did have."

The seasoned rookie seems to be finding his groove and is sliding into his comfort zone this week.

Feider gets encouraging signs

You heard some wavering in Seth Feider's game plan at Friday's weigh-in. On the one hand, he only landed five bass yesterday. On the other hand, he lost two good ones and he still weighed 15-1 for a fourth place two-day total of 33-11. Feider has mentioned since Day 1 the possibility of bailing out on his deep smallmouth pattern if it begins to fail.

However, two 3-pounders in the boat this morning will certainly make Feider stick to his knitting for awhile.

"The fish are still there," Feider said yesterday. "I didn't get as many bites today, maybe half as many. It's tapering down pretty bad. I don't know if I can catch five tomorrow. It may be smallmouth in the morning and largemouth in the afternoon.

"I caught five fish all day and weighed 15 pounds. That's not culling up. Every bite I get out there is a nice fish – all 2 1/2 to 4 pounds."

That's no longer true. Feider just caught his first non-keeper smallmouth from his area. It measured 14 1/2 inches. But with two good ones in the livewell, he's more encouraged than discouraged this morning.

The $10,000 ounce

One ounce was expected to be the difference between earning $10,000 Friday or going home with nothing, and it was. David Fritts, the former Bassmaster Classic champion, had the ten-grand difference-maker yesterday with a two-day total of 25-2. With 110 anglers, the two-day cut was made at 51st place. 

Two accomplished Elite Series pros were tied with 25-1, Ish Monroe and Jacob Powroznik. It had to be a particularly tough exit for Monroe, who caught only three keepers weighing 9-9, after weighing 15-8 on Day 1.

Wiggins with a limit

At 8:10 our leader, Jesse Wiggins, had his limit. We're guess-timating he has 14 pounds. There are at least two good culls in the bunch. Oops, he just culled one and added a half pound.

Wiggins with fourth keeper

Jesse Wiggins just landed his fourth keeper. We're estimating that gives him 11 pounds in the livewell. That's four keepers by 8 a.m. And he lost his fifth near the boat. This boy is off to a fast start again. On Friday, Day 2, he had his limit by 8 a.m.

Our boat driver Jason Chambers, a resident of nearby Maryville, told us conditions are perfect for Cherokee. Air temperature is 53 degrees, with heavy cloud cover and a slight breeze.

The Wiggins fan club

Jesse Wiggins has certainly generated some excitement in his young fishing career. Cherokee Lake is just his ninth Bassmaster tournament. Eight of those being Opens, and this is his first Elite. As you can see in the panoramic photo, the fans are fired up to see this 27-year-old from Cullman, Ala. I counted 31 boats in his spectator gallery. Can't say I've ever seen that many boats following a rookie. He's fishing in a well known community hole. Word spread quickly among the locals that he was fishing this spot. There were 16 boats waiting here before he arrived.

Watch out for Tharp today

You’d think Randall Tharp would have been one big smile after catching 20-11 Friday and moving up from 59th to 6th. But he confessed some leftover anger from Day 1.

“I’m mad at myself,” Tharp said. “I expected to catch ‘em like this yesterday. I had a good idea of how I wanted to fish before practice started. Then I got 15 bites in the first hour of practice. I stayed away from it the next two days of practice, just to try to find something different.”

Tharp spent a few days on Tennessee’s Norris Lake before practice began Monday at Cherokee. Nothing fishes quite like Cherokee, but Ott DeFoe advised Tharp that Norris was the closest thing to it. Tharp also wanted to break in a new boat.

Tharp found a pattern at Norris that led to those 15 bites in the first hour of practice at Cherokee. But on Day 1 at Cherokee, the water clarity had diminished considerably in his area. He figured out where to fish by the end of the day, which is why he rocketed up the standings with a full day to do it on Friday.

“Nothing really clicked yesterday,” Tharp said. “A lot of my stuff was blown out. Today I just stayed in a section of the lake that had the right water.”

Keep an eye on Tharp today. He weighed all largemouth bass Friday, including a 5-5, the big bass of the tournament so far.

“I think these fish are moving up,” Tharp said. “They’re wanting to go spawn. You can look at the bellies on the ones I caught (Friday) and see what’s going on. They’re coming.”

Quick first fish for Wiggins

Day 2 leader Jesse Wiggins arrived at his spot five minutes ago and has already landed two keepers and just lost a big bass. There is a huge gallery of spectator boats watching the young angler fish. More than 30 boats. Each fish has set off a boisterous cheer from the fans.

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