What a tasty sandwich Jesse Wiggins made himself in the 2017 Bassmaster season. He opened and closed his year with victories, and in between fished well enough to triple qualify for the Classic.
“I can’t complain at all – bookends with both wins,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
Well he could have, and almost got it. In his first Elite event, the Cullman, Ala., pro led after Days 2 and 3 on Cherokee Lake before finishing third, less than a pound from winning a blue trophy.
“I almost had one of them,” he said. “I tried my dangest – 13 ounces. It was real close. It’s been an awesome year for sure.”
Wiggins won the 2017 season-opening Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on the Harris Chain. It made him the first qualifier for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
And in doing so, Wiggins earned a second Classic berth before fishing in his first. In 2016, he won the Southern Open on Smith Lake to get into the Lake Conroe Classic, where he finished a disappointing 33rd.
In the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points, he finished 2017 in 37th place to earn a second Classic qualification. Then on Sept. 30 he capped his year with a win on Smith Lake in the third Southern Open.
“I thought about it after I double qualified,” he said. “I knew that if I won that Open, I would triple qualify. I thought that was pretty neat.”
Wiggins said he feels it’s a special feat since only two others have triple qualified for a Classic – Chris Lane and Brent Chapman.
“That’s good company,” he said. “It’s pretty neat, I will say.”
In his 21 B.A.S.S. events, Wiggins has some other nifty stats. He’s won three events, has cashed checks in 16 and qualified to the Classic four times.
Fishing four Opens on Smith Like, his home lake, has benefitted Wiggins. His first ever B.A.S.S. event was there in a 2012 Open, in which he finished 56th. He was sixth on Smith in the 2014 Open before winning there the past two years.
“We just need the Bassmasters to keep coming to Smith Lake, that’s my main thing,” joked Wiggins, who added it’s a thing among his friends, including Classic champ Jordan Lee. “We were talking about sponsors, and I told him next year I’m going to put a picture of Smith Lake on my boat, because it’s should be my main sponsor.”
Wiggins isn’t taking his wins lightly, though. While he knows Smith Lake well, winning against that caliber and quantity of competitors never comes easy. He knows to relish any B.A.S.S. victory.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “Just looking at some of the guys who have only won one, or haven’t even won any, and they’re some really, really good anglers. I’m thankful for every one that I’m able to win.
“I don’t take any of them for granted. I know how tough it is. Even on your home lake, you have to get fortunate, get some key bites. Then you’ve got to get them in the boat when you do get those key bites. I’ve been fortunate and realize that. I’m thankful for every win.”
With his season over, Wiggins plans to guide some on Smith and keep his hand working as a respiratory therapist in the region, which he does a handful of times each month. He’s of the thought now that some upgrades in sponsorship will come in the offseason.
“That’s what I’m hoping, that the resume speaks for itself,” he said. “You’d think winning two of the three Opens in a series would get somebody’s attention.”
Yeah, you’d think.