Rookie Wetherell finally finds his mojo

ORANGE, Texas — Alex Wetherell set some lofty goals after winning the Northern Opens points title last year and qualifying for the Elite Series. The goals were: 1) to win an Elite Series tournament, and 2) post three Top 10 finishes.

Coming into the Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite at the Sabine River, Wetherell hadn’t made a Day 2/Top 50 cut in the previous five tournaments. The difficulties presented by this fishery made it an unlikely place to turn around a rookie season. However, the 30-year-old Middletown, Conn., angler did just that. He’s in 6th place after three days on the Sabine River with a total of 27 pounds, 13 ounces.

“On a tough fishery, in front of a huge crowd, yeah, it’s a huge confidence boost,” Wetherell said after weighing-in Saturday. “Those were lofty goals, but I felt like I was fishing really comfortable and really confident before the season. I was never star-struck. I was never overwhelmed with seeing everyone. But there are a bunch of different factors that you have to get used to and start to settle into the process. Maybe I felt a little bit of pressure and started over-thinking things.”

Interestingly, a failure at Lake Seminole was a big factor in his turnaround at the Sabine River. Wetherell finished 58th at Seminole, which was his best finish prior to this week.

“At Seminole I lost three big fish on a frog, and I missed the 50-cut because of that,” he said. “I went out and bought $200-worth of frogs and started experimenting. I thought, ‘I know frogs and here I am lacking confidence catching them on a frog.’”

Wetherell settled on a Savage Gear Hop Walker as his frog of choice. He estimated 80 percent of his fish have come on that frog this week. The other fish catches were divided evenly between a Z-Man 3/8ths-ounce spinnerbait and a 6-inch white Lunker City Slug-Go.

“I’m fishing the same area, just outside these grass lines,” he said. “It’s bank grass. It’s almost like Lay Lake in a way. I’m fishing the frog through that, the spinnerbait around the wood and pieces of cover in the grass and the Slug-Go on the outside edge of it.”

As you would expect from someone who grew up in Connecticut and considers Candlewood Lake his home lake, Wetherell is looking forward to the remaining three tournaments this season when the northern swing is made to Lake St. Clair, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.

But Wetherell is just happy to be fishing on the Elite Series and, more importantly, settling in with some confidence restored.

“I knew I wanted to do this before I was 10 years old,” he said. “In high school, my guidance counselor was like, ‘Alright, Alex, what do you really want to do?’ I said I wanted to be a pro fisherman. He said, ‘That’s cool, that’s cool. But what do you really want to be?’”

When Wetherell won the 2010 Junior Bassmaster World Championship at the age of 17, anyone’s questions about what Alex Wetherell really wanted to be when he grew up were answered. This week, Wetherell answered some questions that were taking shape in his mind.

Yes, he can compete at the highest level of professional bass fishing.