Jacob Wheeler is two for two in the Elites, still batting .1000, but don’t think he believes bass fishing’s top circuit is easy.
“No, I know better than that,” Wheeler said a day after winning his first event as a full-time Elite.
Talent along with hard work led him to victory on Cherokee Lake. He might have pre-practiced there for two weeks because he wanted a big statement in his first at-bat, go Nuke Laloosh and “announce his presence with authority.”
“I don’t know about that,” Wheeler said laughing. “I definitely want a career in fishing and fortunately everything worked out. I work hard. I’m not going to lie. I spend a lot of time at it. I really, really do. I eat and sleep bass fishing. I love it.”
It shows. Wheeler won his only other Elite, the 2014 Bassmaster BASSfest at Chickamauga Lake, after qualifying from his standing in the Bass Pro Shops Opens. That event was a little different in that both Elites and Opens guys fished in it. He’d already made a name for himself as the youngest winner of a BLF All-American (2011) and FLW Cup (2012.)
When he weighed the biggest bag on Sunday (18-3) and overtook rookies Jamie Hartman and Jesse Wiggins, Wheeler proved the old adage that practice makes perfect.
Driving home from Knoxville to Indianapolis, where he would swap out smallmouth tackle for largemouth then turn around for his third Elite in Florida, he repeated what he thought has given him the top winning percentage in the Elites.
“I worked my butt off at Cherokee,” he said. “One of the best places I found was on Jan. 4. The only other guy I saw was Mark Daniels Jr. It was windy, snowing sideways. It was so cold you didn’t even want to fish. I found two of the places right then I ended up catching them on. I idled for 50 hours.”
The first stint of practice for Wheeler was from Dec. 12-20, then he returned in January for another week before the off-limits period began. It’s not something he always does because of the changing nature of most fisheries.
“Normally, you put in that much time and effort into an event, it doesn’t benefit you because things change,” he said. “But in wintertime, those fish are more than likely not going to move. They’re set in their ways, they’re going to stay in the main places. When that’s happening, that’s the time to spend pre-practicing.”