Team: Brothers both want Classic berth

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Older brother Jesse Wiggins claimed his Classic berth with a win at the 2016 Southern Open #2.
James Overstreet

Older brother Jesse Wiggins claimed his Classic berth with a win at the 2016 Southern Open #2.

PARIS, Tenn. –  Jesse Wiggins has proven he’s ready to fish with the big boys.

He started competing in Bassmaster Southern Open events two years ago, and he qualified for the 2015 Elite Series after finishing second in the Southern Opens points race in 2014. He decided not to join the Elite tour right away, however, and came back to the Opens in 2016 with plenty of fight.

He fared well in all three Bassmaster Southern Opens this year, and he won the 2016 Bass Pro Shops event on Smith Lake near his hometown of Cullman, Ala. That victory earned him a berth in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic when it’s held in March on Lake Conroe near Houston, Texas, and it also provided him incentive (both emotional and financial) to join the Elite Series in 2017.

But even with that bright future just ahead, Wiggins finds himself on Kentucky Lake this week fishing in the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship. And he’s not ashamed to admit, he said, that he’s not even the best angler in his boat.

Jesse’s fishing for a spot in the Classic this week, but not for himself. This one is for his little brother Jordan Wiggins – another fantastic angler who’s looking for his own shot in the 2017 Super Bowl of bass fishing.

The two members of the winning duo at the team championship on Wednesday and Thursday advance to a Classic Fish-Off on Friday and Saturday. The top six anglers compete, and the winner of that event will earn the final berth in the Classic on Conroe.

Jesse, 27, was hoping a solid showing on Kentucky Lake would help Jordan in his own quest for the Classic. It appears that will take a miracle, however, as the Wiggins’ first-day total of 12 pounds, 7 ounces places them 51st of 186 teams fishing here – more than 12 pounds back of Day 1 leaders Ken Thompson and Brad Weese.

No worries, though, the brothers said. They’re having fun competing in the team championship, and said team fishing is where they got their start.

“These team events are awesome,” Jesse Wiggins said. “The plan (Wednesday) was to do well and get him a shot at the Classic. But we struggled. But team fishing; this is where I got my start. Team fishing is really all I did until I stared fishing in the Opens in 2014.”

Jordan, 25, is 1 1/2 years younger than Jesse, and he just opened his own heating and air conditioning company back home. He joked that he can’t fish as often as Jesse, who “works like six days, and then has eight days off,” Jordan said with a laugh.

Jesse, who works as a respiratory therapist as well as juggling preparation for his upcoming career as an Elite Series angler, said it’s true – if Jordan had more time to fish, he’d be fishing against the big boys of B.A.S.S. as well.

“No joke,” Jesse said. “I just find the fish, and he typically catches them. Either way, we have fun together. We’ve been fishing these tournaments as long as we could drive to them.”

When the team championship is complete, Jesse Wiggins will renew his focus on his own Classic experience. He’s never attended a Bassmaster Classic, much less fished in one, so he’s excited about the prospects. And he said team fishing provided him the experience to be able to compete well against the world’s best on the Elite Series.

“You figure out how to catch them in team fishing,” he said. “You get to know the lakes. I fish on the Alabama Bass Trail, and there are some really good anglers in that. I think team fishing is a great way to get some experience to get ready for something like the Elites.”

And there’s always hope that Jordan can join him in the near future. The younger Wiggins joked that maybe he could fish a day of the Classic for Jesse in some sort of fraternal co-operative agreement.

“I’d be glad to do that,” Jordan said. “But really, we’ll just see what happens in the future. I fish when I can.”

And according to his brother Jesse, he does that quite well.

“Who better to have as a teammate than your brother?” Jesse asked.

Weigh-in for Day 2 of the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship will begin at 2:30 p.m. CST at Paris Landing State Park in northwestern Tennessee. The field will be culled to six individual anglers after Thursday’s weigh-in, with the Classic Fish-Off set for Friday and Saturday.

The events are sponsored by the Henry County Alliance.