After trying to reach the Bassmaster Elite Series for five seasons, Alex Wetherell is on the cusp on making his dream come true in 2022.
Wetherell notched his second Top 10 in the 2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Northern Opens presented by Mossy Oak with a 10th-place finish at Oneida Lake, lifting him to second place in the Northern Open standings with 388 points, 10 points behind current Elite Series pro Kenta Kimura.
A fourth-place finish at the first event at the James River, as well as positive history on Oneida before this event, set the tone for what has been an impressive season so far.
“Obviously I had a great finish at the James River,” Wetherell said. “I had high hopes for making a Top 10 here, if not having a really good finish. I had a pretty good practice, an open mind and had to make some adjustments from what I thought I would be doing. I think that is what helped me get to the point where I actually could make the Top 10.”
Wetherell has seven career Top 10s in Bassmaster Open competition, but a myriad of unfortunate events have prevented him from getting that coveted invite to the top level. In the 2017 Northern Opens, the Connecticut native finished fourth at Oneida and sixth at Douglas Lake in Tennessee, but a 128th-place finish at the James River that season derailed his Elite opportunity.
“It has been a character building experience,” he said. “My engine breaking down and things that have been out of my control have kept me from being able to qualify in the past when I’ve been close. I’m hoping, with the position I’m in, this will be the year. The times where I’ve had things happen where I felt like I could qualify and didn’t, I used that time to build myself and who I am.”
In his quest to positively impact the things he can control, Wetherell has adjusted his practice attitude and turned each day into a learning experience. This was critical to his success at the James River, where he led Day 1 by catching 25-9.
“One of the biggest things is practice and eliminating water. If I have a bad day of practice, I look at that as eliminating water, and it is a good thing,” Wetherell explained. “The James is a perfect example of that. I had four or five days of practice and I thought I would come in 200th-place. Ultimately I was eliminating water so when I did find something good, that is where I had to go.”
The last event on the Northern Opens schedule could set up in Wetherell’s favor as well. While he has never been to the Upper Chesapeake Bay, Wetherell loves to fish tidal systems and embraces tournaments where it is tough to get bites.
“September is tough wherever you go,” he said. “I like tough tournaments. I think you have to be detail oriented in everything you do. One of my co-anglers was from there so hopefully I can get some information on how to run around the flats down there.”
Northern Open standings tighten
In order to make his Elite Series dream a reality, Wetherell will have to hold off several strong anglers who are also within striking distance in the Northern Open standings. Sitting behind Kimura and Wetherell is Japanese standout Kyoyo Fujita, who occupies the last transfer spot to the Elites in the Northern division with 376 points.
Next in line is long-time touring professional Cody Meyer with 371 points, who improved his season with a Top 10 at Oneida. Elite Series legend Mike Iaconelli is tied for fifth with Jacob Walker with 365 points apiece.
Keith Poche is seventh with 360 points followed by John Garrett in eighth (355), John Soukup is ninth (353) and Hugh Cosculluela is 10th (348).
With four total events left in the season, the Opens overall standings are starting to take shape as well. Soukup continues to lead the overall standings with 826 points while Canadian young gun Cooper Gallant is close behind in second with 807 points and Poche rounds out the Top 3 with 781 points.
Kimura and Kyle Patrick round out the top five.
The final Northern Open will be Sept. 8-10 in Cecil County, Maryland. Once that event is complete, the top three in the Northern standings will be extended invites to the 2023 Elite Series field given they are not already Elite Series anglers.