On Sunday, August 12, while the 2012 Summer Olympic Games were coming to a close in London, bass fishing’s best were making their final casts in the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup on Georgia’s Lake Lanier.
At day’s end, 21-year-old bass phenom Jacob Wheeler took home the gold with an impressive 60 pounds, 1 ounce, earning a giant cup and an even bigger check for $500,000. The Hoosier becomes the youngest angler to ever win the event.
With so much money and prestige on the line, Wheeler turned to confidence topwaters and soft plastics to get the job done. “I’m always looking for consistency in bait action, for every bait to run right and true out of the box … and that means Rapala and Trigger X,” says Wheeler.
On day one that meant Trigger X Aggression Flippin’ Tubes and the recently introduced Goo Bug, rigged Texas-style on a 4/O VMC Heavy Duty Flippin’ Hook with a ¼-ounce VMC tungsten weight. Watermelon Red Flake and Carolina Bug quickly proved to be the money-making colors.
“The Goo Bug was simply the right bait. It’s subtle on the fall and has a seductive, natural movement in the current – perfect for where I was fishing on the river, gliding in and around wood. Plus, it’s not too bulky, not too small,” says Wheeler.
Concentrating his time on the far reaches of the Chattahoochee River, Wheeler dialed in bites on current breaks, eddies and bluegill beds, the latter which proved tantamount to his success.
Wheeler used a one-two punch on day two to summon key bites—an X-Rap Prop followed by seducing difficult fish with a Trigger X Flutter Worm.
“I gave the fish something they’d never seen before—a Yellow Perch colored X-Rap Prop. My whole approach was to irritate the fish so much they had no choice but to eat it. Three twitches and a pause of four or five seconds and repeat,” says Wheeler. “And if they’d turn away I’d quickly fire a 5-inch Watermelon Red Trigger X Flutter Worm rigged weightless at ‘em.”
But he admits he was a little jittery going into Day 3 of the tournament. “I saved one particular bluegill bed for the third day. I knew there were three fish – possibly another 4 pounder on that bed – so I threw the X-Rap Prop, made a ton of commotion and let it sit. Then the big girl came up and just annihilated it, swallowing the whole bait,” says Wheeler.
At the end of the event, Wheeler emerged victorious by over 7 pounds, with a total weight of 60 pounds, 1 ounce. The half-mil purse triples his past career earnings and notches his stick with yet another biggie – the FLW Cup, right next to his All-American win.
“I feel blessed,” Wheeler added. “In 100 years I never would have thought I could be sitting here next to the Forrest Wood Cup. It’s the best day of my life!”
Image courtesy of Gary Mortenson