Team Toyota pro Jacob Wheeler won the Bass Pro Tour B&W Hitches Stage One presented by Power-Pole with 24 bass weighing in at 68 pounds, the highest one-day total for the week. MLF Rookie Bryan Thrift led the field handsomely early in Period 1 with five catches in the first 30 minutes of competition. Ott DeFoe landed scorable bass on a steady pace all day long, including holding the lead at the of Periods 1 and 2. Ultimately Wheeler secured a solid lead with an 11-fish run as the clock wound down.
With cameras rolling on MLFNOW! at the end of Period 3, Jacob Wheeler paused to take in the reality that he had won.
"Unbelievable," he exclaimed. "To start off this 2020 Bass Pro Tour season with a win here on Lake Eufaula; it's unbelievable. I owe it to everyone who supports me, especially my wife, Alicia."
Wheeler, winner of Qualifying Round Group B and Thrift, winner of Qualifying Round Group A, each earned a Championship Round berth skipping the Knockout Round on Tuesday. A new Bass Pro Tour rule for 2020, there was some uncertainty on how a day off would fair for the advanced anglers. Thrift and Wheeler coming in first and second on Championship Round suggests that a day off is nothing to worry about.
Wheeler had a great week overall, but his late-day heroics are what resulted in his second Bass Pro Tour win in as many years.
He landed 24 bass for 68 pounds, which was the highest one-day total of the week. To put that into perspective, he caught 51-6 in two fishing days during the Qualifying Rounds, and still won his group and automatically qualified for today's Championship Round.
While he caught fish in several areas and on different baits, his offshore spinnerbait bite was what sealed the deal. The area that he describes as a staging area – a big point leading into a creek, with fish moving toward the bank to spawn – was something that he found in practice, and it paid off today.
"I fished it the first two days of the tournament, but the water had gotten muddy," Wheeler said. "I was fishing another spot that was starting to clear up and it made me think of trying this area again. When I went there today, it was even better than it was in practice."
That move paid big dividends as he plied his signature series 1-ounce Accent "Ledge Series" spinnerbait in the Spot Remover color. Wheeler said he targeted the 8- to 14-foot zone all week long, with 8 to 12 feet being the prime depth range.
He fished his spinnerbait on a 7-foot medium-heavy Duckett Fishing Jacob Wheeler Series rod with a 6.3:1 Duckett 320 reel spooled with 20-pound Sufix Advance fluorocarbon.
His other key baits this week were a Rapala DT-14 and DT-16 and a jig with a Googan Baits Bandito Bug for a trailer.
"Second place feels like a win to me," Thrift said. "My hat's off to Jacob, and I have no complaints about my week. It's a great feeling to finish well in my first Major League Fishing event."
Ott DeFoe rode a strong morning bite to a commanding lead in the second period. He caught the Berkley Big Bass of the Day, weighing in at six pounds 15 ounces, within 90 minutes of Period 1. As the sun passed overhead, Thrift assumed a seemingly comfortable lead before Wheeler took control for good with an impressive flurry of fish catches:11 in one hour, 24 for the day.
"I caught two right away and then the first spot dried up," DeFoe said. "They weren't set up the same as they were yesterday, and I couldn't get them fired up."
The Phoenix Boats Daily Leader award went to Jacob Wheeler with 68 pounds.
Place Angler Total Weight Total Fish Largest Fish Winnings
1 Jacob Wheeler 68-00 24 4-10 $100,000
2 Bryan Thrift 40-11 13 5-11 $42,000
3 Ott DeFoe 34-09 10 6-15 $30,000
4 Alton Jones, Jr. 26-12 9 4-08 $24,000
5 Dustin Connell 24-00 6 5-11 $18,000
6 Brent Chapman 20-10 8 3-12 $16,800
7 Takahiro Omori 16-04 5 4-08 $15,600
8 Brett Hite 9-13 3 3-11 $14,400
9 Jordan Lee 5-10 2 3-08 $13,200
10 Adrian Avena 4-03 2 2-03 $12,000
For complete results from the entire week, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com, Bass Pro Tour, Results.