Wheeler drives home BASSfest victory
By Deb Johnson
DAYTON, Tenn. — Jacob Wheeler chose the road less traveled. It led straight to victory Sunday in the inaugural Bassmaster BASSfest event.
The 23-year-old from Indianapolis, Ind., amassed 90 pounds, 6 ounces over four days of competition on Chickamauga Lake. His margin of victory was 5 pounds and 10 ounces over arguably the best angler on the planet, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kevin VanDam, who stepped up from third place to finish as the runner-up.
After leading for two days, Wheeler added a pad of 22-1 Sunday to clinch the win. He took home $125,000 and a qualification for the 2015 world championship, the Bassmaster Classic.
“I feel unbelievable,” said Wheeler, who at age 21 made a name for himself on the FLW tour by winning the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup. “To be the first BASSfest champion, and to do it in my first Elite Series event…I mean, these (Elite) guys are the best in the world. I couldn’t feel more humbled. The stars lined up for me this week.”
The Classic qualification means as much to him as the event win, he said.
“That’s so big, qualifying for the Classic,” Wheeler said. “That’s the event you want to be in for your career to advance. I’ve wanted to qualify for a Classic since I was 10 years old.”