Thursday, July 25, 2024

Jacob Wheeler Leads After Hot Start at MLF Bass Pro Tour General Tire Stage Six at James River

Date:

Tennessee pro weighs in 78 pounds, 8 ounces to lead after Day 1 for Group A – Group B begins competition Wednesday

RICHMOND, Va. (June 25, 2024) – The heat wave that greeted the Bass Pro Tour field upon its arrival to the James River for practice prior to the Major League Fishing (MLF) General Tire Stage Six Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts relented during the opening day of competition, but only barely, with temperatures still climbing into the low 90s. The fishing, meanwhile, was just as hot.

Of the 39 pros who took to the water for the first day of qualifying in Group A, 27 stacked at least 20 pounds on SCORETRACKER® and 11 hit the 40-pound mark. It took 40 pounds, 6 ounces to claim a spot inside the cut line – the third-heaviest 10th-place total for an opening day of qualifying all season, narrowly trailing only the first two days of Stage Three at Dale Hollow.

And yet, despite that torrid pace, two-time Fishing Clash Angler of the Year Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee , still managed to put plenty of distance between himself and the rest of the field. Wheeler stacked up 78-8 on 33 scorable bass, 30-15 ahead of General Tire pro Skeet Reese of Auburn, California, in second. Behind Wheeler, the weights are tightly bunched, with just 2-9 separating Reese from seventh place.

The six-day tournament, hosted by Richmond Region Tourism , showcases 78 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of $659,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and REDCREST 2025, the Bass Pro Tour championship.


The 39 anglers in Group A will now have an off day from competition Wednesday, while the 39 anglers competing in Group B will begin their first day of competition. Group A will resume competition on Thursday.

Seeing Wheeler’s name atop SCORETRACKER® might not come as a surprise to anyone. A two-time winner this season, he’s made the Knockout Round in six of seven events and the Championship Round in five of them. But based on his practice, Wheeler said he didn’t anticipate such a strong start.

“I did not expect that at all,” he said. “You’d get a bite here, a bite there in practice, and then when you really lean on things, you start to realize what you have. Some places I thought were going to be really good, they were horrible, and I didn’t catch anything. And then other places that I thought were like ‘ehh’ were really good.”

Wheeler made it a point to cover water Tuesday. He caught fish in multiple areas using “five completely different techniques.” While that might sound random, it’s not; he’s matching the technique to the area to the tide.

The mouth of the Chickahominy River, a popular James tributary, experienced low tide (typically regarded as the best bite) around the end of the first period on Day 1. Wheeler’s most productive stretch came shortly thereafter. Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., he racked up more than 60 pounds on 24 scorable bass.

“There are bite windows on this body of water, and the tide dictates that,” Wheeler explained. “There are bite windows at high tide, there are bite windows at incoming, outgoing. So, it’s just slowly dialing that in, and today, everything collided and worked out well.”

As impressive as Wheeler’s opening day was, he knows he’ll need to adapt as the tournament progresses. Even though he didn’t have much trouble accessing the spots he wanted to hit Tuesday, fishing pressure could impact the bite, with much of the field crowded in and around the Chickahominy. More important will be adjusting to the changing tide, with low tide getting later each day.

That’s where Wheeler’s sizable advantage over the cut line could help him. As usual, he caught as much weight as possible on Day 1 with the hope that he can use the second day of qualifying to continue to learn the fishery. More than 38 pounds clear of 11th place, he should only have to catch a few scorable bass to ensure himself a spot in the Knockout Round.

“I think I have some stuff that will continue, but it’s definitely temperamental,” Wheeler said. “Looking at paper, you’re like, ‘holy crap, Wheeler is going to win.’ But it’s not like that. We’re running an incoming tide on the Championship Day. I think we’re going to have a very little bit of an incoming tide on the Knockout Round. I mean, it’s just completely different conditions, and I’m going to have to make the right adjustments to have a really good finish in this tournament.”

Wheeler’s biggest takeaway from his first day of competition on the James was the fruitfulness of the fishery. He estimates he caught at least 80 bass on the day including those under the 1-8 minimum weight.

“This place is really healthy,” Wheeler said. “It’s got an insane number of bass in it. My thumbs are definitely sore.”

The top 20 pros in Group A after Day 1 on James River are:

1st:         Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 33 bass, 78-8
2nd:        Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif., 21 bass, 47-9
3rd:        Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 21 bass, 47-5
4th:        Gerald Spohrer, Gonzales, La., 21 bass, 47-0
5th:        Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 21 bass, 46-6
6th:        Justin Cooper, Zwolle, La., 22 bass, 45-3
7th:        Bobby Lane, Lakeland, Fla., 20 bass, 45-0
8th:        Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., 20 bass, 43-10
9th:        Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, 21 bass, 41-9
10th:      Keith Poche, Pike Road, Ala., 15 bass, 40-6
11th:      Edwin Evers, Talala, Okla., 20 bass, 40-4
12th:      Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., 15 bass, 39-6
13th:      Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., 18 bass, 37-0
14th:      Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 17 bass, 34-10
15th:      Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., 14 bass, 33-5
16th:      Marshall Robinson, Landrum, S.C., 14 bass, 33-1
17th:      Jared Lintner, Covington, Ga., 15 bass, 31-1
18th:      Cliff Crochet, Pierre Part, La., 13 bass, 30-9
19th:      Todd Faircloth, Jasper, Texas, 13 bass, 29-7
20th:      Grae Buck, Green Lane, Penn., 13 bass, 28-8

A complete list of results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 543 scorable bass weighing 1,194 pounds, 8 ounces caught by 39 pros Tuesday, which included one 7-pounder, one 6-pounder and two 5-pounders.

Keith Poche of Pike Road, Alabama, earned Tuesday’s $1,000 Berkley Big Bass Award after a 7-pound, 10-ounce largemouth bit his shaky head rig in Period 2. Berkley awards $1,000 to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass each day, and another $3,000 bonus to the angler who weighs the heaviest bass of the tournament.

Wheeler arrived at the James leading the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year race, and he’s not showing any signs of slowing. The two-time AOY winner started the event 14 points clear of Alton Jones Jr., with Dustin Connell another 10.5 back of Jones. Jones and Connell will take the water with Group B on Wednesday.

The 39 Anglers in Group A compete in their two-day Qualifying Round on Tuesday and Thursday – the 40 anglers in Group B on Wednesday and Friday. After each two-day Qualifying Round is complete, the anglers that finish first through 10th from both groups advance to Saturday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 20 anglers compete to finish in the top 10 to advance to Sunday’s Championship Round. In the final-day Championship Round, weights are zeroed, and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. ET each day from Osborne Landing, located at 9530 Osborne Turnpike in Richmond. Due to long boat runs, tides and high temperatures, MLF has enacted the Trailering Policy for the entirety of the event, meaning pros can trailer their boats and drive them to any ramp on the fishery closer to where they plan to start fishing. Pros taking advantage of the trailering policy will leave Osborne Landing at 6:45 a.m. ET daily and will begin fishing at 8 a.m. ET (Lines In) with the full field.

Each day’s General Tire Takeout will be held at the landing, beginning at 4 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and takeout events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLFNOW!® live stream and SCORETRACKER® coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com .

The MLFNOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee and J.T. Kenney will break down the extended action live on the final four days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET. MLFNOW!®  will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com  and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.

On Saturday and Sunday, June 29-30, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. MLF welcomes fans of all ages to visit Osborne Landing for the MLF Watch Party and Kids Fishing Derby. Fans can watch the pros live on the MLFNOW! big screen, enjoy free food, enter to win hourly giveaways and cheer on their favorite pros. The first 50 kids 14 and under will receive a free rod and reel from Pure Fishing each day. Additional fishing gear will be provided onsite for the fishing derby or kids can bring their own. The final 10 Championship Round Bass Pro Tour anglers will be on hand at the trophy celebration on Championship Sunday to meet and greet fans, sign autographs and take selfies.

The General Tire Stage Six at James River Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts features the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, in which anglers catch as much weight as they can each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. The tournament features anglers competing with a 1-pound, 8-ounce minimum weight requirement for a bass to be deemed scorable. The MLF Fisheries Management Division determines minimum weights for each body of water that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.

The Bass Pro Tour features a field of 78 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing across seven regular-season tournaments around the country, for millions of dollars and valuable points to qualify for the annual General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event and the REDCREST 2025 championship.

Fishing Clash, an interactive 3D fishing simulation game that’s played by more than 80 million people worldwide, is the official AOY sponsor of the Bass Pro Tour, Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Toyota Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League. You can download Fishing Clash for free in the App Store and on Google Play or log on to www.fishingclash.game for more information.

Television coverage of the General Tire Stage Six at James River Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts Championship Round will air as a two-hour episode starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Nov. 9 on Discovery. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on Outdoor Channel.


Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, BUBBA, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, Garmin, General Tire, Humminbird, Lowrance, Mercury, MillerTech, Minn Kota, Mossy Oak Fishing, NITRO, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Onyx, Plano, Power-Pole, PowerStop Brakes, Rapala, REDCON1, Star brite, Suzuki, Toyota, U.S. Air Force and WIX Filters.

For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF’s social media outlets at Facebook, XInstagram and YouTube.



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