Going into Sunday’s final round of the FLW Outdoors Forrest Wood Cup on Georgia’s Lake Lanier, Hoosier Jacob Wheeler was expected to win.
Wheeler spend most of the tournament fishing shallow and finished with 60 pounds 1 ounce, easily out fishing the rest of the field.
It was a remarkable accomplishment. Wheeler is 21 years old, and a rookie on the pro tour. Nerves alone could have derailed him. He is the youngest angler ever to win the Wood Cup and the only Wood Cup winner to have also won the BFL All American championship. He took that title last year.
Wheeler won $500,000 Sunday, nearly tripling his career earnings.
In Sunday’s action, during which the young Indiana native said he caught only six legal size fish, Wheeler was fishing the shallow upper section of the lake in the same neighborhood as fellow pro and finalist Jay Yelas.
Yelas started the day 11 pounds behind Wheeler and knew from 20 plus years of experience that his chances of catch the leader were virtually nil. He pulled up and left for another area.
“Jay said, ‘Go win this one for me,'” Wheeler acknowledged from the stage. “That was really nice.”
Yelas could afford to be generous. He’s enjoyed a tremendous career and is a Bassmaster Classic champ. Still, it was a gentlemanly gesture – both Yelas’ on-the-water act and Wheeler’s acknowledgement from the stage.
As for Wheeler, his future is bright. And if Wheeler, who carries himself with a quiet confidence without a shred of cockiness, is an example of his generation of anglers, competitive fishing’s future is bright as well.