jacob wheeler
Major League Fishing: Garrick Dixon

MLF Angler of the Year Honors Has Become Jacob Wheeler's Benchmark

For the second season in a row, Tennessee pro Jacob Wheeler is the Angler of the Year on Major League Fishing's Bass Pro Tour. His title this year came after dominant showings in the seven events, finishing in the Top 10 in the first six and 11th place in the final event. He also finished 3rd in REDCREST, a non-points championship event, making his 2022 season one for the ages.

After the season concluded, we caught up with Wheeler to get his thoughts on the season and the accomplishment.

Wide Open Spaces: You've always been an angler who wins events; what has pushed you to the type of angler who can call themselves the AOY?

Wheeler: I've worked hard to become a more consistent angler. Winning AOY is my goal every season now. It's a title I see as very important for a career because it shows that you were the best angler for an entire season, not just for one week on one body of water.

jacob wheeler

Major League Fishing: Garrick Dixon

Wide Open Spaces: How does this year's AOY title compare to the one you won last year?

Wheeler: Both are very special, but I was behind all year last year because Ott DeFoe had such a great season. I went into the last few events of last season, having to win tournaments to gain any ground on him. This year, I was the one being chased. The competition is so good at this level, which pushes me to do better.

Wide Open Spaces: On the Bass Pro Tour, the angler who wins his group advances to the Championship Round and bypasses the Knockout Round. You did it three times and it seemed like that was a major goal for you this season. How did that play into your tournament strategy?

Wheeler: I definitely took the opportunity to do that more this year to get the guaranteed Top 10 points. It's a gamble because you have to fish hard until the end and you don't have time to look for more areas for the rest of the tournament. Also, if you don't win your group, you could burn fish you could use in the next round. But, it was a priority for me to get as many points as possible at each tournament.

jacob wheeler

Major League Fishing: Garrick Dixon

Wide Open Spaces: Did any baits or techniques stand out as themes throughout the season?

Wheeler: I caught a lot of fish this year with a Rapala Shadow Rap Deep jerkbait, but it was a little bit of everything this year. Some events, like Lake of the Ozarks, were all sight fishing. In some tournaments, it was the vibrating jig; in others, a crankbait was my best tool. The biggest thing this year was being able to adapt and adjust each day.

Wide Open Spaces: Which event this year sticks out as the most memorable?

Wheeler: They were all unique, but Cayuga Lake (New York) was the most fun. I got on a good Rapala DT-16 crankbait bite and it seemed like every bite was 3 to 5-pounds or bigger. That was such a fun tournament.

Wide Open Spaces: You are known as one of the best in the world with forward-facing sonar; how much did you utilize the technology this season?

Wheeler: It was my main deal for about half of the events during the season and in some tournaments, like Lake of the Ozarks (Missouri), I didn't even use it. That was straight, shallow water fishing. It was a spawning event and not a factor. In other events, it was helpful to find brush piles on Watts Bar (Tennessee) and rocks at Mille Lacs (Minnesota), but I wasn't specifically casting to fish I saw on my graphs in those events.

Wide Open Spaces: One of your best friends and roommate on tour, Dustin Connell, won three events just like you did last year. How hard is that feat to accomplish?

Wheeler: It's an incredible accomplishment, and I was so happy to see him do it. He's stepped up his game and it's a result of him pushing to be better. I see the work he puts in and proves that good things come if you work hard.