Monday, August 13, 2012

Yelas Yielded Water to Wheeler

"Jacob, go win this thing for me," Jay Yelas told Jacob Wheeler before blast off on the final morning of the Forrest Wood Cup. Yelas had resolved to explore new water up the Chestatee arm of Lake Lanier and to leave the familiar and productive Chattahoochee to Wheeler, who was leading the event by 6 pounds going into the final day of competition. Yelas didn't want to take fish from Wheeler and to take any opportunity away from the 21-year-old pro with whom he'd been sharing water throughout the tournament.

Yelas, a former Bassmaster Classic champion, B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year and two-time FLW Anger of the year, was 8 pounds behind Wheeler and probably didn't feel like he had a realistic chance to win the event. That said, second through tenth were only separated by a couple of pounds, and Yelas was knowingly lessening his chances for the best possible finish. And while its true that the Forrest Wood Cup is a championship event that most anglers approach with and "all or nothing" mentality, the difference between the second and tenth place prize is $75,000, so Yelas opting to abandon his best waters was no small sacrifice. He still caught a quality bag on the final day and ended up finishing sixth.

Wheeler expressed humble appreciative of Yelas' consideration on the final day as he spoke from the stage just after the weigh-in. He likewise talked about David Dudley's encouragement throughout the event and expressed respect he had for the entire field. He also was eager to acknowledge God's blessings and to steer the focus away from himself. Wheeler's obvious gratitude for the opportunity to stand on the stage as champion and desire to glorify God was refreshing, and I look forward to seeing much more from in the future.

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