|Jacob Wheeler surged to 4th place with today's best bag.|
Last year's FWC champion came out of the gate slowly, with a 7-pound, 4-ounce first-day catch that put him in 40th place out of 46 anglers. It was popular to say that things could flip flop on Day 2, and a lot of anglers did indeed move up or down notably. Still, I'm not sure anyone expected Wheeler to flop things quite the way he did. Wheeler's 13-7 Day 2 catch was second best brought to the scales that day and jumped him all the into 17th place, which put him within the cut and allowed him to fish again today. He struck again today, bringing in 14 pounds, 4 ounces and jumping all the way to 4th place. Wheeler's bag, which was the best catch brought to the scales on Day 3, put him 4 1/2 pounds behind leader Bryan Thrift.
Thrift has gotten all his biggest fish off a single spot, and he said he had to fish two hours in that spot to catch one fish today. He has seemed somewhat surprised by what he has caught all week. Wheeler, on the other hand, figured something out on Day 2, and it has worked very well for him for two days. He appears to be getting stronger as the tournament progresses.
That's not to say he's going to overtake Thrift (or that either will be the winner for that matter). Although Thrift has seemed surprised by each day's catch, the fact is that he keeps catching them very well.
Five of the ten anglers remaining are within five pounds of one another at the top, and three of them (including Thrift) are still ahead of Wheeler. Randall Tharp, who led for two days and slipped to second today, believes he knows what he needs to do to bring it home. Larry Nixon found muddy water in his best spot today and it didn't produce at all, leaving him scrambling. The Red is a highly dynamic river, though, and that mud could settle tonight and put Nixon right back where he wants to be. Meanwhile, Mark Rose said yesterday that he thought his best bags were still ahead. He wasn't able to prove that today, but tomorrow things might be different.
The ten pros who remain take off tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. Central. The weigh-in begins at 5:00. If you can't be here to watch it in person, you can watch it live on flwoutdoors.com.