Of the four tournaments left over, three were Top-20 showings. The lone outlier was a 43rd-place finish in the Bass Pro Tour derby at Lake Fork in March 2020.
It's extremely likely (or all but a lead-pipe cinch) that come July, his reign at the top of the BassFan World Rankings will hit the two-year mark. Such a period of extended dominance has been achieved only once before since the Rankings' inception in 2001 – Kevin VanDam had a three-year run in the No. 1 slot from 2007-10.
He'll undoubtedly cool off at some point, as happened with VanDam in the early portion of the previous decade. However, that won't occur because he's satisfied with his accomplishments and decides to take it easy on his fellow competitors.
"You just keep riding the wave and keep working hard," he said early this week. "My goal is to continue to work as hard as I did when I started this journey.
"I don't want to get to a point where I'm complacent and I don't work as hard because I've had some success, and there are other things that come with success, like sponsors needing more of your time. I've also got a growing family, and that factors into it as well. There are things that people don't always get to see from the outside looking in, so to be able to keep doing well with everything that's going on has been pretty awesome."
Chalk Up Another One
Wheeler notched his most recent win last week at Lake Travis in Texas, becoming the first angler with three BPT victories (Jordan Lee is the only other competitor with two). It's reached a point where he's right at the top of the list of betting favorites to win any tournament, anywhere, at any time of year.
"As an angler, you grow as you get more time on the water," he said. "We go to these diverse fisheries around the country and I've started to feel pretty comfortable with them as I've grown to understand the bodies of water, whether they're natural lakes, highland reservoirs, river systems or whatever. They're all so different and to be successful, you have to have fished them multiple times.
"Once you get a pretty good grasp of what the fish are doing (in relation to their seasonal patterns), you put yourself in position to make good decisions. Sometimes guys can get complacent because they've been there and they know that deal, but that might cause them to overlook some things that they would've picked up before when they were hungrier and maybe doing more pre-fishing and more prep work."
He'd fared well at Travis before, having finished as the runner-up there in a 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series event. It fished much different this time, though, due to the water level being considerably lower.
"I spent a lot of time on Google Earth and on the Internet searching the water levels. I knew which bushes had water in them and which ones didn't before I ever put my boat in the lake. Small things like that can give you a little leg up, especially when talking only a day and a half of practice (which is standard for the BPT). You hear a lot of people say they don't want to have an preconceived notions, but under these conditions you almost have to because of the short amount of time you're given. You have to have at least some type of game plan going into practice."
He didn't have a good practice in terms of generating bites, but was able to quickly eliminate his initial idea of spending the majority of his time offshore. Several of the bites he got came from a couple of stretches of docks and he was able to refine that into the winning program.
Not Thinking About AOY Yet
The one accolade that's eluded Wheeler to this point is a tour-level Angler of the Year title. He's a perennial contender and currently sits one point behind leader Bobby Lane after two regular-season events.
"I've been right there a bunch of times and I'd love to win one," he said. "We've still got a lot of the season left and right now I'm more worried about staying consistent and doing my job day in and day out.
"I'm off to a good start, but there's still a long road ahead. As we get closer toward the end – the fifth, sixth or seventh event – there's no doubt I'll be thinking about it. You've got to perform in every event against this group; if you slip up one time, you're done."
By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor