Jordan Wiggins of Cullman, Ala. crossed the stage with a five-bass limit Thursday weighing 14 pounds, 8 ounces to win the Toyota Series event at Lewis Smith Lake and earn the top payout of $90,500, including the $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus. Wiggins’ three-day total of 15 bass weighing 44-14 gave him the victory by a 4-03 margin over second-place finisher Emil Wagner of Marietta, Ga., who weighed in 15 bass totaling 40-11 to earn $22,300.
“Man, I am speechless,” Wiggins said. “I’ve been close so many times. I blew it on an Open down here where all I had to do was catch 12 pounds, and I couldn’t do it. That was not going to happen today. I was going to do whatever I had to do to catch 13 to 15. I went as fast as I could go to places where I have caught them this time of year and it just worked out.”
Wiggins got started early on the final day, limiting and culling quickly to work his way into the low teens.
“The start this morning was just unbelievable,” he said. “I mean, I won it in the first hour, to be honest with you. I had 13-something then, and in the end, it all worked out. I thought if I could catch 15 pounds, I was for sure going to win it because 17 pounds down here is hard to do. But you can pull into a spawning pocket on a herring bite and catch 17 pounds, and that was what made me nervous.”
After chasing fish that were staging in ditches and drains to open the event, Wiggins switched gears midway through the morning of Day 2. He went to work on shelf rock and structure with immediate deep-water access that spotted bass were using to spawn. He said he focused on darker-colored banks that featured large chunk rocks and docks, a mix he felt was key to attracting spawners.
“I feel like I kind of got lucky because they were moving up as the tournament went along,” Wiggins said. “I had a ditch bite going the first day. I caught two big ones, like a 4 and about a 3 1/4 nd that’s what got me [almost] 16 the first day. I tried to make the ditch bite work [on Day 2], I caught a limit but there just weren’t any big ones. So, I abandoned it and went to a stretch where they typically spawn every year and they were all the right ones.”
Wiggins attempted to take advantage of the herring spawn as bluebird skies and moderate winds took hold on Lewis Smith, but it didn’t turn out to be productive. Ultimately, the same spawning pattern he’d been on since Day 2 showed him the path to victory, as he used a 3/16-ounce homemade shaky-head and a green pumpkin 6.5-inch Reaction Innovations Flirt Worm to seal the deal.
“I tried to make the wakebait bite work and it just wasn’t happening,” he said. “I’d gone into two places towards the end of the day and caught two 3-pounders on the shaky-head that kind of bumped me up to what I had.”
Jordan’s brother, Bass Pro Tour angler Jesse Wiggins, made an appearance on Day 3 also, showing up with his own kids in tow to support his brother and lifelong fishing buddy.
“That’s awesome,” he said. “He drove all the way back from the Bass Pro Tour event just to watch me fish. That is special, man. If he fishes in a bigger tournament down here, then I follow him around. It’s just solid support, you can’t ask for anything better. [The family] has my back through thick and thin, it’s awesome. We are just a fishing family.”
Jesse wasn’t the only Wiggins member deserving of a shoutout in Jordan’s eyes, as the whole Wiggins family came out to weigh in to show support throughout the week.
“I got to give a shoutout to my wife Whitney,” said Wiggins. “She puts up with me fishing week in and week out, I’m always gone it seems like, but she’s stuck with me so far. My kids keep me going also, they support me big time.”
Here are the final totals for the Top 10:
1st: Jordan Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., 15 bass, 44-14, $90,500 (includes $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus)
2nd: Emil Wagner, Marietta, Ga., 15 bass, 40-11, $22,300
3rd: Wesley Sams, Vinemont, Ala., 15 bass, 40-00, $15,250
4th: Joseph Webster, Winfield, Ala., 15 bass, 39-06, $13,250
5th: Austin Swindle, Grant, Ala., 15 bass, 39-01, $12,250
6th: Johnny Patterson, Grant, Ala., 15 bass, 38-06, $9,625
7th: Grant Galloway, Houlka, Miss., 15 bass, 38-01, $8,300
8th: Jeremy Gordon, Rutledge, Tenn., 15 bass, 37-15, $7,300
9th: Paul Marks, Cumming, Ga., 15 bass, 37-05, $6,300
10th: Jimmy Neece, Jr., Bristol, Tenn., 15 bass, 36-12, $4,700