Jesse Wiggins sitting on the hot seat as the leader during Sunday's weigh-in at the Bassmaster Classic. (Photo courtesy of Josh Griffin)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – After a slow Friday on the Tennessee River where he hauled in just 10 lbs., 11 oz., Cullman native Jesse Wiggins stormed up the leaderboard on Saturday and Sunday to finish third at this year’s Bassmaster Classic. Wiggins caught 15 lbs., 15 oz. on Saturday and added another 17 lbs., 4 oz. on championship Sunday for a grand total of 43 lbs., 14 oz. and a $40,000 prize. Ott DeFoe finished as this year’s champion with a weight of 49 lbs., 3 oz., and Jacob Wheeler finished in second place just ahead of Wiggins with 45 lbs., 5 oz.
Wiggins’ big finish in Knoxville continues the winning tradition at the Bassmaster for local anglers. Cullman High School graduate Jordan Lee won the Bassmaster Classic in 2017 and 2018 and Wiggins, an Addison alumnus, made a big run at this year’s title after putting together a huge Sunday morning on the water. Lee placed 42nd at this year’s tournament with a total weight of 13 lbs., 10 oz.
When this year’s Super Six, made up of Wesley Strader, Chris Zaldain, Jacob Wheeler, Michael Iaconelli, Mark Daniels, Jr. and DeFoe made their way to the stage, Wiggins was sitting in the hot seat as the current leader, and he was thrilled to be front and center on the biggest stage in the sport.
“People ask me all the time when I started fishing, and I’m like ‘I don’t remember because I can’t remember ever not fishing.’ I’ve been fishing that long and this is the biggest tournament in the world and just to be leading it before they come out is just super. Fishing back at home, I remember me and my brother used to fish in an old sewage drain for snapping turtles. That’s how much we love fishing,” Wiggins said. “Growing up fishing is all we ever knew and getting to be on this stage, you think about but it you don’t really think it’s possible. Like I said, I’m just a young, redneck kid from Alabama and I didn’t think I could make it to this, but I just kept fishing and kept fishing and I don’t know how it happened, but I’m here somehow.”
Wiggins was knocked off the hot seat when Knoxville native DeFoe brought 18 lbs., 14 oz. on stage to move into first place with a total weight of 49 lbs., 3 oz.
Before he left the stage during his weigh-in, Wiggins wanted to share a message with any aspiring anglers that may have been watching.
“I’m just a little ole redneck from Alabama, so guys, if you’re out there and you think you want to do this, trust me, you can,” Wiggins said. “Just put your head down and fish and fish and fish. Don’t take any shortcuts and just fish your butt off as much as you can locally, then go to the next stage and fish regionally at some of the opens and then you can work your way here. That’s exactly what I did. Take baby steps and you can get here.”
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