St. Croix pro, Jesse Wiggins, used a homemade shakey-head jig and a calculated dock pattern to win the Bass Pro Tour Bass Boat Technologies Stage Four on Lake of the Ozarks Presented by Bass Cat in Osage Beach, Missouri, last week, earning the top prize of $100,000.
“About three weeks ago my wife, Haley, mentioned she had a really good feeling about Lake of the Ozarks,” the 32-year-old Addison, Alabama angler recalls. “It was crazy because I was having the same thought and neither of us knew why.” When Wiggins actually arrived at Lake of the Ozarks – a lake he’d never seen or fished before – his early practice sessions did nothing but fuel the looming optimism. “The pockets off the main lake were just like the ones on my home water of Smith Lake (Lewis Smith Lake in Northern Alabama), and the fish were setting up and spawning just like they do at home. I got here and the banks and docks looked identical to Smith; I mean, identical. And the fish set up identical.”
That familiarity was more than something Wiggins could use; it was everything he believed he needed to win. He broke out the same homemade shakey-head jigs he and his brother Jordan use for targeting spawning bass beneath the docks on Lewis Smith during practice and never changed his setup. “I fished the same rod, reel, line and bait from the start of practice through Championship Day,” he says. “That never happens, but I didn’t need to change anything in the program; I could call my shot, all week long.” It didn’t hurt that the weather remained consistent throughout the event, too, with overcast skies, rain, and water temperatures holding between 60 and 62 degrees.
Wiggins says his 1/8-ounce and 3/8-ounce home-poured jigs feature a longer, straight-shank 4/0 hook with a 60-degree vertical line tie. “Nobody makes a perfect jig, but these fish in cover and around rocks really well,” he says. “They’re as close to perfect as I can make.” Wiggins finished the shaky-head rig on Lake of the Ozarks with a watermelon-candy-colored Flick Shake worm. The water was dingy, so Wiggins opted for hi-viz green Smackdown 30-pound braid and heavier-than-normal 12-pound fluorocarbon leader. “I always throw my shaky-heads on my 7’1” medium-heavy power, extra-fast action St. Croix Legend Elite (EC71MHXF) rod,” Wiggins says. “That rod’s so light, well balanced and easy to fish with all day, with the extreme sensitivity that’s necessary to blind fish to spawning bass. It’s really a weightless bite. When other guys are waiting for their line to move, I’m already setting the hook with that SCV carbon blank.”
Wiggins says the similarities between Lewis Smith and Lake of the Ozarks extended to the precise locations where bass were spawning around the docks. “They were in the exact same locations,” Wiggins reports. “Either directly under the dock cables, on the back corners next to shore, or centered under the walkways themselves.
MLF competition weighs every bass caught over two pounds, and Wiggins caught numbers of them throughout the two qualification days and again on Championship Day. “I knew I was gonna get tons of bites, and I did, but I wasn’t catching the bigger ones that first day of qualifying,” Wiggins says. “I hoped the females would show up and kept the faith. Thankfully they did and I started to catch them later in the second day of qualifying. One particular area really loaded up with big females and they helped put me over the top.” Wiggins’ Championship Day catch included 11 scorable bass weighing 27-11.
“I grew up throwing a worm,” Wiggins says. “So I had a lot of confidence when I got here and found spawning fish that were biting that thing. It’s an incredible feeling to win and I’m so grateful for the support I get from Haley and the rest of my family to get out here and do this. They all sacrifice so much so I can do this, and I’m glad I can bring this trophy and paycheck home to my family.”
Wiggins also tips his cap to his sponsor, St. Croix Rod in Park Falls, Wisconsin. “It’s amazing how they treat me like family, and I’ve heard the other guys they support say the same thing. That’s just how they operate, which is a rare and valuable thing to find in the fishing industry,” Wiggins says. “St. Croix has been with me ever since the very start of my rookie season in 2017, always had faith in me, encouraged me like a family member would do, and given me these incredible tools that give me real advantages on the water. I’m honored to be a part of the St. Croix family and proud to be able to give them this win.”