When Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, Indiana, was 20 years old, he won Walmart Bass Fishing League's All-American tournament on May 20, 2011, at Cross Lake, Louisiana. And he was the youngest angler to win that event. By winning the All-American, he garnered $100,000 in prize money and a berth at FLW's Forrest Wood Cup in August of 2012 at Lake Ouachita, Arkansas, where he astonished many folks when they examined the leaderboard at the end of that event and saw his name adorning place No. 12. Then he won the Forrest Wood Cup and $500,000 at Lake Lanier, Georgia in August of 2012, and he was the youngest angler to win it. Since his 2011 and 2012 appearances at the Forrest Wood Cup, he has fared well, finishing in second place in 2013, tenth place in 2014, and fourth place in 2015. What's more, he has earned more than $1,000,000 in prize money during his first five years in the tournament world. Consequently, during the past several years, several journalists who write about the goings on in the world of bass tournaments have been heralding Wheeler as bass angling's newest super star.
His tournament prowess has opened several doors into the fishing tackle industry. One of those doors opened in 2015, when Gene Larew Lures of Tulsa, Oklahoma, sponsored him. This allowed Wheeler to work with George Toalson of Claremore, Oklahoma, who is Larew's lure designer, and they created the multifaceted soft-plastic bait that they called Wheeler's Punch Out Craw.
On Nov. 9-12, Gene Larew Lures and Bill Lewis Outdoors staged a media event at Fort Gibson Reservoir, Oklahoma, and Tenkiller Ferry Reservoir, Oklahoma. Jacob Wheeler was there, and he spent a lot time showing the journalists and other anglers how and where he employs the five manifestations of his Punch Out Craw.
Wheeler described it as a soft-plastic bait that is solid but not too solid. Its torso and head are 2 1/4 inches long. Its head is adorned with two bulging eyes. A narrow hook slot, which is one and a quarter inches long, is engraved into its back and head, and this slot runs between its eyes. The end or tail portion of the torso has two ribs or two sections. One and three-quarters of an inch of its belly is concaved, and three quarters of an inch of its belly is flat.
Radiating from the tip of its head is a spear-like appendage. A massive claw extends from each side of its torso. The claws and spear-like appendage are attached to each other with four tiny pieces of soft plastic. Wheeler uses this format of the Punch Out Craw as a glide bait that he affixes to a 4/0 hook and 1/2-ounce sinker.
When he modifies it by separating its two claws, he affixes it to either a football-style jig or a Biffle Hardhead. This allows the two claws and spear to move radically and provocatively as Wheeler hops and drags and deadsticks it along the bottom. When he deadsticks it, its claws and the spear-like appendage rise to almost a 90-degree angle off of the bottom, and they quiver and undulate. Wheeler says the size and movement of this rendition of the Punch Out Craw is an ideal combination when he is plying stained waterways.
When he needs a smaller profile, Wheeler removes the spear-like appendage, which creates what he describes as a little craw. He affixes it to a swim jig, a flipping jig, a Chatterbait, and even a shaky head jig.
For even a shorter rendition, he will remove the last section of its tail, which reduces the length of the torso from two and one-quarters of an inch to one and three-quarters of an inch.
When he is punching thick patches of aquatic vegetation such as hydrilla and waterhyacinths, Wheeler removes the two flapping claws from the sides of the torso, making it into a 3 1/4-inch bait that looks somewhat like the classic Mar Lynn Lure Company's Ensley Reaper from the 1960s and 1970s. At times, he will split the spear lengthwise, which creates two flapping appendages. He says this 3 1/4-inch rendition replicates the freshwater shrimp and other invertebrates that inhabit these patches of aquatic vegetation. The sleekness of this rendition also allows it to slither through the slightest hole in the thick and almost impenetrable mats of aquatic vegetation. As it falls to the bottom, the spear quivers subtly but alluringly, and he notes that this action is the key to its effectiveness. He noted there are spells when the largemouth bass prefer it to be dressed with a punch skirt.
Wheeler has employed it on 1/4-, 5/16-, 3/8-, 1/2-, one-, and 1 1/2-ounce sinkers. He opts for the 1/2-ouncer in heavy or thick emergent vegetation. In his eyes, the 1/4-ouncer exhibits the most natural action. His favorite is the 5/16-ouncer, but the 3/8-ouncer is the one that he uses most of the time.
It is a heavy piece of plastic, which will allow anglers to employ it without a sinker or weight. At the same time, it is buoyant enough that it floats, which has allowed Wheeler to employ it as a frog or toad.
In essence, it is a power bait. But the 3 1/4-inch format, which replicates a Reaper, can be employed by Midwest finesse anglers who will affix it to a 1/16- or 3/32-ounce mushroom-style jig. And Midwest finesse anglers can shorten it by trimming three-quarters of an inch off of its tail, creating a 2 1/2-inch Reaper-style bait.
It is available in the following colors: Black Blue, Black/Blue Silver (LAM), Black Neon, Black Neon/Watermelon Neon (LAM), Bama Bug (LAM), Bone White Silver, Golden Junebug, Green Pumpkin Blue, Green Pumpkin Magic, Green Pumpkin/Watermelon (LAM), Sooner Magic (LAM), and Sooner Run (LAM).
Suggested retail price is $6.19 for a package of eight.
(1) For more information about the media evented staged by Gene Larew Lures and Bill Lewis Outdoors see this link: https://www.in-fisherman.com/bass/three-days-with-gene-larew-lures-and-bill-lewis-outfitters/.
(2) Here is a link to Gene Larew Lures' Web site: http://www.genelarew.com/punchoutcraw.php.