1:47 AM EDT, September 2, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS - At a first glance, the teacher wasn't convinced.
Here was a first grader from Broad Ripple coming into her classroom for career day with a big hat and a jersey. No it wasn't for a professional or collegiate team. Not basketball, football, or baseball was on this youngsters mind.
Jacob Wheeler's expression of his future profession was all about fishing.
"My teacher looks at me and she's just like 'Your crazy' and I'm like 'Yeah, I know.'," said Wheeler of his outfit. "But I want to be a professional fisherman from the word go and I never deviated from that plan."
He means it when he says that, because Wheeler wasted little time becoming a person who makes his money from a hobby while also becoming one of the elite fisherman in the country.
Fishing on the FLW tour since 2010, Wheeler last month won the so-called "Super Bowl" of the sport-the Forrest Wood Cup. At 21-years old, he became the youngest participant and champion in this history of the event.
"It's just unbelievable to think what's happened to me to weeks ago, its just a pinch-me moment," said Wheeler of the Forrest Wood Cup victory, which netted him a prize of 500,000 dollars. "I wake up every morning thinking 'Man, the cup's still here. Its real. It's unbelievable.'
"It means the world because you don't realize how big of a tournament it is and how much it can change your life."
For Wheeler, it kinda justifies what the passion of his life has been about. He started fishing on the Broad Ripple Canal with his father in his early years, developing a passion and love for the sport that helped him become successful quickly.
It was when he began to compete at 11-years old in state tournaments that it became more apart of him as he went up against others with goals similar to his.
"The whole competitive side of fishing, you wouldn't realize what is out there. Its very mental game, there's a lot to it. It's not just going down the bank, casting your bait out and hoping for something to bite.
"There's a lot of thought that goes into it."
Still he made it look easy to those who follow the sport, winning four state junior titles and then moving up to a regional level of competition. In 2010 he joined the FLW in their starter circuit and proceeded to win its championship that season.
He moved up the middle circuit in 2011 and then the main FLW series this past season. This August he officially put himself on the map when he took to Lake Lanier in Georgia for the Forrest Wood Cup.
"To be at my age and to win a tournament this big," said Wheeler of the Forrest Wood Cup. "You just dream about getting to the tournament let alone winning it at this age."
Wheeler made that dream a reality quickly, setting the first day record with a catch weight of 21 pounds 15 ounces. That gave him a large lead he would not lose as he caught 60 pounds, one ounce for the week over the four days to capture the victory.
"The sky is the limit now," said Wheeler. "The cup is a true blessing but there's so much more out there."
That will have to wait a big as the Forrest Wood Cup represents the end of the FLW season but for Wheeler the work continues. His early success still hasn't effect his mindset which remains as clear as it did when he started competing a decade earlier.
"You have to keep up that mindset or else you get swept up in all the hoopla and you'll see your results go down because your not working as hard," said Wheeler. "That's one thing that I'm not doing."