Kelly Wheat and Cyle Tullier led the weigh-in Saturday at Cabela's in Gonzales, while Justin Savoy's and Austin Landry's 7.36-pound bass was a giant south Louisiana largemouth.
But the real winner in the Fishing for Tucker tournament was the Townsend family and Tucker.
See, the 11-year-old son of Christopher and Leigh Townsend, is stricken with Mitochondrial Disorder, and the treatment is expensive. Most of us know about how little help health insurance can be these days, and a handful of years ago the guys in Ascension Area Anglers decided they could do something to help.
Ryan Lavigne, the Gonzales fisherman and last year’s Bassmaster Classic qualifier, spoke for the organizing committee and the double handful of sponsors about how many fishermen showed up on a chilly, rainy early February morning.
“After all was said and done, the final count came to $17,800 for Tucker, proving once again how awesome our community is,” Lavigne said. “It’s amazing how much support our fishermen give, not just this year, but for the last six years.”
It was more than the grownups, too. There was a Kids Fishing Derby, plates of jambalaya and baked goodies for sale — what else, it’s Gonzales, the proclaimed Jambalaya Capital of the World — and all that on Cabela’s parking lot to make the day seem less cold and less rainy.
And there were young winners among the adult anglers, like 3-year-old Wyatt Townsend, 8-year-old Bradley Leveron, 9-year-old Thomas Lanoux III and new teenager Gage Collins, who took home the top prizes in the casting contest.
After that came the big boys, and Wheat and Tullier stole the show with five bass weighing 22.18 pounds.
“Truth is, I don’t know where they were fishing, and everybody is keeping secrets,” Lavigne said. “I knew there was the chance we’d see one stringer over 20 pounds, but we had three, and that’s impressive, very impressive.”
The teams ofWillie Couch and Warren Couch (21.26 pounds) and Victor Guidry and Britt Waguespack (20.76) were the other plus-20-pound stringers. The top five places were rounded out by first-rate catches by Jason Webre and Jeff Coolman (19.73) and the always competitive team of Neal Normand and Jamie Laiche (19.15).
Lavigne said most of the boats checked into the Verret Basin, with fewer than 20 teams opting to fish in the Atchafalaya Spillway.
He said he suspects the Bayou Black area — this tournament allows teams to fish south of U.S. 90 — produced most of the top stringers.
“I can tell you this,” Lavigne said. “There were a lot of fish caught on jigs and on vibrating jigs. The grass in the canals is as good as I’ve seen it in a long time, and being as cold as it is, and has been, the fish are in deeper water.”
While Savoy and Landry finished 12th among the top 20 in the payout list, their 7.36-pounder took top money from the big-bass pot.
Barely, because Guidry and Waguespack pushed them with a 7.34-pounder, and the Wheat-Tullier and Couch-Couch teams anchored their top stringers with 6.46-pound largemouths.
One of the reasons for the tight lips is the approaching $10,000 first-place Anglers Against Autism tournament coming up March 3. It’ll have the same approach about checking in at a favorite launch with a drive back to Cabela’s for the afternoon weigh-in.