There were enough “locals” among the near 500 teams competing in college and high school bass tournaments on Toledo Bend over last weekend to believe an around-here team would take home the big trophies.
Late last week, Hunter DeSplinter and Conner Choate, sophomores from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, came in with a 25-pound, 9-ounce, five-bass catch to add to their Thursday catch for a 41-6 two-day total in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Central Tour, a presentation by Bass Pro Shops.
That put them at the top of the 30 teams from among the 255 entered — the majority of them from the Deep South and south-central states — putting them in the cut-down field for Saturday’s final action.
Then Mother Nature took over, and Saturday’s dense fog took over. Most of us who’ve fished The Bend in January know it's a dense fog with a capital D. With the final 30 boats in the water waiting for a green light to fish for several hours at the Cypress Cove landing, the fog lifted far too late, and the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society folks canceled the final day.
Well, the weather cleared, and the rain stopped Sunday. Cypress Cove welcomed 242 teams from high schools and youth-based fishing clubs for the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Central Open. Teams from most of the states in the Mississippi River’s vast drainage had one-day go on the vast reservoir judged by B.A.S.S. to be the best bass lake in the country.
And the major award went to Scott Springer and Trust Say, a pair of 17-year-olds representing the Christy, Springer and Say Community Club near Chicago. The duo bested the field with a five-bass limit weighing 21-7.
The “locals” had to settle for second place in both tournaments.
Christopher Capdeboscq and Forrest Lagarde of Northlake Christian in Covington, were the high school runners-up with a 19-4 catch, which included an 8-4 lunker. The winners earned $2,000 for their fishing team, a $250 Mossy Oak, Abu Garcia rod/reel combos, and, if they so choose, $20,000 combined scholarship offer to enroll then compete for the McKendree (Illinois) University fishing team.
The Louisiana team of Colby Miller and Jaden Cedars of Oak Hill High School had the day’s big bass, a 9-3.
Capdeboscq and Lagarde earned $1,500 for their school, a $250 Mossy Oak certificate and Abu Garcia combos and stood near the top of the 24 teams earning a spot in this year's national championship tournament.
The runners-up in the college tournament, Louisiana-Monroe’s Tyler Craig and Spencer Lambert, were, with a 41-1 total, just five ounces shy of the winning weight. They were coming off a top-12 finish in the 2017 nationals and to be among the 30 teams earning berths from this event, Craig and Lambert have established themselves among the favorites for the 2018 nationals set later this year on a yet-unnamed lake.
How they did it
Acadiana and Capital City anglers making their usual late-winter migration to Toledo Bend can benefit by the reports of the two winning teams.
Word was that through Sunday morning, Springer and Say had just six pounds in the livewell, but when the clouds broke, they welcomed the sunshine and began “burning” Alabama Rigs over a point. They reported having 12 bites in 8-foot depths between noon and 1 p.m., tops among them a 7-pounder that put them over the top.
The college team went to the reservoir’s south end and said they caught every fish, including their Day 2 giant, a 10-pounder, on a Strike King 5XD crankbait along a dropoff near a grass flat.
The LSU team of Brent Rome Jr. and Zachary Adams had the Day 1 big bass, a 7-7.
“Anglers were fishing too shallow and basically were on top of the fish, but they were focused on the grass,” Choate told the BASS reporter. “Hunter found a perfect lineup, and we were able to run our crankbaits off the drop and it was incredible.”
Last weekend’s recipe of heavy, river-swelling rains coupled with winds strong enough to warrant a small-craft advisory, left a void in freshwater and coastal fishing activity. Worst still is there’s more coming this weekend.
Most rivers and bayous east of the Mississippi River remain swollen and muddy, as is the case with Belle River. The Atchafalaya Spillway took the water in stride, and while it’s fairly low for this time of year, four fishermen reported nothing but “rolling mud” except for the usual clear-water areas in the Shell Cuts near the 30-inch Canal and Bayou April.
- National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Forecasts: nws.noaa.gov. Find the “Coastal/Great Lakes Forecasts by Zones – Gulf – New Orleans, La.” and a map with 13 different nearshore, offshore and Lake Pontchartrain wind and waves predictions for the next five days.
- Weather Underground: wunderground.com. Current conditions, a 10-day forecast, and hour-by-hour predicted temperatures, winds, precipitation and barometric pressure.
- National Weather Service’s River Forecast Center: water.weather.gov for river stages.