Brent Bonadona is a quiet man, and an even quieter fisherman.
There’s no boasting, no bragging even though he’s proven himself time and again on south Louisiana’s bass-rich waters. He did it again last weekend.
It wasn’t easy.
He readily admitted he was befuddled by bass that had quickly turned from an easy-to-find and an even easier-to-catch quarry to nearly impossible to find much less take the lures they’d attacked so readily in the days leading up to the Saturday-Sunday 15th Pro Bass Challenge.
So were most of the hundred others almost equally divided into Pro and Co-Angler divisions. Bonadona, a former Challenge champion, was competing in the Pro Division, and, after taking lead by little more than a pound after Saturday’s first day, said it was a very hard day on the water.
Somewhere between the time he won that first Challenge and took home top money in a double handful of other top-flight south Louisiana bass events, Bonadona decided to try his hand against bass anglers from across the country in the Bassmaster Central Open series.
He learned his lessons well on that stage, and it paid off last weekend.
“I was struggling to catch fish,” Bonadona said after Saturday’s opening round. “I scouted on the Lake Verret side (anglers were limited to fishing the Verret Basin or the Atchafalaya Spillway) and I found the fish stacked up in several areas.
“But I just couldn’t catch ‘em.”
As it turned out, the rest of the field was having the same troubles. All were battling the effects of spring’s first cold front that blew late Thursday, a front that brought in blustery and chilling north winds, followed by equally as strong east, then southerly winds.
“The fish were there, in those same places, but the conditions had changed and wondered what I had to go to make them bite,” Bonadona explained. “I made a game change at 10:30 (a.m.). I changed baits and the technique.”
He said he was fishing “heavy mats” north of Lake Verret, and “heavy mats” meant small areas where water hyacinths, mostly brown-dead hyacinth that pile up around brushtops near the banks and over heavy grassbeds.
“I had the baits tied on in the rod box, and knew what I was throwing wasn’t going to work,” he said.
The game-changer Bonadona made should be a lesson to all south Louisiana anglers, whether in fresh or brackish or salt water, to change with the conditions and let experience take over when it appears all else fails.
He pulled a heavy rod rigged with a “punch” bait, a heavy one-ounce-plus sinker designed to punch through the heavily matted hyacinth and into the heavy grass underneath.
“I guess fishing the (Bassmaster) opens taught me that I had to be more versatile in my approach to fishing,” Bonadona said. “I taught me that I have to change when the fish change.”
He said he was using a Mr. Twister Pocket Craw, a soft-plastic lure that resembles a small crawfish.
He hauled in nearly 15 pounds during the next four hours on that first day, then followed with another five-bass tournament limit Sunday that bent the scales at 15.85 pounds. Solving the dilemma gave him a 30.8-pound total that was good enough to best the Pro field by more than nine pounds. Travis Warthen was second at 21.35 pounds.
Bonadona said he didn’t have a fish in the boat until 10 a.m. Sunday, but stayed with the pattern because he knew it would produce middle-of-the-day results.
“I guess this time I made the right decision at the right time,” Bonadona said.