The first big benefit bass tournament of the year is in the books, and it was one for the books.
Brad Duplessis teamed with Ty James to win Fishing for Tucker with a five-fish stringer weighing out at 23.52 pounds.
“We went to the lower end of the (Atchafalaya) Spillway, down there a pretty good ways and found really clear water and a bunch of structure,” Duplessis said.
It was more than that, more than their solid four-pound and five-pound bass that have to make up a stringer that tops 20 pounds, more than the 96 boats that turned out to raise money for five-year-old Tucker Townsend and his battle with mitochondrial disorder.
Fishing for Tucker is one in the latest of “trailer” competitions, which allow fishermen to check out of one of several locations, trailer to their favorite fishing hole only to make sure they check in at a single designated site — in this case Cabela’s in Gonzelas — later in the day.
In this case, the Duplessis-James catch was needed to take home the two-grand in top prize money.
Breathing down their necks was the team of Tom and TJ Goins and their 22-pound catch and three more stringers that topped 20 pounds.
What’s more, the tournament showed there are big bass to be caught from south Louisiana waters. Gerald Spohrer and Tre’ Gautreau showed up with a 6.44 pounder that took the $500 big-bass top money. Rob Hernandez and Rudy Gautreaux had a 6.31 pounder for second and the Goinses topped their stringer with a 6.19 pounder.
Among the top 15 teams’ big bass, there were four five-pound bass and five more four pounders, and it took a 16.28-pound total to make the top 15.
“Friday, the day before the tournament, my little brother and I went to (Lake) Verret and it as super muddy,” Duplessis said. “We went to the spillway and found clean water and caught 36 fish, 31 of them keepers (14 or more inches long). We probably had 17 pounds (Friday), but didn’t beat the good cover. We saved it for the tournament.”
Duplessis saved his next informational nugget for the die-hard bass angler: “We caught them on buzzbaits...(I) made three or four casts and caught the first five pounder of the day.
“We stayed with that (buzzbaits) for a little while longer and knew that (the buzzbaits) were showing us where the bass were,” he explained.
After that, he said the team switched to soft plastics and worked on fish closer to the bottom.
“There was nice grass in the area, but we took most of the fish off cypress trees,” Duplessis said. “It was the best stringer I’ve ever caught. The smallest fish was four pounds and the biggest was 5.63.
“It was god to find some fish like that in the Spillway. We had two awesome days and we caught them in places where I caught fish with my grandfather many years ago. It was good to go back and catch that stringer in places where I cut my teeth fishing.”
Tournament organizer Ryan Lavigne said the other top stringers came from such diverse places as Lake Cataouatche, Des Allemands, Venice and Delacroix.
“The star of the day, little Tucker Townsend, did not disappoint the crowd either. He showed up, pulled door prize names, and thanked everyone for coming out,” Lavigne said, noting that the youngster’s condition didn’t allow him to attend the inaugural tournament.
“We were able to raise roughly $20,500 for Tucker,” Lavigne said. “Thanks to the fishermen and to Cabela’s hosting the Kids Fishing Derby (Saturday). It was a hit with around 45 kids competing. Our gratitude goes to the fishermen...and to all of the great people at Cabela’s,” Lavigne said.
Children’s Hospital Bass Classic organizer Gary Cross said applications for the March 3 benefit tournament out of Doiron’s Landing in Stephensville have been distributed and are available at Cabela’s in Gonzales, Doiron’s and Children’s Hospital locations in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans.
Entry fee is $250 for the pick-your-partner tournament with $12,500 in first-place prize money and $1,250 for the team catching the heaviest bass.