Photo provided by GERALD SPOHRER Corey Wheat shows off the 8.16-pound largemouth he took in last Sunday's Bassmaster-affiliated Ascension Area Anglers tournament on the south end of the Atchafalaya Basin. Wheat said he caught the lunker largemouth on a Missile Bait's D-Bomb, a soft-plastic 'creature' bait that resembles a crawfish. 'And she survived,' Wheat said. "Right after we weighed her, I put her back in the live well and ran to a place where there was (a) good (grassbed) and good water and released her so that she could live another day.'

Corey Wheat is developing quite a reputation.

When you catch as many giant largemouths as Wheat has the past handful of years, the south Louisiana bass-fishing community takes notice.

And that’s good.

“He’s known for catching the big ones,” his fishing partner David Cavell said.

“Remember he caught that 7.99-pounder in Blind River in the St. Jude Tournament a few years ago?”

Blind River isn’t a place that normally doesn’t give up lunkers that size.

“Our club weighs in a three-fish limit for our tournaments, and he’s in the club a few years. I think he’s got the top three bass and the top three stingers for our club,” Cavell said.

His latest came last Sunday, a tough fishing day by most standards, but Wheat came through again and, again in the “club,” the Bassmaster Federation-affiliated Ascension Area Anglers.

AAA had a “draw” event — drawing for partners from among club members — and that meant Trevor Settoon was the latest to add first-hand witness to Wheat’s big bass-catching reputation.

Starting out in the Grand Lake area, Wheat said he and Settoon caught “some small fish ... ran a lot of sloughs, but couldn’t find anything but small fish.

“When you get a dominant south wind for a couple of days straight, you don’t get moving water,” Wheat said of the tough tournament conditions.

“You have to have a hard fall to get the bass ‘right,’ and it’s hot (temperature-wise) enough in the swamps that you know the bass should relate to the sloughs. It’s just a matter of getting them to move there, but when the Spillway continues to fluctuate — we’re not getting hard rise (in water levels), but we’re not getting a hard fall either — the water will not bleed through the sloughs to push the bass to those spots.

“The sloughs looked good,” Wheat said. “There was (grassbeds) around them and the water looked good, but it wasn’t bleeding through, not moving enough in the Pigeon area.”

That’s when they made a move, running south in hopes of finding something more than a trickle of water movement.

Once there, Wheat said they found “pockets of good (clear) water, but we knew we had to stay close to some of the dirtier water. We found dirty, stained water and a lot of black water in a lot of areas.”

“Black” water in the Atchafalaya is pushed from the backwater swamps and usually void of dissolved oxygen. It holds no fish except for the occasional garfish or choupique, species that can gulp oxygen from the surface.

It was from a small, muddy-water area that sent the Wheat-Settoon team to the top of the pack.

“It was a spot with really muddy water, and we stopped there when we were making our way toward the lower end for our last stop of the day,” Wheat said.

“It’s a little indention off a main bayou and it always has lots of water flow. It stays muddy year-round, and it’s a place where you can catch a fish when the water is up. It’s place you can work in 10-15 minutes,” he said. “It’s not a place that produces a lot of fish, but when you catch one, it’s a good one.”

Yeah, but not as good has the 8.16-pounder he hauled in Sunday.

Wheat said the lunker inhaled a Missile Baits D-Bomb, the California Love color, that touring national pro John Crews has developed in the past three years. It’s one of dozens of “creature” baits, soft-plastic lures that look like something but not exactly like anything except that the D-Bomb might look like a fat crawfish.

“One fish we caught was on a frog, but all the other fish we had came punching a D-Bomb,” Wheat said. Punching is a tactic of using a one-ounce or heavier lead weight on a bait and “punching” it through thickly matted grass.

“The best part of the day was right after we weighed her (large bass are females),” Wheat said,

“I put her back in the live well and ran to a place where there was (a) good (grassbed) and good water and released her so that she could live another day.”