Four youngsters to be big winners at CCA evemt _lowres

Photo provided by TOMMY BERNARD A 'Stella' catch Catholic High sophomores Michael Bernard, left, and Beau Richardson made it a summer-long quest to catch this alligator gar they nicknamed 'Stella" in late May after they hooked the fish that, after a battle on light tackle, broke their line, then watched the big fish swim off into the middle of the canal at Pointe Fourchon. Beau's mom, Ann Bernard, said the young anglers researched fishing books to find out the best way to lure, hook and catch alligator gar and tried throughout the summer to lure the fish that had staked out a good feeding spot in the canal. They eventually settled on heavy tackle, a wire leader and used trout bellies for bait. The teenagers won the months-long battle this month. Stella measured 51 inches long, weighed 34 pounds, but was far short of Jimmy Thompson's state-record 179 pounder. Nevertheless, the quest provided a trophy memory of summer 2015 for Bernard and Richardson.

There will be four young smiling faces in the crowd when the Coastal Conservation Association celebrates Oct. 22 at Live Oak Arabians in Baton Rouge.

The four, 14-yar-old Eva Roger of Metairie; Austin Fox, 17, of Gonzales; 7-year-old Mamie Searcy of Lafayette; and, 9-year-old Tyler Templeton of New Iberia were drawn from among the youngsters who entered their trout or flounder in the summer-long Statewide Tournament and Anglers’ Rodeo — the S.T.A.R.

The four will take home a 14-foot Cajun Outboards bateau powered by a Mercury outboard on a McClain Trailer from the S.T.A.R. awards banquet.

Hackney in the lead

Gonzales national touring pro angler Greg Hackney of Gonzales holds the lead going into Sunday’s final round of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Wisconsin’s Sturgeon Bay.

Hackney claimed the lead after Thursday’s first round with a limit of smallbouth bass weighing 18 pounds, 5 ounces, and improved on that with Friday’s 21-7, five-smallmouth catch for a two-day 29-12 total.

Hackney is in seventh place in Angler of the Year standings, a spot that assures him of a berth in his 13th Classic. The 2016 Bassmaster Classic is set for March on Grand Lake near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The AOY tournament will qualify as many as 40 anglers for the Classic from this 50-angler field. The top 50 through the Bassmaster Elite Series qualified for this event.

Todd Faircloth is second to Hackney with 33-12, but that put him in 29th place in the AOY standings and he said he needed to catch a five-bass limit to get him into the Classic. Going into the final day, Gerald Swindle and Ish Monroe hold down 40th and 41st places and are separated by a single point.

B.A.S.S. made it official Friday when Aaron Martens claimed his fourth Angler of the Year title of his career.

The final weigh-in is set for 3:15 p.m. and can be seen on the B.A.S.S. website: www.bassmaster.com.

A lesson learned

It was an unforgettable day, that first time covering the Bassmaster Classic, and it provided a singular learning lesson from one of the 1990s top pro anglers.

Most bass fishing veterans remember Claude “Fish” Fishburne. The chance to ride along with this linebacker-looking redhead — yes, Claude is that big — was a rare opportunity.

He was popular, so much so that at one point on that Classic’s second day on High Rock Lake there were 26 boats tailing his every move.

And that crowd erupted in a cheer when he launched a 3-pounder from the water into the Ranger bass boat. He was casting a blue-backed, chartreuse-sided, orange-bellied, square-billed crankbait into a row of flooded stumps in depths ranging from 2-5 feet. Believe it was a Bagley, 21/2-inch and a color very familiar to south Louisiana fishermen.

The largemouth safely tucked away in a live well, Fishbunre continued to work a pattern. Three casts later, the rod bent against the weight of another, maybe even heavier largemouth, and the crowd roared their approval again.

Then, snap! The fish was gone. Broke the line, and from the yards of monofilament he reeled in, it was clear the line broke near the lure.

Fishburne’s mild expletive was immediate, followed by “I know I should have re-tied the line,” in his next breath.

On the ride back into town for the afternoon’s weigh-in, the lost fish bothered him just like it does for all competitive anglers.

“No, it wasn’t the line. It was me,” Fishburne said in a quieter voice than the tone he used after the bass broke off. “The (monofilament) line is good. I’m using XT (line), but when you cast around stumps, and the trick is to bump the stump with the crankbait, you have to know that the line will get nicked. That’s what happened. I should have checked the line for rough spots after I caught that first fish.”

“XT” stands for “extra tough. It’s a designation several line manufacturers use for line that’s more abrasion resistant than regular line or XL (extra-limp) lines.

Fishburne’s story is more than 20 years old, and that was before braided and fluorocarbon lines were introduced to the fishing public, but the lesson still stands, especially for south Louisiana fishermen.

Whether fishing freshwater or Louisiana’s brackish marshes, paying attention to line is important during the fall and winter months. Freshwater areas are rife with obstacles, stumps, tree limbs and logs among the many, and oyster reefs and shell beds in the coastal marshes will shred line, even braided lines when looking for fish hugging the bottom.

It’s easy to determine if you need to re-tie — just pinch the line between your thumb and forefinger and run it down 3 yards from, then to the knot. Find a rough spot and you need to cut the line and tie a new knot.

It’ll save the agony Fishburne went through that day. The 4-pounder he lost would have put him among the leaders heading into the final day, and, when all was said and done, cost him thousands of dollars in prize money.

AJ closure

The recreational season on greater amberjack that reopened Aug. 1 will close at 12:01 a.m. CDT Sept. 28 and remain closed for the rest of the year, federal fisheries managers announced late last week after they determined recreational fishermen would have caught their 1.130 million pound quota from the Gulf of Mexico.

The closure covers state and federal waters.

More White Lake hunts

Waterfowl hunters have until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 12 to submit application for rice field and marshland hunts on the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish.

You have to be 18 to apply: Applications are available at all Wildlife and Fisheries field offices and from the LDWF website: www.wlf.louisiana.gov/refuge/lottery-applications. Each application must include a nonrefundable $5 fee.

Hunters selected by the lottery drawing are allowed two additional guests for rice field hunts and one guest for marsh hunts. Lottery winners must make payments of $225 for rice field hunts and $350 for marsh hunts.

Available rice-field hunt dates are Nov. 7, 8, 10, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 25, 30; Dec. 1, 3, 5, 6, 19, 20, 22, 26, 28, 30; and, Jan. 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16, 17.

Marsh hunts are set for Nov. 7, 8, 12, 16, 18, 24, 28, 29; Dec. 1, 27, 29; and, Jan. 2, 3, 5, 7, 12.

Need more information? Call Wayne Sweeney (337) 536-9400, Ext. 1, or Email: wsweeney@wlf.la.gov.