Strategy pays off for anglers _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOE MACALUSO Doug Martin, left, and Tony Landry hold the five live bass they weighed in to win Saturday's 4th-annual Anglers Against Autism bass tournament near Pierre Part. Teams could fish either the Lake Verret Basin or the Atchafalaya Spillway, and Landry said they fished the Lake Verret side. Included in the Martin-Landry catch is a 6.42-pound giant that took first in the tournament's big-bass standings. The respective teams of Bryan Mistretta and Vic Calvarusso and Stephen and Jamie Smith finished second and third in the big-bass standings, and with Martin and Landry, all three teams donated their big-bass winnings back to the Emerge Center to help children with autism. All bass were released alive into the Atchafalaya Spillway.

Their’s was a simple plan: Find moving water, not necessarily clear water in the Lake Verret Basin, and throw spinnerbaits until their wrists were sore and their arms fell off.

What neither Doug Martin nor Tony Landry could expect was the result for Saturday’s 4th-annual Anglers Against Autism bass tournament.

Nobody expects, not in summer’s waning days, that a tournament’s single five-bass limit would hold 6-pound-plus and five-pound-plus largemouths, but theirs did, and that put the rest of the 79 teams competing for second place.

“We just went on the Verret side and worked the passes below (Lake) Verret and into Grassy Lake,” Landry said. “We worked quarter-ounce chartreuse, white and blue (skirts) with a chartreuse (round) blade on the front and a gold willowleaf on the back.”

That’s nothing fancy, not for Landry, who resurrected the legendary south Louisiana Humdinger spinnerbait from obscurity about six years ago.

Working piers and other structure near and off the bank, Landry said their 6.42-pounder that topped their 16.94-pound winning weight inhaled the spinnerbait off a pier. The 5- pounder that put them a pound-and-a-half ahead of runnerup father-son team of Harold Himel Jr. and David Himel came on much the same pattern.

Why? While most anglers target cypress points and grassbeds, what isn’t generally known is that short piers — most just long enough to moor an 18-foot boat — collect logs and brushtops around them when water moves through the passes. Because the ends of the piers are located at dropoffs, these off-the-bank areas tend to holds heavier bass.

The Himels admitted to fishing the Verret side, too, and, Harold Himel said they boated between 25-30 bass for their 15.44-pound stringer.

The third-place team, Damein Clements and B.J. Becnel, produced the top Atchafalaya top catch (14.62 pounds). They fished in the Charenton area.

Lake Verret produced fourth place, too, when Chad Porto and Kevin Medine (13.98 pounds) said they stayed in Lake Verret all day and “... flipped worms, jigs and lizards for maybe 7-8 keepers.”

When checks were handed out at Stevie G’s in Pierre Part, the Martin-Landry team followed the leads of Steven and Jamie Smith (4.6-pound third-place) and Bryan Mistretta and Vic Calvarusso (5.22-pound second place) in donating their big-bass winning back to the Emerge Center, the beneficiary of the tournament’s proceeds.

“For 80 teams to show up on an LSU (home) football weekend is a tribute to the generosity of the fisherman in our area,” tournament co-organizer Moonie Bergeron said. “The Emerge Center just built a new school and we’ve been raising money for four years to equip the school. We raised $38,000 last year and know we’ll raise more this year.”

The state team

Describing it as the “... toughest tournament I’ve ever been associated with,” Baton Rouge angler David Cavell cemented his top spot on the B.A.S.S. Nation state team by winning the state’s Fall Qualifier on the Calcasieu River over last weekend.

Cavell said he worked a heavy one-and-a-quarter-ounce black/blue/orange-skirted Delta Lure “punch” skirt with a black/red Baby D-Bomb trailer for the winning 15.87-pound stringer.

AAA team member Robbie Latuso finished second at 15.5 pounds for this five-fish effort.

The tournament produced the 13 anglers who represent the state in the B.A.S.S. Nation Central Division tournament. One state team member will advance to the national tournament with a chance to make the 2015 Bassmaster Classic field.

Cavell reported Blake Betz, who finished eighth, caught an 8-pounder during a practice day on the Calcasieu River.