Winning stringer under 18 pounds for Children’s Hospital Bass Classic _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOE MACALUSO St. Martinville angler Andre Cazelot holds the 6.12-pound largemouth bass he caught with fishing team partner Brook Morrison of New Iberia to take top money in Saturday's annual Children's Hospital Bass Classic held from Doiron's Landing in Stephensville. Cazelot said his catch came from the west side of the Atchafalaya Basin. Spencer Gremillion and Patrick Rachel won the overall title with a five-bass catch weighing 16.33 pounds.

About the only surprise from Saturday’s Children’s Hospital Bass Classic was that a team from among the 151 boats entered in the first major fundraising tournament of the year didn’t come in with an 18-pound stringer.

The stage was set for a five-bass stringer that could hit that mark, and maybe higher. That’s because past early, March bass competitions like this have produced team tournament limits with a near 5-pounds-per-bass average.

It’s not that folks weren’t trying: Proof of that lay in the top two teams taking home the money in the Big Bass kitty. Neither the winning team, Andre Cazelot and Brooke Morrison, who took home $1,250 for their 6.12-pounder, or the No. 2 team, Joey Bourgeois and Tyler Teague ($300 for a 6.01-pounder) finished among the top 15 teams for total weight.

That’s unusual, and means there were teams on a big-fish bite during the practice days leading up to tournament day, but most of the big fish were taking Saturday off to consider when the conditions would be right to push to spawning banks.

Yet, as usual, it took a solid “kicker” bass to push a team to the top.

The winners of the $12,500 first-place money, Spencer Gremillion and Patrick Rachel, came in with 16.33 pounds, a solid south Louisiana bass catch, but it was their 5.07-pounder, the heaviest fish on their winning stringer, that pushed them ahead of husband-wife Steve and Renee Gulotto, whose 16.26 pounds was topped by a 4.25-pound largemouth. The Gulotto’s were the top husband-wife team in the CH tournament’s history.

Gremillion and Rachel said they fished the north end of Lake Verret and “found one fish here and one fish there,” apparently trying to explain that no one spot in Pierre Part Bay, or the points off Grand Bayou and coves produced more than one fish. And Gremillion said a variety of lures worked, notably black/blue jigs-and-pigs, creature baits like Sweet Beavers and spinnerbaits.

Renee Gulotto said they started their day with a long run on a morning when the temperature dipped near freezing, and Steve said that spot was Pat’s Bay. The morning produced only one bass there, and Steve said they ran back into the “Pigeon area,” where Renee said their limit came on a handful of lures. When Renee Gulotto said they caught fish on a dark tube with red flakes, it meant this pair was chasing bass in the shallows. Four-inch tubes are a noted big-bass lure during the spawning season.

The best part of the day came earlier this week when tournament organizers Gary and Karen Cross announced the tournament raised more than $31,000 for Children’s Hospital, and that the 2016 tournament’s date is set for March 5.

On deck

The annual Louisiana Sportsman Show and under-roof and open-air acres it fills at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales is this weekend’s biggest area event, and it’s good news for panfishermen that the Salter Jiggin’ Pole is making a grand return in the show.

Both family and personal health problems have sidelined J.B. Salter for the past couple of years, and his son, Blaine Salter, called to say his dad has turned the business over to him, but only after J.B. has designed a new graphite jiggin’ pole. Blaine said he’ll set up shop at LSS Booth 2130 for the show’s run through Sunday.

Biloxi WMA notice

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission addressed the move to restrict surface-drive boats on the Biloxi Wildlife Management Area when it approved a change in the state’s proposed WMA regulations for the upcoming hunting seasons.

State WMA managers heeded a request from landowners that called for a 16-horsepower maximum for one type of surface-drive outboard to propel boats on the WMA when it proposed hunting rules in February.

Public comment sought a more lenient regulation, which led to last week’s change. The proposed new regulation reads: “Mud boats or air-cooled propulsion vessels can only be powered by straight shaft ‘long tail’ air-cooled, mud motors that are 25 total horsepower or less on the (Biloxi) WMA. All other types of mud boats or air cooled propulsion vessels (including ‘surface drive’ boats) are prohibited.”

Comments on this and other proposed hunting rules and regulations can be sent to Steve Smith, LDWF Wildlife Division, Post Office Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-9000, email: There’s a 4:30 p.m. April 1 comment-period deadline.

The black bear incident

After a month of offering rewards, four state Enforcement Division agents cited a New Iberia man, 52-year-old Richard Picard Jr., for allegedly killing a black bear in St. Mary Parish at the end of February.

The Wildlife and Fisheries’ report indicated that hunters informed the state agency that it was Picard who shot and killed the 350-pound bear while he was hog hunting with other hunters near Cypremort Point. In the report, Picard told agents that he “mistakenly identified the black bear as a wild hog.”

If convicted, Picard faces fines up to $950, jail time up to 120 days, and a civil restitution penalty of up to $10,000, the state’s listed replacement value of the black bear.