It’s darned good when you have a plan and it works.
Ask Matt Nobile.
“I joined the Ascension Area Anglers and they have a lot of guys, good fishermen, and I wanted to learn from them,” Nobile said Monday, a couple of days after becoming the next in line of AAA fishermen to earn the title of Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation’s State Champion.
“I’m still young,” the 26-year-old said. “And it gave me a great opportunity to learn from guys like Jamie Laiche and David Cavell. They’ve been very good to me.”
Laiche and Cavell have earned similar honors, and Laiche is one of a handful of Louisiana anglers to earn his way into the Bassmaster Classic through the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s Federation Nation series. The Fed-Nation allows the die-hard, and mostly weekend anglers, a shot at a Classic berth.
For Nobile, his move came earlier this year at Toledo Bend, the state’s first of two two-day qualifiers.
Nobile said the two tournaments are divided into days, and the standings are compiled by taking first-day and second-day catches. He finished 16th one day at Toledo Bend, then second on the second day.
“Each day stands alone for the points, and the only reason we combine weights is to determine the payout,” he said. “Then, you drop your worst finish (among the four days) to figure out the points standings."
Launching from Berwick on Friday and Saturday, Nobile said he ran far north into the Grand Lake area and was ninth on Day 1, then second on Day 2, a combination that left him in third place overall for the recent tournament, but atop the overall standings.
“I made the State Team, and that’s a thrill, a big thrill, because I know how many good fishermen there are in these tournaments. I’m honored,” Nobile said.
That’s on the “Boater” side; Charles Leblanc from the Westside Bassmasters took the No. 1 spot in the Co-Angler Division.
Nobile said he went through plans A, B and C before settling into a pay-off plan.
“I had two little keepers at 1 (p.m.), but I caught 11 pounds the in the last hour,” he said. “It sparked me into going back there for the second day.
“I was punching mats (of grass and water hyacinths) and flipping around brush and logs,” he said. “It was slow, but I’d get a good bite (big fish) about every two hours. It worked out.”
Even better is Nobile will have his entry fees paid to compete in the Bassmasters’ Central Open next year.
“It’s a great opportunity for me, and I appreciate the state chapter paying those entry fees for the state champion,” Nobile said.
The other side
As a “boater,” Nobile could pick his place and tactics to put together as big a five-bass daily catch as he could, but the co-angler, the guy in the back of the boat, has to adapt to the boater’s overall strategy — and it’s often frustrating to the guy in the back of the boat.
“I was fishing with this high school angler,” Nobile said. “I know it was tough on him, but he stuck to it. And he caught a small spotted bass in the last few minutes, and that one fish put him in 10th place on the state team for the co-anglers. It was great.”
The high-schooler? Connor Rushing of Central High School. The 17-year-old is qualified to compete in the 2020 Fed-Nation’s Central Division tournament.
While “boaters” had a five-bass daily limit, the co-anglers have three-fish limits each day.
Travis Laurant and Cavell, the respective Boater and Co-Angler winners, went opposite of Nobile’s punchin’ and flippin’ to take top money.
Laurant ran to the Bayou Pigeon area, while Cavell said he was in Grand Lake.
“The bass are chasing shad and bluegill, and you have to have a bait moving to trigger strikes,” Cavell said. “I caught most all my fish on a buzzbait.
“You have to wait the (fish) out. You know from experience about the places that have fish, and you can’t just roll right through them.”
For Laurant, his Friday catch came early.“I had 10 pounds by 7:40 Friday morning, then just worked to find bigger fish,” he said.
Saturday was different: boat traffic through a popular fishing hole in the Pigeon area sent his Friday fish seeking cover.
“I was fishing a drain that had moving water all day,” Laurent said. “It’s really a community (fishing) hole, and I had to wait for the water to settle down. I found the fish have moved farther back and I just had to find them.”
Laurent said he worked the new Humdinger vibrating jig both days.
“I put a Strike King minnow on the back. The bait rides high in the water and that’s what the fish wanted, something moving,” Laurent said after weighing a 10-bass, 26-pound catch.
Laurent made the state team with an eighth-place finish in the standings.
Cavell’s six bass weighed 14.74 pounds. Because he missed the Toledo Bend tournament — it was the same day he attended the 2019 Bassmaster Classic — Cavell went to Mississippi tournament and qualified on that state’s team.
One to the Classic
Three days of the Bassmaster Angler of the Year tournament produced one Louisiana qualifier for the 2020 Classic set for Birmingham, Alabama.
Caleb Sumrall, of New Iberia, finished 17th overall after three days on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair and finished in 21st place in the AOY standings, good enough for one of the 42 Classic berths allowed to Elite Series anglers.
Two other Louisianans were in the 50-man field, but, try as they might, Raceland’s Tyler Rivet and Baton Rouge’s Derek Hudnall ended the year in 46th and 48th places.
Scott Canterbury, of Odonville, Alabama, earned the Angler of the Year honor and the $100,000 bonus that goes with that title.