See full results here.
By Patty Lenderman
The 28th annual Big Bass Splash Presented by Sealy Outdoors and B.A.S.S. on Toledo Bend was jam-packed with huge catches, lots of prize money, and great family fun May 16-18, 2014 at Cypress Bend Park. All total participants enjoyed a half a million dollar payback, and the top bass of the event weighed over 11 pounds! Louisiana anglers dominated the overall top five leaderboard throughout the tournament. 2,460 anglers from all over the country came for their chance to Win Like The Pros!
Each day anglers could begin fishing at 6 a.m., and the scales were open from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. The top twelve bass weighed in each hour caught a check, and at the end of the tournament the overall top five anglers won additional cash and prizes. The Little Anglers got their chance to compete as well, winning Academy gift cards for the top three bass, crappie, catfish and bream weighed in each day. That’s not all – a $5,000 bounty was offered for the first 3.00, 4.00 and 5.00 pound bass weighed in. That’s $45,000 that was up for grabs just to hit that magic number on the scale.
To recap some of the excitement, Day 1 saw several nice chunks cross the scales, and anglers were gunning for the exact weight prize as well with many near misses, just 1/100th of a pound off of the even weight. Jeremiah King of Ringgold, LA was the only one who hit it on day one with a 5.00 pound bass. The other two guaranteed pay-outs for the even weights were drawn for Sunday with every participants name in the box, whether they ever weighed in a fish or not.
Day One Top 5 line-up:
9.02 pounds, Jim Burleigh, Zwolle, LA
8.67 pounds, Derek Mong, Many, LA
8.14 pounds, James Procell, Noble, LA
7.91 pounds, Selvin Cartwright, Shelbyville, TX
7.67 pounds, Tyler Craig, Frierson, LA
Day 2 started out with strong, cold winds giving swells on the lake up to five feet. By mid-morning the wind laid down and the big fish started rolling in. The crowd continued to see weights climb on day 2, with the overall top five leaderboard seeing many new names. Ray Albritton of West Monroe, LA caught a game changer, weighing in at 11.03 pounds and taking over as tournament leader with one day to go.
There were four new entries into the Top 5, including Rick Carter with a 9.64, Walt Seasock, Jr. with a 9.55, Byron Cooley with a 9.38. The 11.03 that Ray Albritton brought in has a good chance of winning the tournament, but this is Toledo Bend – and known for its big, double digit bass! Thousands of anglers are fishing the final day and any one of them could hook one even bigger.
All three exact weight fish were caught on Day 2; the bonus winners were:
3.00 ($5,000) Jeffery Mitchell, Deville, LA
4.00 ($5,000) William McConnaughhay, Sulphur, LA
5.00 ($5,000) Charles Andre, Blanks LA
The third and final day of Toledo Bend Big Bass Splash promised to be full of excitement as the day two leader with an 11.03 pound lunker was still in the lead. The day started beautifully with the sun shining and a slight breeze.
In the first hour and exact weight of 3.00 was brought to the scales by Robert Anderson of Alba, Texas worth $5000. Immediately following his certified 3 pounder, another three pounder came to the scales-what a heartbreaker! The exact weight 5 pounder was brought to the scales by Andrew Odom of Hornbeck, LA during the 11-12 hour. That left only the 4 pounder with lots of time left in the day, but was never weighed and was up for grabs for every contestant in the open drawing.
The top 5 changed when Jon Despino of Colfax, LA brought in a 9.06 pounder in the 10-11 hour moving him into 5th place overall. The excitement and the crowds were building. At this point tournament leader Ray Albritton and his wife were glued to the stage, watching as every fish was weighed in. “I’ve never caught a fish that big!” Albritton stated. Finally, the scales were officially closed and he was declared champion of the event.
Albritton caught his fish on a Carolina rigged watermelon red brush hog, and his 1st place package included a 2014 Triton 20XS powered by Mercury, equipped with Minn Kota, Lowrance, Navionics, Power Pole, HydroWave and Tournament Saver Pro, a 2014 RAM truck plus $7,000 cash!
2nd place – 9.64 pounds, Rick Carter of Farmerville, LA caught his fish in shallow water on a spinnerbait. His prize package included a 2014 Triton 19XS powered by Mercury, equipped with Minn Kota & Lowrance, and a new 2014 RAM Truck plus another $2,000 in cash.
3rd place – 9.55 pounds, Walt Seasock Jr. of Many, LA caught his fish on a jig in 6’ of water. He was awarded a 2014 Ram Truck plus $1,000 cash.
4th place – 9.38 pounds, Byron Cooley of DeRidder, LA caught his fish on a watermelon red Texas rigged brush hog. He won a check for $8,0000
5th place – 9.06 pounds, Jon Despino of Colfax, LA. He caught his fish on a V&M football head jig in 15’ of water. He received an additional check for $6,000.
Bob Sealy, CEO of Sealy Outdoors, re-dedicated this and all events to the men and women who continue to fight for and secure the freedoms we all enjoy every day. “We live in a country where we have the right to choose our own destiny. Our warriors overseas make sure of that. Without them and their sacrifices we would not be able to do any of these things we are free to enjoy.” He continued, saying “You never get too old to learn. This year marks our 30th anniversary, with our events starting out on Sam Rayburn. From now on, the final day of our tournaments are going to be all about you – our anglers. I would also like to say a special thank you to the wives, girlfriends, parents and grandparents of all of these anglers for continuously standing behind them and encouraging them.”
Hayden Jones, a Little Angler of the 2013 event, received a replica for her 4.00 exact weight bass as did 14 yr old angler Cole Moore for his 8.36 lb catch. As is tradition, the winner of each year is also presented a replica of their winning catch, presented to Leslie Thomas, 2013 champion.
For nearly ten years, Bob shares the stage at the Toledo event with the Toledo Bend Lake Association. Their Toledo lunker program runs year round, and recognizes each angler with a 10 pound bass or larger. Since their inception, 418 bass have been entered into the program, tagged, and released back into the lake. Replicas are awarded to these accomplished anglers at each Big Bass Splash event. Last year a record 58 replicas were presented. This year a new record was set at 61! “We would like to thank the Toledo Bend Lake Association for sponsoring this program, as well as Toledo Town, Fin & Feather, Newells Fishing World, Buckey Landing, Sealy Outdoors, and Scottie Lucas Taxidermy. Thank you to all of the anglers as well for participating in this conservation effort, ensuring that these big bass are released back into the lake. From our tagging information, many of these bass have been caught more than once and entered back into the program by other anglers! This tells us that this program is working!” For more information about the Lunker Bass Program, visit www.toledobendlakeassociation.com
Linda Curtis-Sparks of the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission addressed the crowd to celebrate the anglers whose catches this season entered into the overall top 100 club of best catches on Toledo Bend. The full listing can be found at www.toledobendlakecountry.com