Sealy Outdoors and B.A.S.S. celebrated the 29th annual Sam Rayburn Big Bass Splash event on April 19-21; the event offered $540,000 in guaranteed cash and prizes. Hosted at the Umphrey Family Pavilion, anglers and families from all over the country came to be a part of the experience and excitement.
Days One and Two provided exciting moments for this year’s event with several big bass crossing the scales, but nothing compared to the crowning of this year’s Big Bass Splash champion, Alex Finch of Lancaster, Texas. With his Day One catch, which held up for all three days, he won the crown and trophy along with a Sportsman Package consisting of 2013 Dodge Ram Truck, Triton 20XS powered by Mercury, equipped with MinnKota, Lowrance, Navionics, Power Pole, HydroWave, Healthy Battery and Tournament Saver Pro, PLUS $10,000 cash. A total package valued over $100,000! View complete results.
Twelve places were paid each hour over the course of three days with several added bonus hours that paid to 14 places with a bonus card. A total of $155,400 was paid out to hourly winners. The overall top five anglers received additional cash and prizes.
It was an excruciatingly long wait for Finch. He weighed in a 9.90-pound bass during the 8-9:00 hour on the first day of the Big Bass Splash on Sam Rayburn. Having fished several Big Bass Splash tournaments in the past, he was notably excited when he brought this fish in. Sharing the moment with founder Bob Sealy was of utmost importance. He would not even get the fish out of his boat until he knew Bob would be there to see it. It was placed on the scales, and Finch led the tournament for the next two days just waiting for the scales to close for the last time.
Sam Rayburn is well known for producing double-digit bass, and there were a lot of hooks in the water. Anything could happen.
“I found her two days before the tournament,” Finch explained. “My buddy David Tyroch and I guarded the spot until the tournament. It was in a small pocket about halfway back next to a creek. On Friday morning, we got to the spot about 5 a.m., anchored, turned off all of our electronics and just let everything get quiet and settled.”
At 6 a.m. when the tournament officially began, he threw his watermelon red 4 Fat Jack tube bait into the depths where he had seen the fish.
“I think the male picked it up first, but two or three casts later the female picked it up and started swimming off with it,” continued Finch. “I set the hook and David was ready with the net!”
He strategically waited for the bonus hour where he would garner an extra $1,000 for biggest fish of that hour having the official T-Shirt.
“I wasn't really worried the first day, because I just knew someone would come in with one over 10 pounds,” Finch continued. On Day Two, when he was still in the lead, he began considering the possibility that he could win. I went fishing the last day but couldn't catch a fish! His mind was adrift with possibilities. For the last few hours of the tournament, he stayed near the scales watching with ever-increasing earnest. His wife and son were with him and also sitting on the edge of their seats. As the last seconds were counted down, relief, excitement and elation flooded over him as he was declared champion of the 29th Annual Big Bass Splash on Sam Rayburn.
Each day a $5,000 bounty is offered for the first 3.00- , 4.00- and 5.00-pound exact weight bass. The lucky winners for this bonus were:
(Day 1) 4.00 lb. Dusty Birchfield of Zavalla, Texas
(Day 2) 3.00 lb. Alvin Torrey of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee
(Day 2) 5.00 lb. Russell Sparks of Lufkin, Texas
(Day 3) 3.00 lb. Justin Brown of Center, Texas
(Day 3) 5.00 lb. Travis Stewart of Colmesneil, Texas
The $5,000 checks are guaranteed to be paid out, so the ones that were not claimed by catching the bass were put into an open drawing and every angler who was registered to fish was put in the pool. But you have to be present to win! Four lucky anglers, some who had not weighed a single fish, won the remaining $5,000 by drawing of all of the entries in the tournament.
2nd Place: 9.51 | Walter Land | Cleveland, Texas
2013 Dodge Ram Truck, Legend Alpha 199 powered by Mercury, equipped with MinnKota & Lowrance, PLUS $5,000 cash. His fish was caught on a deep point, 16, with a Kicker Fish High Tail blue fleck-floating worm.
3rd Place: 9.28 | Johnny Dewald | Zavalla, Texas
2013 Legend Alpha 191 powered by Mercury, equipped with MinnKota & Lowrance, PLUS $2,500 cash. Dewald did not catch this fish until 1:05 p.m. and had little time to spare to get it to the scales before the tournament was complete.
4th Place: 8.70 | Benjamin Craven | Colmesneil, Texas
2013 Dodge Ram Truck, PLUS $1,500 cash. “Friday we got beat up in Five Fingers with the wind. Saturday we got to our spot and it didn’t take long before the magic started to happen. It was a day that every fisherman dreams of, where all the fish that bite were drag strippers. I thank God for this opportunity!” Craven caught his fish on 10XD crank bait.
5th Place | 8.56 | Mike Price | Mansfield, La.
$10,000 cash. “We had been throwing crank baits, but then a bunch of schoolies came up. I threw in a floating worm with a split shot and caught my fish!”
The Big Bass Splash, which is always a family affair, offers a Little Anglers division of their own. Sponsored by Academy Outdoors, any angler 12 or under can sign up to fish and cross the weigh-in stage with their catch showing it off to the public and many proud parents. There are 3 places awarded in each category for bass, perch, crappie and catfish. Academy Sports & Outdoors provides prizes and gift certificates to the lucky winners in each age group. As this generation is the future of fishing, it is wonderful that Academy Sports & Outdoors and Sealy Outdoors include them in the event each year.
The 2014 Sam Rayburn Big Bass Splash will be a celebration of 30 years for the event. We have a lot of big things planned already – great surprises and big entertainment. It just keeps getting bigger and better at Sealy Outdoors, and you ain't seen nothin' yet!
The next stop for the Big Bass Splash Presented by Sealy Outdoors and B.A.S.S. will be on Toledo Bend, May 17-18-19 at Cypress Bend Park, Many, LA. Visit www.SealyOutdoors.com or call 888-698-2591 for more information on any Big Bass Splash tournaments.
A special thank you to The Jasper Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce for all of their support and assistance in making this year's tournament event a success. We would also like to thank our corporate sponsors: Triton Boats, Legend Boats, Mercury Marine, Academy Sports & Outdoors, MinnKota, Lowrance, Okuma, Tournament Saver Pro, Power Pole, Navionics, Healthy Battery, River2Sea, Texas Fish & Game, HydroWave, TH Marine, K2 Cooler, Vicious Fishing, Amphbia, The Original Rod Sox, Tour Star Products, Rayburn Country Resort, and FishingWorld.com.