2015 Sam Rayburn Big Bass Splash champion crowned

It is a celebration of anglers making the pilgrimage to Sam Rayburn  for the annual Big Bass Splash.  A three day event, this year marks their 31st anniversary with participants from all over the globe.  $545,000 was paid out in cash and prizes!  It was a 9.98 lb bass caught on Day 2 by Cleveland, TX angler Norman Land that won 1st place for the newly crowned Big Bass Splash Champion.

It was a block party weekend April 17-19 at the Umphrey Family Pavilion.  Food vendors, product vendors, the big bass tank, and the live weigh-in for all three days.  

All eyes were on the weather for the weekend’s event.  Severe weather was in the forecast, but for all three days of competition the weather was picture perfect.  The thunderstorms that went through the area each day were in the evenings and early mornings, giving safe fishing conditions for everyone on the lake, with the exception of some dense fog the first few hours of the final day.  

Sam Rayburn’s big bass were biting, as was evident at the scales.  Countless numbers of bass over seven pounds were weighed in.  Fifteen places were paid each hour over the course of three days, plus there was a $5,000 bounty for exact weight bass of 3.00, 4.00 and 5.00 pounds weighed in each day.  So many times the scales would lock in within 1/100th of a pound which would equate to about two drops of water!

Day 1:  Philip Hanks of Buna, TX set the bar to beat during the first hourly weigh-in with his 8.22 lb catch.  The very next hour Cody Green of Etoile nosed ahead of him with 8.23 pounds.  During the 9-10am hour, the first $5,000 bonus was awarded to Harold Scales of Bridge City, TX for locking in at 5.00 lbs.  During that same hour Bubba Henderson of Alvin, TX captured an 8.59 lb sow to take the lead.   The top weights continued to climb as Ronnie Sharp of Lubbock, TX weighed his 8.72 lb bass during the 10-11am hour.  Only one more exact weight bass was weighed in before days end, by Friendswood TX angler Jeremy Morton who caught a 4.00 lb bass for a $5,000 payday.

Day 2: Lots of excitement from the very first hour.  Wesley Gore of Evadale, TX took the lead with 9.66 pounds, and two of the three exact weight bonuses were won.  John Kurharski of Lake Jackson, TX caught a 4.00 and Jody Rhoden of Groveton, TX registered his 5.00 lb catch.  During the 10-11am weigh-in, Gary Gregory of Colmesneil, TX won the final $5,000 exact weight fish of the day with his 3.00 pounder.  Jim Willoughby of Shawnee, OK entered into the overall top five with his 9.22 lb catch.  It was the last hour of the day when Cleveland, TX angler Norman Land brought in the biggest fish in his livewell (he had more than one big one to pick from!).  It weighed 9.98 lbs and took the overall tournament lead.

Day 3: On the final day of competition, Rowdy Slaughter of Bridge City weighed his 9.08 bass and secured his spot in the overall top 5.  Then Monroe McCarty of Ringgold, LA challenged the leader during the 10-11am weigh-in with his 9.82 lb catch.  

All the while, the Little Anglers were competing in their own division, weighing in bass, crappie, catfish and bream.  The top winners in each age group and category were awarded gift certificates from Academy Outdoors for their achievements.

When the scales officially closed, the top five winners earned additional cash and prizes.

The 9.98 pound bass caught by Norman Land of Cleveland, TX earned the Champion crown for the 2015 Sam Rayburn Big Bass Splash.  In addition to his hourly winnings, he won the Grand Prize package consisting of a 2015 Triton 20 TRX powered by Mercury, equipped with Minn Kota, Lowrance, Navionics and Power Pole.  He also won a 2015 RAM pickup truck and $10,000 cash!

9.82 lbs won 2nd place by Monroe McCarty of Ringgold, LA.  His prize package consisted of a 2015 Triton 19 TRX powered by Mercury, equipped with Minn Kota & Lowrance, a 2015 RAM pickup truck plus $5,000 cash.

Wesley Gore of Evadale, TX won 3rd place overall with 9.66 lbs.  He was awarded a 2015 Triton 18 TRX powered by Mercury, equipped with Minn Kota & Lowrance, also a 2015 RAM truck and $2,500 cash.

4th place was won with 9.22 lbs caught by Jim Willoughby of Shawnee, OK.  He was presented a 2015 Dodge RAM truck plus $1,500 cash.

And the final top five winner was Rowdy Slaughter of Bridge City, TX with 9.08 lbs.  He won an additional $10,000 check.

See full results here.

There are so many ways to win at the Big Bass Splash.  All  contestants are eligible to be in the Elimination Drawing, whether they ever caught or weighed in a fish at all.  As has become tradition, five anglers are drawn and come to the stage.  As Bob Sealy heckles them along with the crowd to see if any one of them could be bought out by one of the other contestants and step down, their names are then drawn again to see who is eliminated from winning the 2015 Triton 189 TRX prize. This year something unique and special happened.  It came down to the last two.  One was from Jasper, the other from Port Arthur.  The angler from Port Arthur did not have a boat of his own, and had fished from the pier for three days, not catching anything.  The Jasper contestant announced that whether he won the boat or not, he was giving it to the Port Arthur man.  And he did.  An incredibly emotional moment for both of them and for Bob Sealy, Bob stated “That’s never happened in the history of this tournament!”  He then awarded the Jasper angler free entries into any and all Big Bass Splash events throughout the country for his kind gesture.  “That’s just how Jasper people roll!” he concluded.

Click here to see more photos from this event.

Don’t miss the next Big Bass Splash event on Toledo Bend May 15-17 at Cypress Bend Marina.  For more information, visit SealyOutdoors.com or call 409-698-2591.