MANY, La. — Bob Blumenstein said wind might be the only thing that could hinder his chances of winning the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.
The wind howled Friday on Toledo Bend Reservoir, but Blumenstein won the tournament anyway.
The 51-year old Illinois angler closed the event with a five-bass limit that weighed 16 pounds, 7 ounces. It was his lightest bag of the week, but it gave him a three-day total of 59-2, which was more than enough to earn the individual championship here in northwest Louisiana.
Blumenstein won $6,500 for finishing first in the field of 190 boaters entered in the tournament. He also earned a spot in the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors, which will be held later this year on an undisclosed date and fishery. The leading anglers from each of the other 18 states competing here advanced to the national championship, as did 19 nonboaters who led their respective states.
In all, 380 anglers took part in the tournament, but none caught bass like Blumenstein.
“I caught them right there; about a 10-minute ride from here,” he said motioning to a point within sight of the Cypress Bend Park launch. “It was just a magical spot.”
That it was, but Blumenstein feared wind might disrupt the catch. He boated a 16-14 bag on Wednesday when the wind steadily blew, but he felt his spot could produce heavier bass in less blustery conditions. When Mother Nature cooperated on Thursday, Blumenstein increased his catch to a tournament-best 25-13.
That gave him a 4-pound, 1-ounce lead over the field heading into the final day of fishing. He started the final day by hooking a 7-pounder within moments of pulling up to his spot, and he backed it up with a pair of 3-pounders and two smaller bass that provided him the winning weight.
“I kept working a point that had a steel seawall around it,” he said. “There was a gradual drop from about 14 to 18 feet there and the fish would stack up. For about an hour each morning, they would come up into about 6 feet of water. They did that all three days. I’d throw a crankbait or a jig for that hour; hour and 10 minutes. That’s where I caught all the fish.”
Blumenstein’s used a Missouri Craw Chompers jig with twin trailers as his primary lure, and he went to a silver-backed herring crankbait at times.
It was his fourth trip to a B.A.S.S. Nation regional. (He reached this level twice as a boater and twice as a nonboater.) It’s the first time, however, he made it to Day 3 of a regional and the first time he’ll represent his state in the national championship.
“This is incredible,” he said. “I don’t know how the pros do this all the time. I didn’t eat well, I didn’t sleep. I’m out of it. But I feel great. What a week.”
Louisiana’s Todd Newchurch won the nonboater division with a three-day total of 39-1. Anglers in the nonboater division could catch three bass per day, and the Livonia resident had his limit all three days.
Newchurch started today in third place, but a 17-2 sack vaulted him into the hot seat early in the final weigh-in. He held the spot through the very end, when fellow Louisiana angler Charlie Hewitt (who led after Day 2) weighed only one bass.
“Yesterday, I was using a Brushbuster jig, a Carolina rig and a spinner bait,” Newchurch said. “Today, it was nothing but a lizard on a Carolina rig. All of this is really exciting.”
He fished Friday with Corey Brant of Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation. Brant second in the boater division. They fished a flat in the middle of the reservoir that ranged from 12 to 30 feet. It was his first time in a regional and he earned $3,250 for the victory.
“It was a great place to fish,” Newchurch said. “I was on good fish all three days.”
Indiana’s Chris Myers, who caught an 11-6 bass on Thursday, won $500 for having the heaviest bass in the boater division. Louisiana’s Michael Nobile won $250 for his 8-15 bass, which was the heaviest by a nonboater.
A day earlier, Louisiana defeated 18 other squads for the team championship. Team Arkansas finished second in that competition, and Team Iowa finished third.