Matsubu makes television history

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Ben Matsubu made televised bass fishing history Sunday, in addition to winning the $100,000 first-place check in the Sunshine Showdown, presented by Allstate Boat Insurance.

You will undoubtedly soon see Matsubu land an 8-pound, 13-ounce bass on ESPN broadcast television. (The catch already appeared on's "Hooked Up" Webcast.)

And the bass appeared to be much larger than its official weight.

Jerry McKinnis, longtime host of ESPN's "The Fishin' Hole" and founder of the JM Associates television production company, was one of the first to congratulate Matsubu after his victory at Lake Toho, mentioning it was one of the best video clips ever captured at a Bassmaster tournament.

The crowd assembled for Sunday's weigh-in got to see it on the JumboTron before Matsubu ever made it to the stage.

It would be an understatement to say the Hemphill, Texas, pro angler was animated during the three-minute fight to land the lunker Sunday.

JM cameraman Brian Mason was in the boat with Matsubu.

In addition to the video, he captured audio, of which the following is a sample, as Matsubu reeled the lunker to the boat:

"What a fish! This is a mule!

"Oh, what a hog. This is a mule!

"Come on, baby. Don't jump. Don't jump. Don't jump.

"Look at the size of that son of a gun. That's $100,000 right there. Come on, baby. Wear yourself out. Wear yourself out.

"Gol-lee, what a mule. What a monster.

"Oh please don't come off. Please. Please."

As Matsubu reached in the water and lipped the bass, his joy overflowed: "Yeah! That's what I'm talking about! A monster! A monster!

"It's probably only about 9 pounds, but it should be a 13-pounder."

Matsubu was right on the money in his estimation of the big bass — it was approximately 26 inches long. And every Lake Toho veteran in attendance agreed it would have been a 13-pounder when fully filled out, prior to spawning.

Ironically, Matsubu didn't even need that big bass to win the Sunshine Showdown, as he finished with 66 pounds, 8 ounces for four days, a 14-1 margin over second place Bill Smith Jr.'s 52-7.

But it certainly was an exclamation point to Matsubu's victory, one likely to be seen on ESPN's outdoors lineup for years to come.

That anchor to his 25-5 bag Sunday also finished out his five-bass limit for the day. And it came at 10 a.m.

"When I got that one, I thought maybe I had (the victory) in the bag, but I wasn't going to quit," Matsubu said. "I stayed out there and lost 10 pounds, sweating all day."

So much for high-dollar sponsor-manufactured lures. Matsubu caught all his fish Sunday by Carolina-rigging a 6-inch Junebug-colored plastic worm he bought in a 50-count bag for $2.50 three years ago.

Matsubu said his co-angler on Day Three, Harry Potts, tossed a few Zoom Trick Worms in his boat Saturday when Potts sewed up the co-angler championship. Matsubu's no-name worms were almost identical.

Color was key

"Everything I brought here was junebug," said Matsubu, who turned 45 years old a week ago. "I brought (Zoom) Brush Hawgs, Senkos, everything was junebug."

Maybe the single most important piece of equipment Matsubu employed this week was a Humminbird side imaging sonar device.

"I'm not sponsored by them," Matsubu said. "I went to Bass Pro Shops and bought one as soon as I saw it. If you're going to really take this sport serious, you've got to have one."

The sonar was particularly crucial in the shallow, relatively flat waters of Lake Toho.

"I got about 200 feet from the matted grass and graphed two miles of it," Matsubu said. "I found two key spots that had matted grass with about four feet of water over it.

"You could see this scattered, scattered grass, little clumps. I found two points that had that scattered grass on them.

"It's underwater, so you can't see it (without the side imager).

"But I had no idea that about the quality of fish in that one hole."

Matsubu already had about 15 pounds of bass in his livewell Sunday when he made a cast, then moved to check his livewell timer, making sure his fish stayed aerated.

"As I was running back to check the timer, I felt a tick," Matsubu said. "I set the hook with one hand. That rod just stopped. I thought, 'Oh, my God, not another catfish.'"

Matsubu said he'd caught a couple of 10-pound channel catfish earlier in the tournament.

"Catfish want to stay down," he said. "When I saw that line coming up, I thought, 'Oh, man, don't jump'"

And that's when the video camera began capturing what's sure to become one of the most memorable moments in bass fishing.

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