When Corey Wheat stopped to fish a small knockout in the lower end of the Atchafalaya Basin Sunday afternoon during the Ascension Area Anglers tournament, he was planning on quickly working the area and staying on the move.
“This was just a ‘stop-in-here-and-fish-this-spot-real-quick’ type of spot. It’s a small indention that we stop in on occasion,” Wheat said. “Very rarely do we catch one there, but when we do it’s usually a decent fish.”
The big bass he pulled from the 2- to 3-foot-deep muddy water on the side of a cypress tree was way better than decent: she weighed 8.16 pounds for Wheat’s personal best and took top honors as the big bass of the tournament.
“I just threw to the shady point of the tree and she was there,” he said. “I knew it was a big fish, but I didn’t think she was that big. She made a run under the boat and I didn’t see her until she came to the surface.
“I didn’t really realize how big she was until I put my hands on her in the boat.”
Wheat caught the big bass on a California love Missile D Bomb on 25-pound fluorocarbon spooled to a Shimano Curado reel with a 7-foot, 3-inch Duckett White Ice rod.
Wheat and his partner, Trevor Settoon, would have won overall for their five-fish stringer as well, but came in 2nd because of a dead-fish penalty on a different bass.
“The dead fish penalty was from a smaller fish that was hooked in the tongue that died later,” he said.
In fact, the big 8.16-pounder got extra-special treatment from the time she was caught until she was released after the weigh-in at Doiron’s in Stephensville.
“When I caught the fish, I immediately put all my aerators on and left them on continuously,” he said. “We kept some good water on her because it was hot. She barely fit in the livewell. We had to keep her up and we took care of her.”
After the weigh-in and a few quick pictures, she was put back in the livewell and transported out to a good spot.
“We released her into the spillway in an area where there’s some very good water with grass,” he said. “She’s got the habitat to make it and spawn out. She wasn’t dropped off at the boat ramp like a lot of them are.
“We actually went out and released her. We took care of that fish. She swam off good and was in good shape.”
Persistent south winds have kept Basin waters a little more muddy than usual, Wheat said, but noted other anglers caught a couple of 3-pounders and one 4-pounder on Sunday.
"This weekend we had two days in a row with some strong south winds that just kept the water from bleeding through sloughs. They had muddier water in places it should have been clean,” he said. “The Basin needs to get on a slow fall rather than fluctuating like it is.
“Once it starts falling, you’ll see more catches and the better fish showing up.”