James Benedict and Bart Blakelock knew exactly where to be Saturday morning for the Texas Trail Team Tournament on Toledo Bend.
Just seven days earlier, the anglers finished in the money with five bass weighing 18.15 pounds for a 25th ranking out of 277 teams in the Skeeter Bass Champs Texas Team Tournament on the Bend.
So on Saturday, they motored right over to the same location in the 12-15 area where they caught the fish the week before.
“We went to the same grass beds, a 24-yard stretch of hydrilla on the edge of a ditch,” said Blakelock, 39, of Lake Charles.
Benedict, of Livonia, was the first to hook-up early in 8 feet of grass. He was fishing a red Rat-L-Trap on 15-pound test Red Label Seaguar fluorocarbon spooled onto an Abu Garcia Revo Winch attached to a 7-foot medium Falcon rod.
“I hooked a fish on my second cast,” Benedict said. “It liked to pull that rod out of my hands.”
Hooked on the Rat-L-Trap with Benedict reeling in hard, the big fish didn’t make much of a run.
“We just got her into the boat and livewell quickly,” Benedict said, commenting on the hammer fish that would tip the scales at 11.42 pounds at weigh-in.
The anglers celebrated briefly then quickly got back to the serious business of adding more weight to the livewell.
Not long after, the magical day continued - this time for Blakelock, who had Rat-L-Traps tied to two Shimano Crucial rods outfitted with Lew’s BB series reels spooled with 17-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon.
By 8, he added a 5-pounder and a 3-pounder to the livewell.
“From 8 to 10, we just had to hang in because it got tough,” Blakelock said.
At 10, Benedict hooked up again, but the bass pulled off and the anglers didn’t even get a glimpse of it.
“At 10:15, I got a bite and got it to the boat,” Blakelock said. “It was an 8-pounder.”
Blakelock’s livewell now held just north of 27 pounds of bass - and it was only 10:30.
A couple hours later, Benedict had a good bass on that looked to be at least 6 pounds or better.
“I got the net and knelt down on the deck to sweep her in, but she pulled off, too,” Blakelock said.
Finally, at about 1:15, Blakelock made a long cast and let the Rat-L-Trap flutter to the grassy bottom.
“I popped the Rat-L-Trap out of the grass and a fish loaded up on it,” he said.
After a brief fight, Benedict netted what turned out to be a 9-pounder.
At that point, Blakelock started to worry about his batteries because he had the livewell running all morning. (Earlier in the day, he had to crank his motor once by jumping it off his trolling motor batteries.)
“My batteries had also been run down due to the wind, and I was a bit afraid of losing all the power,” he said.
The decision was made to do everything possible to keep the fish healthy, so the anglers motored over to the tournament’s weigh-in area.
Benedict’s hawg weighed 11.42 pounds and anchored the team’s five-fish total of 35.56 pounds. Their team earned both the 1st place ranking and the Big Bass Award, resulting in $32,125 in winnings - quite an accomplishment considering there were 254 teams in the field.
Benedict’s huge fish also was entered into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program, and was released back into Toledo Bend waters. It was lunker No. 28 for the 2014-15 season, which ends later this spring.