Make no mistake about it: Gil Leger and his partner Scott Eastman had a well-developed plan to fish the Sealy Big Bass Splash at Toledo Bend.
They chose a location known to produce large bass, and the anglers had the patience to catch one on Saturday, May 16.
After all, the Sealy Big Bass Splash is all about catching one large fish in any given tournament hour — it’s not about the customary three- or five-fish winning stringer that’s common in most bass tournaments.
“Scott and I are both members of the Lake Charles Hawg Hunters Club, and some of our members were also out there,” said Leger, 44, of Lake Charles. “One of them, Frank Little, came out in third place in the tournament.
“We all felt confident we could cash a few checks, but I had no idea I would win the whole thing.”
Leger and Eastman motored to the Housen area very early that Saturday.
“We arrived there and listened to the radio waiting for start time,” Leger said.
Once the tournament started at 6, the anglers fished the area for 40 minutes without a single bite.
“We were fishing a deep ledge in 20 feet of water with a little patch of hydrilla that was just starting to grow,” he said. “It wasn’t thick at all.
“I told Scott we needed to move.”
But before that happened, Leger had a bite from a very good fish and set the hook.
“It broke off,” he said. “Scott and I discussed it for five minutes while I retied. It was a bad situation hooking the fish and not seeing it.”
Leger was casting a 10-inch plastic worm on 17-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon spooled to a Shimano Chronarch reel. He was fishing with a 7-foot, heavy action Duckett rod.
“I was fishing the worm by dragging it slow,” he said.
A little later, Leger had another bite and set the hook.
“This time she had it,” he said. “She started pulling right then and there.
“I could feel as she moved her head under the water.”
Leger described making six or seven cranks on his reel and then watching as the huge bass came to the surface.
“Scott already had the net and was waiting,” he said. “When she neared the boat, she tried to make another run by putting her head down to run deep.
“But Scott scooped her in the net before that happened.”
Leger remembers getting a little shaky when Eastman secured the fish.
“I took the hook out of her mouth and put her in the livewell,” he said. “Scott has taken a bass weighing 11.2 pounds, so I asked him if she was a fish close to the one he caught.
“He told me, ‘She’s every bit of that.’”
Leger kept checking on the bass in the livewell, and noticed the fish had been previously tagged.
“That’s also when I became more confident I had a bass over 10 pounds,” he said.
The anglers waited to run in and weighed Leger’s fish between and 8 and 9 that morning.
“We brought her in at 8:20, and she officially weighed 11.48 pounds," Leger said.
The angler had to wait one more day until he found out Sunday afternoon he was the overall winner of the 2015 Sealy Big Bass Splash, and won a 2015 Triton 20 TRX powered by Mercury, a 2015 RAM truck and $7,000.