It’s almost unheard of to have to cull 4- and 5-pound bass to finish off a stringer — especially in the middle of the summer — but that was the unique position Dustin Rivers and Jeremy Gentry found themselves in this weekend on Toledo Bend.
The pair, who work offshore for Ensco, put together the stringer of a lifetime for the Bass-N-Bucks series event held Sunday out of Pendleton Marina, weighing-in an incredible 38.22 pounds with five fish to take the victory.
And it's even more impressive when you consider they had just returned from working offshore Friday night.
“We were gone 21 days, but we had got on some big ones right before we left for work. We came back home and more or less just took a chance that they were still there,” said Rivers, 29, of Noble. “The day before we left to to work, on three casts I had a 5 and two 7s out of the same spot.”
They launched from Pendleton Marina early Sunday and headed to the 1215 area, and immediately got on some fish — but nothing really big.
“We had five fish by around 9, with maybe 16 or 17 pounds,” Rivers said. “There were no big ones caught anywhere close before 10:30. I knew it was a midday bite.”
They did their damage fishing over deep structure in two different locations in 16 to 20 feet of water with a Strike King 10XD deep-diving crankbait, and a homemade 3/4-ounce black-and-blue football jig.
“We went to one spot at about 10:30 and caught an 8-pounder, and then we went back to a different area and we picked up a couple of 5-pounders,” Rivers said. “By then, the weight was picking up, but there were actually some boats close to one of my better spots.
“So we didn’t get on it until around 12 — and then we caught a 9.88 and 8 1/2 off it.”
Around 2, they returned to the first spot and picked up a 7.6-pounder, but boat traffic in the area made them leery about continuing to fish over the spot.
“Boats were in the area, but they weren’t on the sweet spot,” he said. “But they were close enough they could have seen us netting fish, and we couldn’t risk giving the spot up.
“Bad as I hate to say it, there were still big ones there when we left. We could have easily caught another 6- or 7-pounder, I’m pretty positive. We were actually throwing 4- and 5-pound fish back. They didn’t make it. It was pretty crazy throwing (back) 5-pounders.”
By about 2:30, Rivers said he and Gentry, of Many, estimated they had 35 pounds of bass in the livewell. At the start of the day, he expected it would take at least 24 pounds to win the tournament.
“We were pretty confident,” he said. “I had called my wife and told her, ‘If we don’t win this one, it just wasn’t meant to be.’”
At the weigh-in, a 27-pound bag — which ultimately ended up in second place — went right before them.
“Somebody asked if we had over 20 pounds, and I said, ‘We got over 35, I believe,’” Rivers said. “And then it got quiet.”
The five fish — a 9.88, two 8 1/2s, a 7.6 and a big 5 — tipped the scales at a whopping 38.22 pounds, earning the duo $3,500 for first place and big bass.
“It’s pretty unheard of this time of year. And I know they’re still there,” said Rivers, who was interviewed Tuesday while he was fishing again on Toledo Bend. “I just idled over them and there’s seven or eight of them down there, and they’ll probably be 5 pounds or bigger.
“I’ll let them rest until the next tournament. Hopefully there will be another tournament before we have to go back to work.”