Austin Legendre was having a pretty tough day in his first-ever tournament with the Sunshine Bass Club on Sunday, March 20.
The 21-year-old Donaldsonville angler was fishing near Stephensville in the Grassy Lake area — nestled between Lake Verret and Lake Palourde — but didn’t have much to show for his efforts.
“It was a pretty windy, bluebird day,” Legendre said. “It wasn’t an easy day. I didn’t catch a fish until 9 o’clock.”
That one was an 11-inch throwback, and around 10, he lost a 3-pounder when his 20-pound fluorocarbon line popped.
“I was fishing behind a tree, and I saw her take the bait and I set the hook, and the line popped,” he said. “I either had a frayed line, or my knot wasn’t tied good enough. I hadn’t re-tied from the last fishing trip, and I’m wondering if that’s what did it. That’s my first popped line in a while.”
But his day changed dramatically just a few hours later when he pitched a Texas-rigged black-and-blue Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver at the base of a cypress tree and landed a lunker bass that weighed almost 8 pounds.
“I was working it on the bottom. I flipped to that cypress, and I popped it one time and she sucked it in and I set the hook on her,” he said. “I didn’t leave it on the bottom long. I started working it and she came up and hit it.”
Legendre was fishing with a 7-foot, 3-inch medium-heavy Duckett rod and a Lew’s baitcasting reel. He knew the bass was a hammer when he finally got it in the boat.
“My dad has a 10-pounder he caught in Mississippi, so I knew what a 10-pounder looked like. And I had caught a 6(-pounder) before, so I knew the fish was in between 6 and 10 pounds,” Legendre said. “I roughly said about 8 pounds when I saw her.”
The big fish had already dropped its eggs, he said.
"She was completely spawned out," Legendre said. "I would love to know what she weighed when she was full of eggs."
Unfortunately, the slow bite continued and he caught some more undersized bass, so Legendre headed back to Doiron’s Landing with his one big fish for the 4:30 p.m. weigh-in.
The lunker officially weighed 7-14 on the tournament scales — good enough to take the tourney’s Big Bass honors — but one more fish could have meant a victory for Legendre: The first place bag with five fish weighed-in at only 9-13. With his single fish, he still finished in fourth place.
“It was cold that morning, and I wasn’t really expecting to catch a whole bunch of fish,” he said. “I was trying to go catch some size, but I just didn’t catch as many as I needed. If I would have had one more fish, I probably would have won.
“I had the opportunities, I just didn’t capitalize on them,” Legendre said. “It was just one of those days - that’s why it’s fishing.”
But catching his biggest bass ever — in his first tournament ever — was a thrill he won’t soon forget.
“It’s a fish of a lifetime. She was a toad. All her colors were perfect — she was very healthy,” Legendre said. “I released her right after we weighed her in. I took some pictures with her and let her go.
“I figured that was the right thing to do. I can always get a replica made.”