Capt. Jared Adams has been putting the hurt on 7-, 8- and even 9-pound specks in Big Lake, and in doing so the guide recently collected more than $20,000 in cash and prizes from two Mississippi-based trout tournaments.
But the success he enjoyed in the Yellow Mouth Fever and Joes & Pros events — which were open to anglers fishing Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi waters — effectively got him and Big Lake booted from the upcoming World Speckled Trout Championships event this weekend out of Gulfport.
The rules for that tournament — which previously allowed trout from anywhere along Louisiana's coast — were changed this week to permit fishing only in Louisiana waters east of the Mississippi River.
According to the Facebook page for Mississippi Gulf Coast Fishing Tournaments Inc. — which operates the World Speckled Trout Championships — the rule change was posted at 12:38 p.m. Monday.
“Important tournament announcement! Due to the need to protect the integrity of the tournament, as well as our faithful local, loyal anglers’ patronage, Rule No. 13 has been changed…,” the post reads. “While I am certain that I will receive calls in reference to why the rule has changed, I am confident in my decision and will continue to make decisions moving forward that benefit the majority of our anglers!”
Tournament director John Rea on Tuesday evening said the decision to exclude Adams and Big Lake trout was financially based. The first place winner for heaviest trout in the tournament wins $10,000.
"We're a non-profit organization that formed a local tournament to benefit local charities," Rea said. "And it's my belief — based with the recent success of anglers from the Calcasieu area — that we were jeapordizing potentially losing more local anglers who have complained...
"If I lose 50 to 70 to 100 anglers locally with what's going on right now, I can no longer fund this tournament, so it doesn't exist anymore. That’s my stand. I made a local decision over what’s gone down the past two months, and it’s my belief that if I did not make this change, this tournament would cease to exist."
The 17-year-old tournament, which is held in the memory of Dr. Chris Spraberry and Raymond Schankin, annually provides 10 $1,000 scholarships in the Gulfport area, plus an additional $2,000 for speckled trout research, Rea said.
"Congratulations to this gentleman for creating this issue — I salute him. But at the same time, I’ve got to protect the tournament's interest so that his $75 entry fee is not what’s most important," Rea said. "It’s the 50 to 75 anglers that I’ve been told that will not enter because they’re hollering calf rope — they’re saying, 'This guy has a fishbowl in his backyard in Calcasieu. And we could go and drive four hours there and four hours back and fish the same hole, but we certainly don’t know those waters.' And they’re all saying, 'I’m not gong to enter this tournament if this can’t be stopped.'
"I’ve made a decision. He can fish the tournament —he can just fish it east of the Mississippi. I’d love to have him."
Rea said he decided to change the rule this week — despite Adams not having ever won or placed in the event previously.
"He's not won a dollar with us right now, so to speak" Rea said. "But we do know he's prepared to enter the tournament, and he's welcomed to. He's just asked to fish the Mississippi River or east of the Mississippi River... Next year it's over if I've got to support 70 to 100 local anglers not entering a tournament based upon 17 years of longevity and 17 years of consistency, loyalty and patronage.
"I'm after that. I'm not after a guy coming over one year because he's got a favorite fishing hole and he takes every bit of money that's offered in the tournament."
When asked if an angler from Alabama — which is known for gator trout in Mobile Bay — was to win this year's event, Rea didn't rule out the possibility of further boundary changes.
"If an angler consistently won from the same hole, if you will, we would certainly have to consider that," he said. "But that's not happened over the 17 years of the tournament."
Adams, on the other hand, said he was shocked the rules were changed just days before the event begins.
“It’s called the World Speckled Trout Championships,” said Adams, who operates Adams Trophy Charters on Calcasieu Lake. “How are you going to leave one of the biggest trout fisheries in Louisiana out of the World Speckled Trout Championships?
“If you want it to be a local tournament, then call it a local tournament — I’m fine with that. But don’t call it a three-state tournament and, when you get beat by somebody out of state, change the rules.”
Earlier this month, Adams won the two-month-long Yellow Mouth Fever event with a 9.64-pound trout caught in a marsh pond near Big Lake.
However, his five-fish stringer weight of 33 pounds was disqualified because he only turned in four fish — even though with only four fish, his stringer was more than 5 pounds heavier than the five trout caught by the angler ultimately declared the winner.
“They called me the day of the awards deal and said, ‘Look man, we’re going to have to DQ you on your five-fish stringer.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘You didn’t weigh in five fish,’" Adams said. “I said, ‘What’s that matter? If Kevin VanDam has four fish that weigh 32 pounds, and Dean Rojas has five that weigh 25, Kevin VanDam wins it.
“But they DQ’d me because I didn’t have five fish. So I won heaviest fish and should have won heaviest stringer, too — but, you got me on that one.”
This past weekend, he and fishing partner Mike Fesco teamed up to take both 1st and 2nd place in the Joes & Pros tournament held out of The Blind Tiger in Bay St. Louis.
They attended the captains’ meeting Friday night, and then drove back to Big Lake and started fishing just after midnight Saturday morning.
“A lot of these big trout won’t eat during the day,” Adams said. “They’ll eat at night.”
The men wade-fished into the early morning, catching and releasing too many 5-pounders to count. Ultimately, they finished up with an 8.25-pounder, a 7.5-pounder and a heavy 6 — good enough for the two top prizes when they returned to Mississippi that afternoon.
Fresh off the two tournament wins, Adams said he was contacted Monday by Rea with the Championships notifying him of the rule change excluding Louisiana waters west of the Mississippi River.
"I said, ‘Man you got to realize there were 15 or 20 Mississippi boats over here (on Big Lake) this last tournament, and they didn’t weigh-in any big fish.' I don’t go catch 8-pound trout every day — I had a good night," Adams said. "It was one of those deals where it was my night to win; I caught some good fish.
“But it’s raining over here every day this week. We might not catch a fish over 5 pounds. It’s just kind of ridiculous to me to be that damn scared to just change the rules. They just think you can come to Big Lake and catch 8-pounders every day.”
Adams said he knows of 30 to 40 anglers from the Big Lake area who were planning to fish the event, as well as others who fish in Sabine Lake and around Galveston who are also now ineligible.
“I told him, 'Y’all’s (trout) record right there in Gulfport is 12-something. The Big Lake record is 11.1 or 11.2, so you can’t say we have bigger fish than y’all,'” Adams said. “And it’s a one-fish tournament. I’ve seen kids with a popping cork and a shrimp catch a 9-pound trout. It’s not a stringer tournament, so it’s not to say, ‘I’m a professional — I’m going to whip your butt.’
“Anybody can win it. They catch 9-pound trout in Mississippi. We catch them more regularly, but they have just as good of a chance to catch one over there with someone who knows what they’re doing.”