The Major League Fishing Heavy Hitters may have hit the best big bass fishing on Caney Lake and Bussey Brake a day late, but they weren’t a dollar short. Fishing for monster bass has been better the previous six weeks, but the MLF anglers who took home nearly half a million dollars cashed in on the fishing anyway.
Alton Jones, Jr. basically put on a fishing clinic. The Waco, Texas angler caught 81 pounds, 15 ounces of bass at Bussey Brake Saturday to claim the $100,000 first prize. He literally blew the field away. It was a walk-off bass fishing home run. Dakota Ebare, a Louisiana native who now lives in Brookeline, Texas, was a distant second with 22-15, winning $25,000.
Jones literally won by 59 pounds and caught nearly as many bass as the rest of the entire field put together.
How did he do it?
“Everything went right,” he said. “I felt really good about my chances when I got to Bussey, flipping the willows with a white Geecrack Bellows Shad. I had one little stretch of cypress trees that I really wanted to fish. After spending the first period in another area I decided to roll over there and fish it.
“I was going to fish that one stretch for just a little bit, but then I caught one,” Jones continued. “Then I caught a short, and then lost one. I kept making these marks for myself as I’m moving down the bank – I’m going to fish 10 more trees and if I don’t get a bite, I’m out – and then I’d catch one. Then another one. After the fifth or sixth bite I figured okay, maybe I’m not going to be leaving this today. And we didn’t.”
The big bass prize
Bass had to weigh at least three pounds to be scoreable. Anything weighing less might as well have been a sac-a-lait.
There was another $100,000 winner on Bussey Saturday and he only caught one bass. Bryan Thrift of Shelby, North Carolina, caught a 9 pound, 6-ounce bass to claim the big bass prize and huge payday.
By early afternoon Saturday, the rest of the field had given up on catching Jones and focused on catching the big bass of the day. That’s when Thrift landed his lunker.
The remainder of the top five were Andy Morgan, 15-00; Randy Howell, 13-09; and Josh Bertrand 11-02. Defending champ Bradley Roy was sixth.
The tournament began with four days on Caney Lake outside of Chatham. The winners from two groups there qualified for the knockout round and then the top 10 advanced to the finals on Bussey. The 2,200 acre impoundment that had been donated to the state by International Paper Company could have been crowded, but locals graciously pretty much stayed off the lake Saturday and let the pros go about their work.
“No more hospitable state in the country, Louisiana,” one of online announcers said.
MLF fished these same Louisiana lakes last year before the spawn and caught monster bass, but this year’s even came post-spawn and fish were smaller and a lot harder to catch. Although fishing has been a bit down this year on Caney, the previous month, 10 pounders were caught almost every day on Bussey.
The event was hosted by the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Tourist Commission and the Louisiana Office of Tourism.
A lasting impact
MLF and the anglers did more than just fish while they were in the area. All the big bass were swabbed for DNA and the results will be shared with state fisheries officials to be used to gain information on the genetics of big bass in the two lakes.
Also, anglers Dakota Ebare, Gary Klein and Kevin VanDam spent their off day building MossBack Fish Habitat artificial structure on nearby Lake Claiborne. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries personnel, Duck Dynasty star John Godwin and Steven Bardin, director of the MLF Fisheries Management Division, also took part.
“Being a part of this project and seeing everyone’s commitment to improving Louisiana fisheries is exciting, especially for me growing up in the state,” Ebare said.
Lake Claiborne is one of the deeper reservoirs in Louisiana. It covers 6,400 acres and is limited in habitat to sparse vegetation and older timber. Over the past several years, several agencies have been collaborating on improving the habitat, largemouth bass genetics and forage in the reservoir.
The structures were deployed in groups of three to five units in water depths from 6 to 12 feet. The exact GPS locations are supposed to be available on the LDWF website in the coming weeks.