Around 8:30 a.m. on March 25, Glenmora High School’s Shawn Pender made the right cast at the right time with the right bait and pulled out an 11.42-pound bass.
Two hours later, Pender made another right cast, right time, right bait delivery, then set the hook on an 11.77-pounder on his way to winning an Association of Louisiana Bass Clubs tournament that Saturday with fellow senior Bryce Sanders.
They weren’t fishing hawg-laden Florida, lunker lakes in California or, even, Toledo Bend or Caney Lake. Pender was on Indian Creek Reservoir, his home lake. He’s a resident of Forest Hill, which is on the south end of the 2,600-acre lake.
“I’ll never forget that day. I’ll never forget,” Pender said a few days later. “I never could believe a lake I’ve been fishing my whole life and caught one 10 pounds-even (his previous PB) in 2022. Then I caught these two.”
Neither will Sanders or their captain for the day, Pender’s father, Travis Pender. The two-man team’s five-bass limit weighed 32.77 pounds, more than enough to top the nearly 30-boat field.
An excited crowd
The 3:30 p.m. weigh-in after a safe daylight start was special at Red River Landing, Alexandria. (Tournament anglers could fish the lake of their choice.)
“Whenever we pulled those two out of the bag, people said, ‘Oh my gosh!’ That got a genuine reaction out of everybody. Indian Creek is not known for big bass,” Pender said, noting a circle of onlookers crowded around them.
Pender was hopeful of eliciting an even bigger reaction at the weigh-in. He fished the Louisiana High School B.A.S.S. Nation tournament March 18 at Caney Lake when Mason McCormick and Alexis Virgillito with Bossier Parish High School Fishing busted a winning five-fish limit at 37.13 pounds. It was the heaviest limit in high school bass fishing history.
After catching two 11s, a 5 and a 3, Pender and Sanders wanted to break the new national record. The good friends and fishing buddies, who targeted bedding bass, came up a little less than 5 pounds short.
The first 11-pounder bit on a watermelon/red YUM Thump’n Dinger, Texas-rigged under a 3/8-ounce bullet weight. At one heart-stopping point it jumped and gave them a spectacular headshake.
“When it turned in the water I said, ‘I’ve got something big on this line.’ It pulled drag out and we finally got it in the net. It’s all a blur it happened so fast. I looked at dad. I looked at Bryce. I said, ‘This is huge,’” Pender said.
In essence, he said, they all “freaked out.”
Keeping the fish alive
His immediate concern was to keep the bass in good health.
“We were scared we couldn’t keep it alive. I wanted to keep this fish alive,” he said.
That prompted a call to his mother, Kellie Pender, to bring a screwdriver so they could take the divider out of the Ranger’s livewell to give the bass room. Doing so let it relax length-wise.
The second 11 was quite a story. The bedding bass mouthed the tail of the YUM Thump’n Dinger, then escaped the hookset. Later, still on her bed, the bass grabbed the plastic worm, inhaled and got hooked deep down, which enabled her teeth to cut the line.
Nonplussed, Pender picked up another fishing rod to pitch a blue/sapphire ZOOM Z-Craw Jr.
A back-and-forth battle commenced with the double-digit bass battling the drag and the bass angler muscling the bass out of the grass twice. Eventually, the 11.77-pounder was in his hands.
“I said, “I hope we got room in the livewell,’” Pender said.
To watch a video of the two high school anglers discussing the memorable day with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Press Secretary Ed Pratt in the state agency’s first-ever Youth Speak, go to www.facebook.com/ldwffb/videos/178698661663070.