Senior Blake Verberne and sophomore Caleb Roblin of Denham Springs High School have established themselves as heavyweights in high school fishing in Louisiana.
They are cruising down the stretch of their second and last year teaming together in Louisiana High School B.A.S.S. Nation and MLF High School Fishing.
Verberne, whose parents, Ricky and Mindy Butler, are his biggest supporters, began fishing mostly redfish with his dad, occasionally bass in brackish marsh.
“That’s what I did. There wasn’t any redfish tournaments but there are bass tournaments,” he said. He focused on learning how to fish for bass.
“Everything I know is self-taught. I spent many, many hours throwing jigs in red solo cups,” he said.
His interest didn’t wane one bit after his first tournament experience.
“My very first tournament, me and my dad got stuck on a sandbar practice day AND the day of the tournament. I’ve been hooked ever since,” he said.
His skills and talents improved after his first year of competitive bass fishing.
“My freshman year I was new to the tournament scene and trying to figure it all out,” he said.
Verberne, 18, learned how to fish the bayous, lakes and swamps around the family camp on Belle River, then ventured to the Manchac area, Henderson Lake, Bayou Segnette and Toledo Bend.
Highlights followed as he qualified for state tournaments as a sophomore and a junior. His accomplishments led to learning other waters such as Lake Chicamauga, Harris Chain of Lakes and Lake Cumberland, which he likened to fishing in a bathtub because of its gin clear water, among others.
When Verberne started fishing high school bass tournaments for DHS, he said, “I took it as pretty much a job. I’d take off work, I’d take off everything I could. I gave it my all. I either failed miserably or I’d succeed, no matter the conditions.”
Now he’s working part-time selling trolling motors at Bass Pro Shops and enjoying his senior year fishing tournaments with Roblin. What about his future? He pretty much decided that last December.
“Two months ago I actually said, ‘Yeah, I plan on getting a life insurance license and sell life insurance.’ But if I do get a full ride (to college) I might as well,” he said, noting he also has been getting his feet wet on Major League Fishing’s Toyota Series circuit.
The first two-man team from Denham Springs High School to qualify for a national tournament, after triple qualifying for the state tournament, Verberne and Roblin fished nationals at Lake Chickamauga in July 2021. Roblin also qualified for nationals in the Junior Division in 2017 and 2020.
With two regular-season tournaments remaining on the LHSBN schedule for 2021-22, Verberne and Roblin already qualified for the state tournament April 30-May 1 on the Ouachita River out of Monroe.
Verberne, whose favorite artificial lure is a watermelon/red Zoom Speed Craw, closely followed by spinnerbaits and drop-shotted soft plastics, likes their chances because they complement each other.
“I tell you what,” Verberne said. “Caleb’s the best frog fisherman I ever met. It’s inhuman the way he can fish a frog. It’s crazy. He catches giant fish.”
How giant? Roblin slammed home the steel while setting the hooks of a plastic frog skipped far under a dock along Belle River to boat an 8.63-pounder in 2021 during a Junior Southwest Bassmasters of Denham Springs tournament out of Amelia. It smashed the record for biggest bass in the club’s storied history.
The respect for each other’s skills and talents is mutual.
Roblin said about Verberne, “That sonuvagun right there, I’ve had a lot of partners over the years, he’s the best one I ever fished with. He’s somebody I can count on. We’ve been like brothers. We fish really, really good together.”
Their chemistry is evident with each bass dropped in the livewell. If one of them might be struggling, the other’s stroking the bass, Roblin said.
Roblin, the son of Mike and Danielle Roblin, plans to go to college and, perhaps, focus on business and finance, he said.
“If I get a fair enough scholarship, I’ll probably fish,” he said. “(But) I’m going to be focusing on things to do the rest of my life, making a living,
‘I’ll try to fish (Bassmaster) Opens and what not. Try to make it fishing.”
And why not?
“Fishing. That’s all I do, what I live and breathe. Turkey hunting, deer hunting and bass fishing, that’s all I do,” said the three-time King Fisherman in the Junior Southwest Bassmasters of Denham Springs. He won those titles at ages 9, 12 and 15.
Roblin’s bass fishing history goes back to his early boyhood days fishing with his “paw paw,” Randall Richardson of Denham Springs. Richardson has captained his grandson and Verberne the past two years.
“I grew up fishing with him,” Roblin said. “I started fishing tournaments when I was 8. I’ve been fishing my whole life. I first had a rod in my hand when I was about 1 ½ and caught my first fish at age 2 or 3.
Roblin, who celebrated his 16th birthday on Feb. 16, was in a boat long before that.
“Paw paw tells me the story I was 10, 11 months old and he took me across the lake (Lake Verret) to the Crackerhead,” he said.
How’d he get so proficiently “froggy” with his bassin’ game?
“To be honest with you, every year we’d have a two-day tournament at Lake Concordia. The first two years I was terrible,” he said.
A friend, Hanson Chaney of Walker, consistently “smacked” bass on a plastic frog by skipping it under docks and branches while prefishing around Lake Concordia. Roblin tried it one day while his grandfather was taking a nap and caught a 3 ½-pounder. But he never got another bite until he went out with his paw paw on a sunny day and skipped the bogus frog under cover to coax a 4 ½-pounder to bite and a little later got his hands on a solid 3.
“The tournament comes around and I found the reeds had shad on them,” he said. “In the first hour we had 18 pounds, a 5-4 and a couple of 4s. After that I was hooked on it (catching bass on a plastic frog, either a Spro Dean Rojas Signature Series or a Jackall Kaera Frog).”
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