Heath Pinell and Bandit 200 Series crankbaits go way, way back. He’d be lost without them.
They are big difference makers for the Plaquemine bass angler who relies on them to catch bass everywhere he goes, from the nearby Atchafalaya Basin to Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee.
He fishes all those places these days as a veteran member of the LSU Bass Fishing Team. But he has fished since he was a diapered toddler in a boat with his father, Lewis Pinell, and grandfather, the late Rusty Pinell.
A red Bandit has been like gold recently for the LSU senior who graduated from University High, where he played on two state championship football teams. Pinell and teammate Taylor Knowles of Shreveport used a red Bandit during the MLF College Fishing tournament in October 2021 at Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee to finish 24th and qualify for the MLF College Fishing National Championship held in March at Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma.
Again, Pinell depended on the lure in a college tournament in February at Chickamauga Lake in Tennessee. The red Bandit crankbait helped Pinell and partner Bryan Bergeron of Port Allen finish fourth in a 280-boat field to punch their ticket to the 2023 MLF College Fishing National Championship.
“So we qualified for this year and next year already,” Pinell said about qualifying for the national stage twice in his last two years at LSU.
“We’ve been up to ‘The Chick” a lot,” he said. “It finally wasn’t mean to us.”
They found one area that had fish, a pipe that was gushing muddy water.
They went there Day 1 and culled to a 15-pound, 2-ounce limit and returned the second day with a drone live streaming the two bass anglers in his 20-foot long red Bullet bass boat and got 13-1 for a two-day total of 28 pounds, 3 ounces. It was quite the showcase for his go-to bait.
Bandit 200 Series crankbaits are his favorite artificial lures, anywhere. His favorite color is the Mistake, while his dad’s is Baby Bass.
Bandits haven’t always been good to him.
When he was younger, Pinell actually got banned from throwing the bait. He and his brother, Hayden, were fishing with his dad when he whipped out a cast and imbedded a Bandit’s treble hooks in the back of his dad’s neck while fishing in the Spillway. Uh-oh. The Pinell boys couldn’t get it out so his dad drove back to the boat launch with the treble hooks protruding from the nape of his neck.
“That’s the kind of stuff you remember,” Pinell said, ruefully.
Eventually, the ban was lifted and the rest is history.
The popular crankbait isn’t Pinell’s only top fishing lure, though. Two others are the black/blue Z-Man Jackhammer and a 1/2-ounce Rumba Doll.
When he isn’t working or on the road fishing a tournament, he enjoys tying on his go-to artificial lures in the Spillway out of Bayou Pigeon Boat Landing or Bayou Sorrel Boat Landing around Grand Lake.
Pinell also has a major tournament to fish later this month at The Boat U.S. Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship on May 26-27 at Alabama’s Pickwick Lake. Then in June, he plans to fish the 2022 Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation College State Championship out of Doiron’s Landing in Stephensville.
After he graduates, Pinell is hopeful of fishing Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments as a Boater. His goal is to follow in the footsteps of bass angler Blake Sylvester, who hails from his hometown of Plaquemine.
Finding time to fish
Pinell, who is majoring in construction management, didn’t fish competitively in high school, despite trying to start a team his sophomore year with another sophomore. It never got off the ground as both student/athletes were two-sport players.
He did fish evening bass tournaments with his father out of Jack Miller’s Landing in Plaquemine at the Grand River. And he entered as many local weekend tournaments as he could.
LSU had an established bass fishing team with a lofty reputation when he got there, so he joined. This season there are 13 bass anglers on the LSU Fishing Team. There are no scholarship bass anglers at LSU like there are at some schools. One, the University of Montevallo, has 60 anglers on scholarship and the fishing team is sponsored by Mossy Oak, which has a total of 90 student/athletes on the Outdoors Scholars Program.
Pinell and Knowles also claim the title in the 2021 AFTCO Collegiate Bass Open at Lake Dardenelle in Arkansas. He also previously fished with Jordan Davenport of Baton Rouge to win the 2020 Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation College State Championship held out of Berwick Landing.