Tioga bass tamers

Tioga High School’s Noah Roberts, left, a senior, and Jacob LaCroix, a junior, grip the lips of bass they caught March 17.

LaCroix and Roberts got the bites that count to win tournament

Despite two balmy afternoons in late spring just about six months ago, Jacob LaCroix had chills on the boat ride to the weigh-in both days of the Louisiana High School Bass Nation State Championship.

LaCroix and Noah Roberts, both 17, had a limit on Day 1, so it was a good trip on the Ouachita River and the moment caught up to LaCroix, a sophomore at the time at Tioga High School. Roberts was a junior in his third year with the fishing team.

The two-man team fished the second day following an overnight rain that muddied their hotspot. They ground it out to catch five bass by punching a watermelon/orange Zoom soft plastic under a tungsten weight.

“We just had to get a limit. That’s when it really hit me, on the way back,” LaCroix said.

He got chills again and for good reason. They had five nice-sized bass in the livewell.

Roberts and LaCroix, both of Ball, got the bites that counted and finished with a two-day total of 19.81 pounds to win the LHSBN state title. They also earned a berth in the Bassmaster High School National Championship against teams from 39 states and Canada held this past August at Lake Hartwell in South Carolina.

It wasn’t easy

Roberts, now a senior, said about that state tournament, “It wasn’t easy finding fish. That was a tough, tough tournament.”

After pre-fishing and finding bass in three areas, he said, they had to start from scratch when those areas were declared off-limits.

“We managed to find them in another area … better than all three of the other areas. As we were idling in there, the first thing that struck me was we could get to the bank the whole place,” he said, confiding that area was near Sterlington.

They got four bites and left immediately. Three or four boats were in there both tournament days, he said.

“It (state championship) was an awesome experience; our first year fishing together, learning together,” LaCroix, a junior this season, said. “It took a while to sink in. It’s a dream come true.

“We pre-fished for, like, three days. We had to come up with a whole new game plan. We didn’t really think about what it’d take to win. We were just fishing.”

Team chemistry apparently is one of the keys to their success, which included winning seven of eight high school club tournaments and finishing in the Top 20 twice on the LHSBN circuit in 2021-22.

A boost from grandpa

Tioga High School’s Jacob LaCroix, left, and Noah Roberts, right, hold the 2022 LHSBN State Championship plaques they won March 17 as they flank their boat captain, Mike Roberts.

Their captain has been Mike Roberts, Noah’s grandfather who introduced him to bass fishing as a freshman.

“My grandpa really enjoys it,” Roberts said. “Whenever I told him I was interested in the high school deal, and wanted to get in on it, he jumped on it.”

Roberts, the son of Brad and Beki Roberts, is a four-sport athlete who starts at outside linebacker for the Indians. He also plays soccer and throws the javelin in track and field.

His favorite place to fish near his hometown in November is Cane River.

“That is a fantastic place to go. That river’s beautiful and it’s where I learned to frog and flip,” Roberts said, noting he usually launches at Cane River Shell Beach Landing near Natchitoches.

From there, he said, some of the best bassin’ is in the first three or four miles north of the ramp. It helps, he said, that hydrilla is reappearing in the river.

In November, weather and water conditions permitting, shad get active and bunch up. Roberts offers a plastic frog early, then a Bandit 200 and/or a Jackhammer Chatterbait. His backup is flippin’ a Strike King Rage Bug, which has produced a near 10 pounder and a 7 pounder for him and an 8 for his younger brother, Ethan, a 13-year-old who also fishes for Tioga High School.

Roberts and LaCroix had different tournament partners their sophomore and freshman years, respectively. Those partners realized they weren’t into it, Roberts said, “We got to talking to each other. It worked out pretty dang well.”

What’s ahead?

Roberts, whose personal best was a 9.97-pounder caught on a Sweet Beaver in a Wednesday evening tournament in July, plans to study chemical engineering at Louisiana Tech and, hopefully, fish for the Bulldogs and with Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation. After that?

“I might fish Opens or whatever,” he said. “I’ve got to make sure I have a good backup plan.”

LaCroix, who grew up hunting and fishing, moved from Lafayette to Ball three years ago with his parents, Eric and Melissa LaCroix. He has fished tournaments with his father for years. He has fished 18 evening, bass club (Holloway Hookers) or LHSBN tournaments as of early September.

He also wants to fish the next level.

“I’ll try college, too, something like that,” he said. “I’m going to try fishing and see how far it takes me.”

About Don Shoopman 505 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.

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