When the scales settled Saturday (Feb. 26) during the first daily weigh-in of the 2011 Celebrity Pro Bass Challenge, only two-tenths of a pound separated first and second place. And Patterson’s Gary Blanco headed into the final day with a scant lead.
The weigh-in was held outside of Academy Sports and Outdoors on Siegen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Twenty-four hours later, following the second day’s weigh-in, Blanco’s name remained at the top of the leader board. With that honor, the event’s $10,000 first-place prize money went into his pocket – and Blanco had set a record for the event.
“We had a good bite,” Blanco said while trying to hold back emotions as the reality of winning set in. “It never went off. We had a great day.”
The Celebrity Pro Bass Challenge is a charitable pro-am bass tournament that raises money for the Pro Bass Challenge Foundation that helps local charities. In addition to charitable contributions, the Foundation also aids with restocking and promotes conservation efforts.
During the two-day event, pro anglers are allowed to weigh-in a five-fish limit, while their co-anglers can bring three bass to the scales.
The event’s emcee, George Shaheen, empathized with Blanco’s emotions.
“Okay, I understand,” Shaheen said. “Look, you never won $10,000 before have you?”
To which Blanco replied, “No, no, never. No I haven’t.”
Blanco’s journey to the Celebrity Pro Challenge actually began in late September 2010, when he and son Duane fished the 9th Annual Jacob Dugas Memorial Bass Tournament held at Doiron’s Landing in Stephensville. The Blanco team won the $3,000 first-place prize, along with third biggest bass in that event worth an additional $175, plus a gift certificate and invitation to fish the Challenge.
Most of the anglers who competed this year fished the Atachafalaya Basin and easily caught their limits, using everything from spinnerbaits, crankbaits, Senkos and, generally speaking, whatever they felt comfortable tossing.
Blanco’s two-day total weight of 35.96 pounds broke the Celebrity Pro Bass Challenge 34-pound record by nearly 2 pounds.
Tenth Place pro-angler Yancy Rills’ 6.16-pound bass won “Big Bass” for the tournament. And, Raymond Loupe won the co-angler division, worth $2,000 in prize money.