Story by: Don Hampton “The Fisherman’s Guide News”
The excitement and entertainment for the spectators and anglers began with the first hour and continued through the last hour of the 31st Annual Sealy Outdoors Big Bass Splash on Lake Fork held September 15, 16, and 17 out of Lake Fork Marina. This great tournament is where amateurs win like pros and was attended by 2361 anglers representing 28 states in hopes of winning some of the $475,000 guaranteed in cash and prizes.
With $1,500 being paid for 1st place in each hour and two T-shirt hours per day paying double, if an angler had bought a T-shirt and won 1st place in any of those hours, they would win $3,000. There were 15 places paid each hour of the 3-day tournament with fifteenth paying $250 dollars and two additional places paid in the Bonus Card hours. Each day of the tournament if an angler brought in the first exact weight of 2.50-pounds, that angler would not only win the placement in the hour but also an additional check for $5,000. If no one brought in that exact weight, the monies would be given away in a draw at the end of the tournament. During the course of the tournament only one bass was brought to the scales weighing an exact 2.50-pounds. This money making catch was made by Tommy Climer from Mesquite, Texas winning him $900 for the hour and $5,000 for the bonus. No other exact weight was brought in on Saturday or Sunday of the tournament. In the drawing on Sunday winning the draw for a check for $5,000 was Terry May from Perryton, Texas and Kyle Elmore from Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Lake Fork is a Class ‘A’ slot lake in the state of Texas. The slot on this great reservoir is 16” to 24”, which means any bass between those two numbers cannot be brought to the scales. This keeps the lunker population in this great reservoir growing. This also meant that some anglers that caught a 1.86-pound bass up to a 2.55-pound bass took home good money from the tournament.
During the course of the three-day tournament there were 1,042 fish weighed in with a total weight of 2,010.32-pounds.
There were 21 bass weighed in during the tournament 24” in length or longer. On Friday there were ten that came to the scales, Chad O’Neal from Amity, Arkansas with a 10.38; Ivan Bradshaw from Quitman, Texas with an 8.52; Brayden Rawlinson from Jacksonville, Texas with an 8.85; Tommy Jones from Porter, Texas with a 7.70; Clyde Stephenson from Van Alstyne, Texas with a 9.08; Lawrence Scott from Bossier City, Louisiana with an 8.03; Jimmy D. Robertson from Lufkin, Texas with a 7.69; Perry Dixon Jr. from Temple, Texas with a 9.56; John Moore from Maud, Texas with a 7.42; and Don Penick from Dallas, Texas with a 6.14. On Saturday there was only one over the slot bass that came to the scales. This one was caught by Matthew McClure from Mansfield, Texas and weighed 7.45. On Sunday there were 10 that came to the scales; James Clark from Denham Springs, Louisiana with a 10.57; Larry Heinrick from White Hall, Arkansas with an 8.27; John W. Carter from Mabank, Texas with a 7.83; Samuel Holbrook from Ogdensburg, Wisconsin with an 8.50; Eric Kirkland from Marshall, Texas with an 8.39; Christopher Osborn from Hattieville, Arkansas with an 8.06; Michael Conner from Katy, Texas with an 8.36; Lawrence Scott from Bossier City, Louisiana with an 8.71; John Goergen from Yantis, Texas with a 6.86; and Ruger Long from Teague, Texas with a 10.52.
Winning 1st Place overall heaviest bass in the tournament was James Clark from Denham Springs, Louisiana with his 10.57-pound bass. He took home $1,500 for the hour, a 2017 Triton 19 TRX, powered by Mercury, a RAM Truck plus an additional $7,000. Second Place overall with a weight of 10.52-pounds was 11 year old Ruger Long from Teague, Texas. He took home $1,500 for the hour, a 2017 Triton 18 TRX, powered by Mercury, a RAM Truck and an additional $2,000 in cash. Third Place overall weight was Chad O’Neal from Amity, Arkansas with a 10.38-pound bass. For his efforts he won $1,500 for the hour, a 2017 Triton 18 TRX powered by Mercury, and an additional $1,000 in cash. Fourth Place was Perry Dixon Jr. with a 9.56-pound bass. He won $1,500 for the hour plus an additional $8,000 in cash. Fifth Place was Clyde Stephenson from Van Alstyne, Texas with a 9.08-pound bass. He took home $1,500 for the hourly plus an additional $6,000 for his catch. Winning $5,000 for catching the heaviest bass under the slot was Matthew Messmer from Ballwin, Missouri with a weight of 2.55-pounds.
The Elimination Draw Boat was won by Terry DeWitt from Orange, Texas. He took home a 2017 Triton 189 TRX powered by Mercury. In the open drawing Cody Ledbetter from Greenwood, Arkansas won an Academy Shopping Spree and a Fire Disc Grill.
Winners in the Little Anglers Division are to be congratulated also. They were Lain and Luke Tomlinson, Nathan Brookman, Kaleb Woodard, Alexander Finch Jr., Hunter Whitney, Cash Harrison, Izzy Stroman, Luke Hamilton, Josh Arrant, Fisher Nalls, Max Garvin, Hudson Blundell, Colton Mackey and Brady Gordy. These young anglers are the future of our sport and we will be seeing them tournament fishing in the future.
The Lake Fork Sportsman Association Live Release Boat did an excellent job returning all of the bass into the lake in great health to grow bigger and to be caught again another day. This organization truly looks out for the future of Lake Fork!
We hope to see you all again next year on Lake Fork.
To learn more about Sealy Outdoors Tournaments and schedules: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-698-2591 Monday-Friday 9-5 CST