There just aren’t many words to describe how Paul Smith of Marion felt when he laid his 15.90 inch largemouth bass on the scales at the Sealy Big Bass Splash on Lake Fork Texas. The digital scales showed 2.52 pounds, then the fish wiggled and the scale re-calibrated at 2.51 pounds for a split second, finally setting on 2.50 pounds. Besides the holler heard across Texas from fishing partner Jerrell Gates of Sterlington, the loudest sound Smith heard was in his own mind — CHA-CHING! Yes. This really happened.
What’s the big deal about a 2.50 pound bass? How about the fact it was worth $11,000. WHAT? Hello, “green” trout! That’s $4,400 a pound.
“I mean, I couldn’t believe it,” Smith said, back at home this week after the weekend fishing trip. “It was just amazing. It’s hard to explain how I felt. I was just excited.”
What Smith did was catch a bass that weighed exactly 2.50 pounds. That “magic weight” catch carried a $5,000 bonus prize in the tournament. Then, he won another $3,000 for having the biggest bass weighed in during the noon – 1 p.m. hour. There’s more. He was wearing a Sealy Big Bass t-shirt, which brought him another $3,000 bonus award. Paul would have been more excited, but he was too busy adding that all up in his head as they were calling out his name to the excited, applauding crowd.
“Eleven thousand dollars for a two pound bass. Isn’t that something. I didn’t know what to say,” he said. “Before we brought it out of the boat, we laid that fish on the measuring board and it almost touched the 16 inch line. It took several tries before I realized it wasn’t too long. I told them when we headed to the weigh-in it was going to be a perfect 2.50 and when it was, my partner yelled out above the whole crowd. I remember that about as much as anything.”
What makes it even more amazing is that Lake Fork is one of America’s top trophy lakes. That’s where the 16 inch thing comes into play. Lake Fork has a 16 to 24 inch slot, which means any fish between 16 inches and 24 inches long has to be thrown back, tournament or not. So your best be to win an hourly prize is either catch a ten pounder or a fish that isn’t quite 16 inches long.
Paul teamed up with Gates, Glen Smith and Steve Thurston to go to the tournament. They split expenses and winnings. And I’m sure they’ll share the story of a lifetime for years and years to come.
Amazing. There’s a word that fits. What’s also amazing is that this is the first time in 30 years of the big bass tournament that an angler got the 2.50 bass, won the hourly prize AND was wearing an official Big Bass t-shirt.
Since Smith lives so far from Lake Fork and won’t be back for a while, I took a shot at finding out where he caught the fish and on what bait. He told everybody he caught it on a deep diving Tiny Torpedo in 60 feet of water ( for you non-bass fishermen, there is no such thing as a deep diving Torpedo, a topwater bait, nor is there any 60-foot deep water in Lake Fork).
“OK, that wasn’t really it, but I have been telling people that,” he said. “I don’t mind telling. I caught in on a black Senko (plastic lure) in three feet of water. It was after 10 a.m. and very hot. The water was stained and the fish was up in the grass.”
The Sealy tournament is one of the largest in America. All told, there are $520,000 in cash and prizes – boats, a truck and $160,600 in hourly payouts. The tournament also benefits the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Entry fee for the three day event is $260 per person. First place overall in the tournament was an 11.18 pounder caught by Clifford Wyrick of Luling, Texas.
Congratulations to Paul for catching Bass version 2.50 and to his fishing partners for picking the perfect partner on this Texas fishing weekend! Cha-ching!
PS – you can see all the winners and prizes at http://sealyoutdoors.com/Results/2016/results_fk16.htm