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Lake life

Kolb captures McBig McBass

Now that check is definitely a “keeper”!!! Craig Kolb, center, with officials of the Ronald McDonald Big Bass Classic

No thank you. Craig Kolb of West Monroe doesn’t want any fries with his big bass that won the annual Ronald McDonald Big Bass Classic this past weekend on the Ouachita River and Lake D’Arbonne.

Just hand him that check. He can buy his own fries.

Kolb defied the odds and stayed shallow early Saturday morning on Day One of the tournament. Daytime fishing for bass on Lake D’Arbonne usually dictates going deep for the big ones, but Kolb took advantage of cloudy conditions and it didn’t take long to pay off.

He landed the biggest fish of the tournament almost before it got started.

Thirty minutes into the first hour of the two-day event, Kolb hopped a natural color frog across a weed bed in the lake, watched as a big bass exploded on it, landed it and he brought it in to the scales to take the lead in the tournament. The 6.56 pounder stood the test of time and won Kolb a $10,000 check for first place. Kolb also won another $1,000 for the big bass of the hour and $500 more as part of a McDonald’s Challenge. If you’re keeping score, that’s $1,753.04 a pound! It happened so fast, when he rushed in to weigh in the fish and was headed back out to get another one, he threw it back in the lake before anyone even took a picture of it.

Kolb’s strategy for fishing shallow was based on his past experience with big bass on D’Arbonne. It’s been cloudy and rainy a lot and it was going to be cloudy early Saturday, so I knew the bass would stay shallow longer. I know most big ones this time of year are caught off the channels, but I was just playing a hunch.”

“I knew it had a chance of being the big bass, but I didn’t really get nervous until the last three hours Sunday when I saw it was still there atop the leader board,” he said. “That’s when I started to worry.”

No worries, though. Kolb’s bass beat out Mark Hammond with a 6.47 and Adam Douglass with a 6.28 to claim the top prize. Gavyn Kinsman won the Student Challenge with a 4.44 followed by Garrett Pody with a 4.35 and Chandler Kennedy with a 3.87. Hourly winners also were awarded cash prizes throughout the two day event.

The tournament is normally confined to the Ouachita River, but the river has been well above flood stage and access was limited for launching and fishing, so the lake was added. Most anglers took advantage of that with more than 100 fish weighed at D’Arbonne. Only two bass were weighed in from the north weigh point at Felsenthal and another two from the river’s south weigh point in West Monroe. The conditions reduced the field in the big event by about half this year, but officials didn’t have any other reasonable alternatives, so they did the best they could.

Money from the annual event is the major fund-raiser for the Ronald McDonald House in northeast Louisiana.

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