While their salt water counterparts sat home cursing gale force winds and a driving rain all weekend, a number of Orange County bass fishermen traveled north in hopes of a little gold at the end of the rainbow. They discovered that an elusive pot of gold at the end was surrounded by a record 7,551 bass fishermen from 42 states looking for their share of $1 million in cash and prizes!

The largest field in the history of McDonald’s Big Bass Splash endured a crowded fishing hole and weather that kept most anglers close to the launch. “You had to be careful in that wind,” said Dexter Lyle. “But if you had fallen out of the boat you would have probably landed in another one!”

The initial hour of the first day resulted in an unprecedented tie for first-place money with identical 8.77-pound bass. It was a great start to the 25th Big Bass Splash, but the final day’s weigh-in would keep not only the leader, but spectators guessing right up to the end.

Larry McNeese of College Station eventually left the Pineywoods with $250,000 in cash and prizes, but catching his 10.90-pound winner may have been the easiest part. He posted the winning fish Saturday and had to weather two close calls from Louisiana anglers on Sunday. Both Joel Vallili and Jimmy Buxton lugged double digit bass up the hill to the weigh-in site that were only ounces off the pace.

Even after churning the lake into a sea of foam for three consecutive days, it still took a bass over seven pounds to win every hour. The average hourly winning weight was an incredible 8.22 pounds at a time when many anglers have declared the spawn all but over for the year.

A large number of Orange County fishermen who took part in Bob Sealy’s three-day extravaganza reported to work Monday morning beaten down by weather extremes, but winners nonetheless. Final totals showed that anglers from this county alone won $15,000 in cash in hourly prizes.

Harry Andrews of Bridge City was the biggest winner of the group and he got it done without winning a nickel in hourly prize money. He did, however, make his bass count. Andrews hung in there all three days and brought a bass to the scales Sunday that weighed exactly 4.00 pounds. That fish earned the Bridge City angler a 17-foot Triton boat with a 90 horsepower Mercury.

Kaylie Evans of Orange served notice that she may be a name to watch for in years to come in competitive bass fishing. The youngster won second Friday and third Saturday in the bass division of the Little Anglers Division. You can look for her in the fishing aisles at Academy this week as she earned $125 in gift cards for her efforts!

For all of the excitement taking place a few casts west of Toledo Bend, Kyle Pousson and his family may have experienced an even more enjoyable weekend. “My daughter, son-in-law, and the three greatest grandkids on earth met us at the camp Friday evening and we really had a great time,” said Kyle. “I wanted to fish the tournament, but I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity!”

The menu alone earned the trip a blue ribbon. Friday night they boiled crawfish, Saturday night they suffered through barbecued backstrap, potato salad, and shrimp jambalaya only to finish it off with a fish fry and homemade ice cream Sunday evening!

“We dodged the weather and I never put the bass boat in the water,” said Kyle, “but we fished off the pontoon boat and hammered the white perch. “Six-year old Shelby even insisted that we fish under the lights at the end of the dock after fishing all day long.”

Kyle added that they caught most of their crappie on minnows in 12 to 15 feet of water, but that they caught the larger fish on chartreuse Road Runners. “We stayed hung up a lot,” he stated while laughing, “but we caught enough for a fish fry and still had four one-gallon bags of fillets!”

The Pousson camp is located on the south end of Toledo Bend, so that should answer any questions about the white perch bite to date.