By: Donna Chance
If sitting under a pavilion in an emerald green forest on a gorgeous sapphire lake, watching Josh Turner croon, as the sun settles behind a brilliant burnt orange sky is your ideal of heaven ¬ then you should have been at the Lake Sam Rayburn 2014 “Big Bass Splash.” In what has become the largest tournament in the world, the annual “Big Bass Splash” and “Lake Jam” concerts have pulled off another extraordinarily successful year. This is the bass fishing season’s heavy-hitter and the 2014 event was chalked full of bass fishing, entertainment and Nascar. There was everything from country music superstars, Bassmaster Elite professional anglers, big money prizes, hourly contests, diverse food, shopping booths and the big bass tank to a variety of other interesting activities. Put on each year by Sealy Outdoors, this year’s tournament was attended by tens of thousands of people. It was held at the Umphrey Pavilion right on the water. The winner will receive over $250,000 in prizes.
Like clockwork, at 3 am, each morning during the tournament they arrive. Hundreds of amateur fishermen (from around the nation) begin to pour into the quiet little cove at the public boat ramps. They are there to converge upon an unsuspecting population of, what is unquestionably, some of the largest bass anywhere in the continental United States. Sam Rayburn Reservoir is one of the best-kept secrets in Texas. It has now been ranked the “#2 Bass Fishing Lake” in the nation by the Bassmaster’s Classic organization. These guys put on what’s become the “Superbowl Event” of the fishing world, so they should know. Anxious amateurs race to occupy every conceivable honey-hole of the lakes 115,000 acres. This is presumably the top paying amateur event of any sport in the country. It’s a high stakes contest of skill and strategy, but does not require high-risk investments, years of lessons or a career change to participate. The anglers are usually weekend warriors; they fish for fun. They may or may not have expensive equipment and the entry fee isn’t that exorbitant. It is one of the few places where the playing field is truly equal, no matter your status off the water. It wasn’t that long ago, a local fisherman in a small aluminum boat won the tournament. Any little boat, some lake knowledge, fishing skills and familiarity with hotspots goes a very long way for amateur contests.
The winner of the 30th annual Big Bass Splash, last weekend, was Robert Nunley, of Willis, Tx. He took home the $250,000 in prizes for a 9.81lb bass caught on a fluke in 4’ of water!! He drove home a 2014 Motorhome, Ram truck, 21’ boat with motor, Power Pole, Hydrowave, and Tournament Saver Pro. The other winners this round were 2nd place Michael Williams of Woodville for his 9.63lb bass. He won the 2014 boat with motor, Ram truck and $10,000 in cash. The 3rd place winner Brett Self of Dry Prong, Louisiana won a 2014 boat with motor and Ram truck for his 9.27lb bass. Daniel Brooks, 4th place, of Linchburg, TN won a 2014 boat with motor for a 9.25lb bass. Last but not least, 5th place, Herb Lutz of Vidor took home a 2014 Ram 1500 truck for his 9.15 lb. bass.
With hourly weigh-ins occurring, the tournament traffic becomes barely tolerable near ground zero. The automobile traffic is driven by spectators racing to see who is winning the thousands in hourly payouts and legions of country music fans filling the Lake Jam area. They were vying for the closest lawnchair turf at the Josh Turner and Chris Young concerts. Also, during the day they continue coming for the numerous other Lake Jam music concerts in the weekends packed schedule. This years schedule included the music of Drew Haley and Matt Vbra, Luke Dunkin Band and 2nd Place Jake, Casey Ashley, Tim Sealy, the Pegwinders, Pine Hill Review and the Pack of Strays. The lake traffic occurs from all the anglers weighing in their trophy size bass hourly, beginning at 7 am, in the hopes of being in the top 12 fish. These winners were every bit as excited by their wins, as the top 5 overall winners were.
Local Hourly Weigh-In Winners:
6th $1200 5.55 lbs James Heckemeyer, Conroe TX
9th $800 5.46 lbs John Vining Seabrook, Tx
6th $1200 6.42 lbs Mike Rutledge Silsbee, Tx
12th $500 4.97 lbs Jarrod Meehan Lumberton, Tx
1st $3000 8.53 lbs Mathew Martin Buna, Tx
3rd $1800 6.91 lbs James Arrant Newton, Tx
9th $800 4.46 lbs Cory Rambo Orange, Tx
1st $3000 8.25 lbs Terry Mayer Warren, Tx
8th $900 5.19 lbs Chris Murphy Beaumont, Tx
1st $3000 7.82 lbs James wood Nederland, Tx
5th $1400 6.00 lbs Roger Nash Lumberton, Tx
12th $500 4.82 lbs Randy Havard Diboll, Tx
5th $1400 5.38 lbs Doug Smith Nederland, Tx
2nd $2000 6.78 lbs Orvel Van Winkle Orange, Tx
6th $1200 5.86 lbs Adam Wagner Houston, Tx
2nd $2000 6.70 lbs Hunter Aucoin, Orange TX
4th $1600 6.41 lbs Robert Rape, Vidor TX
12th $500 4.69 lbs James Booth Woodville, TX
3rd $1800 7.93 lbs James Walker Silsbee, TX
As these things go, every single year it just gets better. This years tournament was no exception. The Sealy organization has got this thing down to a science and they just keep getting better at it. Do yourself a favor and make reservations now for next year or you wont get a room. Everything for miles around fills up months in advance; in some cases its already to late.
To View All The Winners………………..Click Here