Once again the yearly Louisiana Oilman’s Bass Invitational Classic has come and gone. This year marked the 12th annual event which was full of surprises for all. One of the biggest changes was that Legend Boats of Midway, Ark. has taken over the main sponsorship for the tournament. Legend has promised 2 fully equipped boats to be given away to two lucky fishermen at each classic event. There were two happy guys this year who went home pulling beautiful Legend boats, with one of them being the colors of LSU, which are Gold and Purple. This year also saw a playing field of 712 teams fishing for the bragging rights of the 2006 Championship
The Oilman’s Classic was fished on Toledo Bend Reservoir and went out of the beautiful Cypress Bend Resort State Park Site #11. If you have never visited Cypress Bend Park you owe it to yourself to drive by it and see the things it has to offer. With well over 700 teams entered this year, there was plenty of room for all tournament boaters to park and enjoy the events that went on after tournament hours. From great cooking each night to who could tell the biggest fish stories and not get caught. Each night after the weigh-in we were greeted with great cooked meals and drinks that was donated by the fine sponsor’s of the tournament. Now when you start fixing meals for well over a thousand people, it takes not only a big pile of food to feed these folks but a lot of workers who donated their free time to help put on a tournament of this size. It seems that each year it gets bigger and better and that’s because of all the companies that donate their time and energy to the cause!
LOBI (Louisiana Oilman’s Bass Invitational) was founded in 1994 by a group of Louisiana Oilmen who had the sincere desire to promote fun and fellowship among the members of our Oil and Gas enriched industry, whether active or retired. It was their intent to base the tournament within the state in order to financially support business persons in our area. The first tournament was held in 1995 on Toledo Bend at the Sammy Gill State Park with a total of 300 teams. Now days, due to the growing interest of the tournament there are 700 qualifying teams accepted. This also caused the tournament to be moved to the Cypress Bend State Park to better accommodate all the teams and workers. The best part about the LOBI is that it has a great cause to it! Every year all the extra money raised from the LOBI is donated to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. A few facts about this cause and St. Jude’s are that the hospital was founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas in 1962. It has treated more than 18,000 children from across the United States and 60 foreign countries. It’s located in Memphis, Tenn. and was the first institution established for the sole purpose of conducting basic and clinical research into childhood diseases like cancer. St. Jude houses over 4000 patients daily with an operating daily cost of over $715,000 per day, not a small chuck of change by any means. These daily cost are primarily paid by public contributions and fund raisers like the Oilman’s Tournament. St. Jude has one of the lowest fundraising costs of any national charity by using every dollar donated. For every dollar that St. Jude gets, 80.2 percent goes to current or future needs of St. Jude with about 13.4 being used to raise additional funds and only about 6.4 percent going to administration cost. In 1996, Peter C. Doherty, Ph.D., who is chairman of St. Jude Hospital’s immunology dept, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine. St. Jude has treated more than 1,000 young cancer patients from Louisiana at no cost to their families. The LOBI works very hard with its sponsor’s and fishing teams to make this the elite of bass tournaments for both The St. Jude Hospital and the children. So you can see that not only does the LOBI put on a fine week of bass fishing and fellowship between many companies, it also helps to support a great cause by helping many young cancer patients who without St. Jude would never get the chance to be treated. Next March when the time calls, please give to the LBOI or to the fund raisers for St. Jude’s because one of those 1000 young children with cancer could be someone close to you!
Now on to some more of the surprises and fish stories that this years tournament held for us. It was without a doubt that this year’s tournament had a strange twist to it. The Southern States had suffered one of the most remembered drought in years which put Toledo Bend at a level pool of around 162’ feet with normal pool level being just a little above 172’ feet. This left the grand lake with stumps and standing timber everywhere, even in the running lanes. As other Tournament Trails pulled their tournaments from Toledo Bend because of low water and safety issues the LOBI stood by and watched the lake as the deadline drew nearer. Many tournaments were moved to the Red River, Caddo Lake and Sam Rayburn Lake in Texas in order to keep the safety factor in tack. During this low water time many Mariner’s and lake home owners were updating and repairing their ramps while hoping for rain which would help to fill the grand ole lake before the Oilman’s Classic was ready. As the last week of March got closer the south started getting a little rain and we all started watching old Toledo slowly fill up again, little by little. By the week of the tournament the lake was up to 167’ feet and climbing, which make a lot of folks very happy. On the north end of this giant lake the water wasn’t quite high enough yet to get into the buck bush as many wished for including myself, but it was a very good start indeed. March weather had surely threw us some wild twist including weather in the high 80’s and then cold fronts slapping us in the face with freezing temps and rain. The poor bass and bass fishermen never knew what to do because of the crazy patterns the weather was doing. In the northern part of the lake fish were on bed and trying to spawn while down south the water was still cold and the bass were only starting to look for spawning areas.
Just two weeks ago I was the Tournament Director and Master of Ceremony for the 5th Annual Wal-Mart Bass Tournament for Jerry’s Kids and MDA in Boutte, La. and the weather was freezing with light rain. Then it turned to t-shirt weather with highs in the high 80’s until the week of the LOBI. Man, oh man, did the weather get crazy during our week long trip. At least it was fair for all who fished this year’s Classic cause everyone got a good taste of what Mother Nature had in stored for us!
This year I was sponsored by Morgan City Rentals of Morgan City, La. Tracker Marine, Boat City, USA of Henderson, La. and Offshore Oilfield Services of Lafayette, La. I would really like to thank these sponsors for all the things they did for us while we were enjoying our tournament. Offshore Oilfield Service had given me a few days off with pay to be able to fish the tournament. My partner in crime was Darin Ledet who works for Morgan City Rentals as a top outside salesman. We also had a second fishing team make up of Brad Guidry and his dad Butch. Brad works with MCR also as the Operations Manager. Like we didn’t have enough already to do, Mr. Butch kept us laughing the whole trip. I will never forget his famous words before weigh-in time, what do you mean I can’t keep the bass, I caught them didn’t I, their MINE! MCR had paid our entry fee, rented us a nice cabin at the state park and given us a running tab on gas, eats and tackle. Now tackle is where they may have went wrong because Toledo Town Tackle now knows Darin and myself by first name basis, heck, they may even know our kids name by now. Even my wife would not have offered us that deal under any conditions! She knows the both of us pretty good and plus she saw Darin’s 16 tackle boxes that filled up his entire back seat of his new Ford 4-door pickup as he helped me find room for my 12 or 13 bags of tackle. You would think that by already having and taking two complete tackle shops with you that you wouldn’t have to stop to buy any more tackle, now would you? Well my friend, it just doesn’t work like that when you have the "Bait-Monkey" disease, trust me! It takes all I can do in the mornings to go to work without taking time to shop in the Bass Pro Shop catalog for something new that my partner doesn’t have or seen. Plus both main rooms of our home have BPS catalogs in their magazine racks just in case of an extended stay over. After we got all the tackle packed away we started looking for room for our shaving kits and cloths. It was a good thing we were only going for 5 days, any thing longer and we would have had to leave our cloths behind! Toledo Bend is about a 4 hour drive from my home in Church Point so we left as soon as we got packed up, which would put us getting to the lake somewhere around ten o’clock unless a tackle shop slowed us down. As we pulled away from the house, the last words from my wife were to stay out of the tackle shops. Now most guys would have heard something like stay out of the bars or strip clubs, but not Merila, that girl knows me like a book! Once we got on the road and I made sure she wasn’t watching us, I pulled out 6 more bags of black lizards with blue flake/blue tails from my cargo pockets on my pants. It was a good thing that I had checked the mail yesterday before she had so I could pack my lizards away in a safe place! It wasn’t to long before the sound of rain drops started beating against the windshield. I think we both looked at each other at the same time and said, "Not again"? For the past few years it has managed to rain or turn cold on us at every LOBI tournament and it looked like this one would be no different. As we rounded the curve and came to the 4-way stop at Toledo Town, both of us had to close our eyes as we drove past the Toledo Town Tackle shop on the way to our cabin. Yes, brothers and sisters, it took lots of "will power" to pull that trick off. Once we unloaded the truck and loaded the boat with our gear, including two sets of Frogg’s, we headed to the lake for an afternoon test run. Neither of us had been doing much fishing due to work so a good quite afternoon of scouting would do us all the good in the world. We hit a few spots around the bridge before heading way up north on the Texas side to try a few creeks out. Not only was the weather cold and rainy but the wind was blowing hard making the lake near impossible to run. A good tip for those who have never fished the Bend, if the wind gets strong, plan on running to the nearest mariner to catch a ride to your tow vehicle, because the Bend can get very ugly real quick with Gulf of Mexico size waves! Instead of running the boat up north and getting stuck by the wind and waves, we trailer all the way up and launched on the Texas side. We found us a creek off the main lake with some big bays in it and boy did it give us a big surprise. I know that you’re not supposed to do this while scouting but sometimes you just can’t help yourself. Plus when you haven’t been on fish in a while it’s hard to just shake them loose and move on. At the end of our wet afternoon of scouting, I had stuck over 10 bass that weighed over 5 lbs each and my partner had just about had the same luck. I’m sure you have heard the saying about don’t count your chickens before the eggs hatch, well my friends; I’m here to tell you that it’s a true statement. One that will come back to haunt us many times in our life span or before our wives will let us forget it. On the way back to our cabin we called to share our fishing report and the first thing said from my wife was that you’re not suppose to catch them during practice and show her the money for them come final weigh-in day, oh yeah, I was thinking, "not a problem!"
Thursday morning came with more rain and cold winds causing the lake to look like an ocean. We decided to trailer the boat back up north instead of fighting the waves and wind. Once again, we couldn’t do any wrong while fishing. I even starting catching fish on Strike Work jigs which is something I hate to do. Today was no different from yesterday in that all I had to do was sometimes change the quick blades on my Secret Weapon Spinnerbaits from willow leaf to #5 Colorado blades. One good thing about Secret Weapon spinnerbaits is that as the conditions change you can also change without having to replace the baits. The skirt colors of white and chartreuse worked pretty much the same both days for me, while my partner worked a Berkley power bait lizard in the color black with blue/flake and blue tail. After another good day on the water we decided to ease back to the cabin and chill out before the Thursday night pre-tournament meeting and supper. We now had a good game plan and pattern put together to work with come Friday morning or did we?
We woke up Friday morning to high winds and rough water conditions which weren’t in our game plan. Our 20-30 minute boat ride just turned into a 1 hour drive pulling the boat to our north Texas creek. Now we would lose at least 2 hours of fishing time today just getting to and from our honey hole. As we pulled into the creek it was 7:45 am and the skies were blue bird as the wind howled across the lake making big white caps that would put chill bumps all over you. If didn’t take long for us to realize that our clear sunny day had changed the way our patterns were and that we were in trouble, big trouble. Even our water had cleared up some from yesterday causing what few fish we found to be spooked. I had lost my spinnerbait bite while Darin had picked up a few small fish with his lizards. Then mid-afternoon I decided to try the old standby Ribbet Toad Frog on some of the flats that held some grass on them back in the creeks that had bays in them. Bingo, we started picking up a few good fish with the toads but the wind was so strong it was hard to throw them without having those professorial over-runs in your reels. Just then I had an idea, lucky for us I had several bags of the "Ribbet Bull Frog Toads" in one of my 12 bags of tackle which lead us to a search and rescue mission in the boat that lasted longer than we needed. Plus, have you ever thrown that bull toad all day long before? Trust me, that piece of plastic toad will wear you out before the day is over with and have you begging for mercy. By 2:00 pm we had a good limit of fish and had culled a few good ones so we decided to pack up and head to the weigh-in. The first day results left us in 312th place out of 712 boats, not bad, but far from were we wanted to be. Final day action saw us once again fighting with different conditions and the problem of us losing big fish. It was rain in the morning hours that turned into a heat wave that afternoon. That bright sunshine just buried our fish into the deep grass were they refused to bite anything. We did manage a limit of small fish while we cried over losing some good solid fish that would have put us up quite a bit. We ended up after the final weigh-in in 292nd place out of 712 teams. Still not were we wanted to be, but proud to be ahead of the other teams for sure. Our other fishing team did very well by coming out in 112th place. Way to go Brad and Mr. Butch. I still laugh when I think about Butch and his famous last words! It was a great tournament filled with fun and friends, plus it was for a great cause. Many thanks go out to all the fine people who help make this event what it is and for helping out St. Jude Children’s Hospital and all the kids who need their help!
My wife had driven up that Saturday afternoon to see the final weigh-in and to take pictures of the tournament for our sponsor’s and our home scrapbook. Then it happen, as she was snapping those pictures of everything those famous last words came back to haunt us again. "Never count your chickens before the eggs hatch" and "put your money where your mouth is, big boy!" Sounds like something your buddies would say from the winning team, huh? All in all we had a fun time. We got to spent some time with a lot of our friends who we only get to see once a year and plus we got to visit Toledo Town Tackle each day. If the truth be known, we even stopped twice on some days, both going and returning from the lake, just don’t let Merila find out, ok! Between the great fellowship among friends and all the money that was raised for St. Jude, makes it all worth wild for all of us. Plus there is always next year in 2007 to go after those bragging rights!
Until next time, fish hard and enjoy the great outdoors!
Please remember to try to take a child fishing whenever you can, it just might make you a "star" in their little eyes! Also please remember our Troops who are fighting for our FREEDOM. It’s because of them that we have this great country of ours to enjoy!