April 24th found ArmyBassAnglers Pros Jason Blackmon and Al Pemberton on Sam Rayburn Reservoir for the 4th event of the Skeeter Bass Champs East Division. This event would start great for the team beginning the previous night when the decision by Tournament Director and Bass Champs owner Chad Potts made the decision to allow trailering due to forecasted severe thunderstorms and lake wind advisory conditions after the front rolled through the next morning. “Bass Champs takes care of its anglers when dealing with adverse and potentially life threatening situations” stated Blackmon. Trailering allowed us the opportunity to drive to the ramp closest to our first spot, instead of having to drive the boat 20 miles up Sam Rayburn in some very rough water conditions” stated Pemberton.
The Rayburn duo began their day using map and GPS recons based around the phases of the spawn going on at Sam Rayburn. “We decided to start in a new area this event and specifically target hungry post spawn bass. We started on the windy side of an island at the mouth of a creek and positioned the boat in 7 feet of water. We knew the bass would be moving out toward the main lake after spawning and this was the first staging area during that transition” stated Blackmon. The decision would most definitely pay off as the team would immediately begin catching solid two pound fish on their Castaway Skeleton Rods and Ardent XS 1000 Reels. “On Jason’s second cast the water erupted on his buzzbait and I thought he had a monster. Once he got the fish to the boat it was definitely a monster, just the wrong species, as the fish was a white bass weighing over four pounds. We probably caught ten white bass around four pounds this morning” stated Pemberton. Blackmon and Pemberton would work this staging area for over 5 hours in a stretch of about 100 yards and would catch nearly 40 fish off this one isolated spot. “We were catching fish on almost every cast for about 10 minutes on every bait we presented. Spinnerbaits, rattletraps, Lake Fork Craw Tubes, Lake Fork Live Magic Shads, it didn’t matter, these fish were hungry” stated Pemberton. Having a respectable ten pound limit in the boat early the team decided to leave fish that were still biting after 6 hours and seek out larger fish. “It’s really hard to leave fish that are so aggressive in order to upgrade your catch. In order to win or place high, you have to have the discipline to know when the time is right to change it up” stated Blackmon. This decision would be the difference between making a good showing at weigh in and potentially winning the event!
“We decided to move across the lake where we have had good success this year to a spot Lake Fork Trophy Lures lure designer and FLW touring pro Mark Pack showed us back in February. This creek is awesome. It sets up perfect for all three stages of the spawn and has been really good to us. We have been able to consistently follow the fish through pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn accordingly” stated Blackmon. The team focused on the first 1/3rd of the creek and worked their way back toward the mouth and the main lake. Working the inside edge of the grass line, Blackmon immediately hooked up with a four pounder on a Lake Fork Trophy Lures Crawtube in Watermellon Red pattern. “I pitched the crawtube to an isolated clump of hydrilla and when the bait popped through, the bass slammed it” stated Blackmon as Pemberton immediately culled their smallest fish weighing 1.6 pounds on the Ardent Smart Cull System. The team worked this area for 30 more minutes to no avail and began moving down the grass line using Victory Spinnerbaits and Strike King Red Eye Shads in the new Gold Sexy Shad pattern. Blackmon and Pemberton picked up five or 6 more small fish but nothing to cull anything they already had. “Once we reached the mouth of the creek we immediately began seeing massive balls of fresh spawned fry. Another competitor was coming around the corner so we asked if it was cool if we keep fishing since we were both going in opposite directions. The other boat immediately caught a two pound fish on a rattletrap and proceeded to move farther back in the flooded vegetation. We were flipping our crawtubes to isolated bushes and trees on the edge of the grass line and that’s where the fun began. With the other boat about 50 yards away, Jason flipped his crawtube to a tree and immediately set the hook. I knew he had a good fish on and told him to work the fish out. Jason turned the boat toward deeper water, got the fish on the deep water side of the boat as I went to net the fish. Every time he’d get the fish coming toward the net, the bucketmouth would immediately turn and strip line away from the net. Jason did a great job handling this fish and we got her in the boat!” stated Pemberton as the bass would weigh a little over seven pounds. After retying and drinking some Gatorade to calm down, Blackmon’s next pitch to the exact same spot yielded the exact same results as he immediately slammed the hook home in another four pound fish. The team would spend the next hour catching several more small fish and would have to call it a day in order to make it back for the weigh in.
As the team approached the scales they estimated they had around twenty pounds in the bag. The team would turn their fish over to Tournament Director Chad Potts and await the outcome. 19.68 lbs came across the board and placed the team in 1st place. Blackmon and Pemberton would sit atop the leader board for nearly an hour before they would lose that position. “It was awesome leading this event. When you fish a tournament circuit with over 250 teams each month, being that high up the leader board is quite an accomplishment” stated Pemberton. Blackmon and Pemberton would eventually end up in 3rd place for their efforts missing 2nd place by a mere 4 ounces. “Those 4 ounces were the difference in seven thousand dollars, but that’s bass fishing right there” stated Blackmon. During the awards ceremony Pemberton spoke about the mission of ArmyBassAnglers (Support. Defend. Fish) and took the opportunity to explain Returning Heroes Home and Lone Star Paralyzed Veterans of America to the crowd gathered around. “It was awesome to place high in the tournament, but an even better opportunity to explain our mission” stated Blackmon. Al and Jason would like to thank all of their sponsors for the quality gear in order to execute “Support. Defend. Fish.”
220 Teams would compete in the event with $56,750 paid out. 659 fish would be brought to the scales totaling 1656.98 lbs. The avg fish was 2.51 lbs. There were 112 limits and 74 zeroes.
For more information on ArmyBassAnglers or The Coalition visit ArmyBassAnglers.com. HOOAH!!!
SUPPORT. DEFEND. FISH.
The ArmyBassAnglers are not content with just fishing the toughest team tournaments in Texas. More importantly, they use their ability to fish in national team tournaments and the support of some nationally recognized sponsors to raise the awareness and generate support for some very note worthy charitable causes and events. “We are ecstatic about the support provided by all our sponsors that enables us to carry out our SUPPORT.DEFEND.FISH mission,” says Roberson. The team dedicates a lot of time and effort to raising awareness and money for Returning Heroes Home (returningheroeshome.org), a project at Fort Sam Houston’s Brooke Army Medical Center. This project is striving to replace the 1200 square foot Warrior and Family Support Center with a 12,500 square foot facility funded solely with private donations. The new facility will provide ample space for wounded Soldiers undergoing treatment in San Antonio to spend private time with their friends and families when they are actively participating in the rehabilitative treatment process. With the severity of their wounds, (amputations, burns, disfigurement, post-traumatic stress, etc) it is critical that they have a place to be at ease without being subjected to crowded public places and unnecessary stress. (As of Press Release, Returning Heroes Home has completed the new 12,500 square foot facility and is in progress of building Phase 2 of the operation)
In addition, the ArmyBassAnglers are involved in two fishing tournaments dedicated to taking Soldiers fishing. The team volunteers their personal time to support “Fishing For Freedom Take a Soldier Fishing” each year on Belton Lake, near Fort Hood, TX. The whole premise behind the event is an opportunity for the local angling and business community to thank these Heroes for their service and sacrifices. Annually, Choke Canyon Reservoir is the host location for “Fishing for Freedom Take a Wounded Warrior Fishing” tournament that pairs local fishermen with wounded Soldiers in the San Antonio area for a day of tournament bass fishing on an awesome fishery just for them. Both events are heavily supported and only made possible through the generosity of local businesses, volunteers, and caring local and regional anglers. These are just a few of the ways the team lives up to the SUPPORT pillar in its three pronged mission statement.
As mostly active duty Soldiers, the members of ArmyBassAnglers have the very surreal responsibility to DEFEND this nation and the liberties we enjoy as Americans. Three of the members are currently deployed with several others scheduled to make their third or fourth deployments next year. It makes it tough to uphold their obligations in their charity work and to their sponsors, but what makes them unique is that their military background creates a “take care of each other” mentality. “Each angler has a “battle buddy” that he fishes two-man team tournaments with and when one member of the team is gone, the other “rucks up” and carries the load for both of them, this is by design and is ingrained all our military training,” states Roberson.
Finally, and last on their list of “priorities of fire” is the FISH pillar of the mission statement. They currently fish Texas, Louisiana, and Nevada as well as National team tournament trails like Fishers of Men and Bass Champs. Again, they uses these appearances as “combat multipliers” to promote Returning Heroes Home and the Fishing for Freedom charity events all while carrying the torch as Ambassadors for their respective sponsors, but do not count them out as qualified contenders.
If you read about their successes in the tournament highlights page of their website, you will quickly notice they are a threat every time they idle into a weigh-in. Team leader, Cody Roberson, describes the team by saying, “We don’t consider ourselves professional fishermen, but professional Soldiers who just happen to be really good, avid anglers with a far more important mission —HOOAH!”
Recently, BASS/ESPN has tapped ArmyBassAnglers as the Ceremonial Launch Boats for each day of The 2009, 2010 and 2011 Bassmasters Classic.