Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer was his usual exuberant self when Caleb Sumrall carried his bag of five bass across the big stage for big dreams, to weigh on Monday in Florence, Alabama.
It was Semifinal Monday, the third day of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite tournament at Pickwick Lake.
Mercer’s booming voice proclaimed “…. another big finish from Caleb Sumrall!” That was apropos for the fourth-year pro bass angler from New Iberia. Caleb’s 20-pound, 6-ounce catch on a body of water that frustrated so many of the country’s top pros starting Day 1 on March 20.
Sumrall’s third-day limit gave him a three-day total of 53 pounds, 9 ounces, good enough for a 15th-place finish in the 100-angler field. That showing marked the 11th Top 20 finish of his career and second in as many Elite tournaments as he continued his rebound from a forgettable 83rd-place finish in the 2021 opener Feb. 11-14 at St. Johns River in Palatka, Florida.
The 33-year-old outdoorsman who loves to hunt and fish has risen to the challenge since the season opener at St. Johns River, where he finished a dismal 83rd. He surged to a 19th-place finish Feb. 25-28 on the Tennessee River out of Knoxville
That showing proved his mettle and maturation as a bass angler at the highest level. Before the season began, Sumrall told a local outdoor writer cold, muddy river systems presented the greatest challenge to him.
Less than a month later he was prefishing another region along the Tennessee River, Pickwick Lake. He had a great practice period, according to his wife, Jacie, but so did many other Elites.
Then a torrential rain hit the hilly region around Florence. Officials opened the floodgates and the waterbody rose by several feet and fast, so much that the first two days of the four-day tournament were postponed by the flooding.
Some Elites never recovered once the tournament finally started March 20. As they say, they were “spun out.”
Sumrall got a five-bass limit that Saturday and made the Top 50 cut despite coming up one keeper bass short of a limit on Sunday.
On Sumrall’s Facebook page, he wrote, “Grinded like there was no tomorrow today and boated the only four bites I had. Going to need one of the @leelivesaybasselite bags tomorrow to have a shot at Tuesday.”
That set the stage for Semifinal Monday. BassTrakk kept his family, friends and fans back home in the dark as No Activity throughout the day it showed No Activity. However, early in the afternoon, Bassmaster LIVE caught up with Sumrall, who revealed he had five bass estimated at 20 pounds in the livewell.
“I’ll feel better with two more 4-pounders,” he told veteran B.A.S.S. photographer Andy Crawford, former editor of the Louisiana Sportsman.
Apparently, he was unable to upgrade. Still, the five bass weighed 20-5 ounces, to give him a total of 53-9. He moved momentarily into 12th place and finished 15th in the tournament won by Tuesday by Bill Lowen of Brookville, Indiana, with 83 pounds, 5 ounces.
More importantly, he improved his position in the all-important Angler of the Year standings for 2021. He has 186 points, which put him in 31st place, which if the season ended now, would put him in the 2022 Bassmaster Classic.
But the season doesn’t end now. Next up is an interesting stop next month on the Sabine River out of Orange, Texas, followed by five more tournaments from Texas to Alabama, again, and New York.
Sabine River should fish a lot like the waters he has been fishing most of his life in and around the Atchafalaya Basin. Don’t be surprised if he finishes higher than he did at Pickwick Lake. Then Mercer can repeat, “…. another big finish from Caleb Sumrall!”
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.