Competition can bring out the best in people. Or vice versa.
The high morals and sound principles demonstrated his past week by two young local outdoorsmen are Exhibit A for competition bringing out the best in people.
Cade Lipari, 19, and Tate Denise, 21, teamed up to fish a Wednesday Night Hawg Fights Bass Tournament Series contest on Wednesday at Lake Dauterive-Fausse Pointe. Lipari, a sophomore at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and Denise, an electrician apprentice for E.P. Breaux Electrical Inc., obviously were raised to treat people the way they want to be treated, with respect, dignity and kindness, and to accept rules, including rules of the game.
The high winds of misfortune, plain bad luck or whatever you want to label it just might have cost them bragging rights for the biggest bass of the evening. The Hawg Fighters never got a chance to find out because their two bass, including the “hawg” caught by Denise, were ineligible to be weighed in after their boat number chip — or key, as Lipari called it — bounced out of the boat and into the choppy waters of Lake Dauterive as they raced to their destination after the tournament started at 5:30 p.m.
Boaters whose chips aren’t returned to the board before the announced weigh-in time, which was 8 p.m., are disqualified. The rule was implemented this year to prevent anglers from slipping in past the announced weigh-in time and weighing their catch.
Lipari and Denise repeatedly said that night and later that “rules are rules” and accepted the penalty, even though they returned to Marsh Field Boat Landing around 7:30 p.m. They truly appreciated the fact they got their hands on a bass their digital scale pegged at 5 pounds, 7 ounces.
Anglers in one other boat in the 24-boat field lost their chip and were unable to weigh in Wednesday.
The young men with the big bass didn’t throw a temper tantrum, shout at tournament officials or otherwise make a scene. Unfortunately, ugly scenes have erupted sporadically over the years.
“No. I’m not mad. Rules are rules. I’m more mad at myself losing the chip, disappointed in myself,” Lipari said at midday Friday as he and Denise towed his boat along Interstate 49 for a weekend of fishing at Toledo Bend.
The ULL Fishing Team member did more than lose his chip. It was safely secured in his wallet, he said, which was in a cupholder in his Bass Cat Cougar that previously belonged to Bassmaster Elite Series pro Caleb Sumrall of New Iberia. Lipari lost his wallet and all its contents.
The wallet exited the boat after it hit an estimated 2-foot wave while crossing Lake Dauterive, Lipari said.
They knew it was gone, which made what happened a little more than an hour later bittersweet.
Denise was retrieving a chartreuse/blue square bill crank bait, bouncing it off cypress trees, cypress knees and any other structure, when it was stopped outright about 6:50 p.m., he said. The location of the catch was a “classified secret,” he said with a laugh because it’s the third “real nice one” they’ve caught there.
“We thought it was a log at first. It wasn’t moving at first, then it started drifting and we realized it was a big fish. Every time I hook up on a nice bass the first thought that pops into my mind is ‘I hope it’s not a choupique,’ ” Denise said.
He said the duration of the fight from start to finish “wasn’t too long.”
“It made a long run. We got it in the boat. We screamed” in delight,” he said.
“Oh, yeah,” Lipari chimed in.
Lipari got on his stomach, he said, reached out over the side of the boat and grabbed the big bass by the belly and lifted it in the boat.
“I was freaking out,” he said, confidingly.
Their immediate reaction, his fishing buddy said, was “a mixture of joy and sadness. We knew we didn’t have the chip. But it’s always good to catch a fish like that. It’s soooooo exciting!
“It’s just the point. Having a fish that size. That doesn’t come often and every day, especially in a Hawg Fight,” Denise said.
Lipari’s father, Tommy Lipari, ran the Hawg Fights successfully for several years, building on the tournament’s solid reputation and immense popularity initiated by founder Clay Peltier of New Iberia. The younger Lipari said he and his fishing buddy understand the rules and the concept behind that rule installed for 2020. But, he pointed out, they returned to the boat landing around 7:30 p.m., the first tournament boat back on the boat trailer.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m not mad by any means. It’s my fault, completely. I’m not going to take out anybody,” Lipari said.
And Lipari and his fishing buddy plan to be at the next Hawg Fight on May 13 in Franklin.
“I love fishing the Hawg Fights. It gives you something to do in the middle of the week,” he said, adding there are fewer boats on the water compared to fishing a weekend tournament when those tournament boats, plus so many other weekenders, are out at the same time.
The Teche Area’s competitive bass fishing scene welcomes up-and-coming bass anglers like Lipari and Denise. They are what’s right with the sport.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.