PINELAND, Texas — As keeper-sized bass go, it was one that would attract little attention because it was so small.
The “line scratcher” (barely measuring 14 inches, the minimum size limit on Lake Sam Rayburn) caught Oct. 20 by Ben Suit’s tournament partner, none other than his father, veteran bass angler Kevin Suit, was the difference between winning and losing a second straight Angler of the Year title in the Louisiana Bass Cats. That the bass was boated three minutes before the weigh-in Sunday — the second day of the eighth and last bass club tournament of the year — made it even more significant for Ben Suit.
That keeper bass gave his boat a five-fish limit on a weekend in which he inexplicably struggled in his bid to defend AOY. The Suits, both of New Iberia, had a light limit Saturday weighing 8 pounds, 15 ounces, and an even lighter limit Sunday with 7 pounds, 8 ounces, for a two-day total of 16 pounds, 7 ounces.
“It (winning the title) was absolutely by that fish. It was 16 points. That was 1 pound,” Ben Suit said about the margin of winning AOY over hard-charging Braxton Resweber of St. Martinville, who fished with Ry Savoy of Loreauville and put together a two-day total of 29 pounds, 14 ounces, to win the tournament and force the race to go down to the wire.
“It barely scratched the line. It touched the line one way and not the other,” Suit said about the little fish caught on a soft plastic swim bait.
“I told him (his father) it would probably make the difference after the fact,” he said, adding that a few minutes before that clutch catch by his dad, he broke off on a sizeable bass while fishing with a large plastic worm.
“I haven’t broke off all year long. That kind of summed up how tough the weekend was for us, that moment,” he said.
“I was really happy at the end of it all, relieved. It was kind of bittersweet, I guess. You know what they say, you don’t want to walk backward through the door, or stumble to the finish line.”
Suit finished with 2,061 points while Resweber was an agonizingly close runner-up with 2,045 points. Savoy was third with 1,879 points; followed in the bass club’s prestigious Top Six standings by Junius “Nonky” Dore, who finished third in the final tournament, with 1,699; Zach Suit with 1,690, and Derrick Romero with 1,545.
Suit said, “Congrats to everybody who made the Top Six. I know it was a big push by everybody who made the Top Six and I’ve got a shoutout for Mr. October, Jacob Shoopman. I know he helped out Zach a ton.”
That 16 points separated the AOY and his nearest challenger when the dust settled on 2019 got the attention of Louisiana Bass Cat members that afternoon near Pineland.
“Yep, I was only a pound behind him,” Resweber said about the narrow gap.
Resweber pointed out he and Suit fished two bass club tournaments and an Open together and finished in the Top 3 in each of them in 2019. They are good friends and he had nothing but respect for the AOY, he said.
“Oh, Ben’s an awesome guy. It’s real easy losing to a guy like Ben,” Resweber said.
The AOY felt likewise.
“Yeah, I mean, I always want to win, but if he made a big push at the end of the year and beat me, I would shake his hand and congratulate him,” he said.
The outcome may have been different if Saturday panned out differently for Savoy, who dropped a 6-pound class bass at the boat, and Resweber, who missed back-to-back 4-pound class bass immediately after the big misconnection by Savoy.
“You can’t blame that. He earned it. He won it,” Resweber said about Suit.
Savoy was proud of his tournament partner.
“Oh, yeah, he came close. I told Ben when I got to the landing (Saturday) ‘You’re welcome (that Savoy missed a 6-pound class bass),’ ” Savoy said with a chuckle.
“It jumped off right off at the boat. It ran to the boat. By the time I caught up with him he turned at the boat, spit the Chatterbait out. I was disappointed,” he said.
That he closed out the bass club campaign on a championship note with his father meant so much to Suit.
“I’ve got nothing but good things to say and I’m very thankful I got to fish with him this weekend, regardless of the results. It’s always nice to be out with him or my brother (Zach Suit),” he said.
He said he wasn’t panicking as he steered his trusty old Ranger bass boat into a cove near San Augustine Park’s boat landing in the waning minutes of the tournament Sunday.
“Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about it too much as far as Angler of the Year. Like I’ve told you before, I like going in with a limit. It gives you a chance no matter what,” he said.
After a fair to good week of prefishing, except for dealing with bass missing the soft plastic frogs he was throwing a majority of the time, what happened when it counted Oct. 19-20?
“If I had that answer I wouldn’t be scratching away that day with three minutes left. I think the sun we had the day before pushed fish so far back into the haygrass we just couldn’t catch them. They’d bite but wouldn’t eat it (plastic frog). It just got real tough. It wasn’t just us. I had people tell me, like (bass club member) Chris (Vedrines),” Suit said.
Now Suit is in the enviable position of being the two-time defending champion in the Louisiana Bass Cats and, with his brother, Zach, the two-time defending Angler(s) of the Year on the Wednesday Night Hawg Fights Bass Tournament Series.
“I don’t know that I can put it into words. It’s a big accomplishment,” he said, proudly, about the latest title. “Everybody will be gunning for me now and, I mean, having won back-to-back Hawg Fight titles, everybody will be gunning for us. That makes you better.”