MYETTE POINT – Marlin Hebert had a puncher’s chance to keep his streak of Angler of the Year titles in odd years — starting in 2015 — alive when he fished the Coteau Bass Hustlers regular-season finale Nov. 13 in the Atchafalaya Basin.
The New Iberia bass angler teamed with Don Shoopman, a local outdoors writer fishing as his guest, in his bid to stay in first place and win AOY. Going into the last tournament, Hebert owned a 13-point lead over Brandon Sellers and was 16 points ahead of Joey Trahan, who fished with Sellers.
“I had to come out first or second. There was no room for error,” Hebert said after they combined for a five-bass limit weighing 12.90 pounds to top the 8-boat field.
The winners took a 20-minute or so boat ride upriver to a short canal that was inaccessible for much of the summer. The Atchafalaya River rose during the week from under 5 feet at Butte La Rose to nearly 6.
They were rewarded quickly with three bass on a spinnerbait in a 3- to 4-minute span that gave them about 7 ½-8 pounds before 7 a.m.
“When you caught those three fish first thing in the morning, you’re right, it eases your mind. Once it eases your mind you can get down and pinpoint what they’re doing,” Hebert said after the win.
Robbie Mayer and his guest finished runners-up with five bass weighing 9.90 pounds. That showing boosted him into second-place in the final point standings for 2021.
Keith Altazin of Lafayette and his guest, New Iberian Jacob Shoopman, were third with a limit that tipped the scale at 9.45 pounds.
Steve Doumit boasted the biggest bass of the day, a 3.80-pounder.
Hebert has honed his punchin’ skills to a high level since he started learning the technique three years ago. He punched ‘em in the mouth that Saturday.
The method generally accounts for bigger bass but the first 10 or 11 bass he caught while punchin’ that day didn’t help upgrade. However, his two heaviest bass emerged from the mats, shaking their heads and fighting, around midday for two critical culls.
“They were hitting as soon as it broke through, as soon as the water started warming up them lilies,” he said.
He was punchin’ a Zoom soft plastic on a No.5 straight shank hook under a ¾-ounce weight with 65-pound test braid line. He boat flipped all of the bass that bit while he was punchin’.
The 53-year-old insulation and installation manager for Butcher Air Conditioning said he has been punchin’ whenever applicable since around 2019.
“They don’t always bite but, normally, when you get bites it’s some better ones,” he said.
The better ones helped deliver another AOY for Hebert, who also won the bass club’s championship in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Shoopman boated their biggest bass, a 3.52-pounder, the third fish in that early flurry.
“I don’t know what’s going on with that,” he said with a chuckle. “It seems like it works out for me.”
He wouldn’t mind breaking the pattern by successfully defending the AOY in 2022, he said, to “get on a winning streak.”
The 2021 AOY was as special as the others.
“This one’s just as exciting competing against a bunch of friends and co-fishermen. It’s really an honor to win it. You get a lot of bragging rights for a year,” he said.
“This race was a close race that went down to the wire. I did what I had to do. I won the last two tournaments to beat Robbie.
“I’d like to thank all the club members for a great year of fishing. They’re all congratulating me. I’m going to whip their butt next year.”
Hebert won four tournaments this year, including the next-to-last derby at Caney Lake, the bass club’s first-ever venture to the renowned lake in north Louisiana. The other three wins were in the Atchafalaya Basin.
The Caney Lake victory was his favorite, he said, and not just because it was his heaviest limit of the year at 14.66 pounds.
“Caney Lake was my largest stringer of the year. I had never fished it before. And I fished with Colby (his son, Colby Hebert). That was my best moment of the year to fish with Colby and win it with my son,” he said.
Hebert, who has been a member of the bass club for approximately 30 years, said he felt the pressure going into the finale. He relied on spinnerbaits, his go-to Zoom Super Flukes and, of course, punchin’ to rise to the challenge on a post-cold front day with high blue skies.