MYETTE POINT — When Mike Sinitiere delivered the coup de grace by reeling in a 4.46-pound bass Sept. 12, congratulatory knuckle daps and high-fives ensued with Mike O’Brien.
That sizeable bass anchored their limit and propelled them to a $1,720 payday for first place in a 21-boat field as well as an extra $250 as the biggest bass to hit the scale at Myette Point Boat Landing, site of the 2021 Wednesday Night Hawg Fights Bass Tournament Series Classic.
“If it wouldn’t have been for the biggest fish in the tournament in the last 10 minutes, we wouldn’t have won it. Mike pulled us through. If we’d been in a bigger boat, I would have hugged him,” O’Brien said a few days later, admittedly still on a rollercoaster high.
The jubilant scene unfolded inside O’Brien’s narrow aluminum tunnel hull boat just 10 minutes before the accomplished bass anglers from New Iberia had to leave for a 4 p.m. weigh-in. The “hawg” was the exclamation mark on the five-fish limit they culled since mid-morning in the Atchafalaya Basin.
It also validated the hand-written note O’Brien pulled out of his pocket several times during the oft-rainy day. The 64-year-old retired outboard motor mechanic, a big fan of Bassmaster Elite Gerald Swindle, found the note with the goodies his wife, Melanie Hitter O’Brien, packed for him to snack on during the Classic. Swindle’s wife, Le Ann “Lulu” Swindle, packs peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her husband to eat while bass fishing.
“Melanie had a note. I can’t remember the words exactly. Like ‘You and Mike have fun today. You can do it.’ I put it in my pocket. Every once in a while I took the note out (when the catchin’ was slow). I took it out at least four times. It just gave me incentive to fish harder and harder,” he said.
The winners’ 16.01-pound catch was more than enough to turn back the rest of the Classic field, including a team beset by an unlucky but successful leap for freedom. Despite watching an estimated 4 ½ -pounder bass jump out of an ice chest-turned-livewell that day on the water, Gordy Bourque and Chase Boudreaux recovered to finish second with five bass weighing 14.82 pounds to win $900.
Bourque and Boudreaux were followed in the standings by cousins Corey Romero and Wilfred Gary, who won $700 with five bass weighing 12.81 pounds. Romero and Gary capped a good stretch run to the season.
Fourth place was nailed down by Chris Vedrines and Jean Trahan, whose limit weighed 12.76 pounds worth $500. They made the right moves on a challenging day because of a rising Atchafalaya River.
The WN Hawg Fights BTS Angler(s) of the Year team of St. Martinville cousins Braxton Resweber and Austin Theriot cashed in with a fifth-place finish to collect $300. Resweber and Theriot, who also received $300 for a consistent year on the way to AOY, weighed five bass at 11.90 pounds.
Bucky Crowson and Kevin Suit, who have been fishing together off and on for years, claimed the sixth and final payout with a limit weighing 11.73 pounds for $150.
Considering the caliber of “sticks” in the field, O’Brien was ecstatic. The look on his face immediately after a photo op said it all.
“Ah, it’s just great, you know? I was really pumped up. I think we collected only one check all year in Hawg Fights. It was a grind but we made up for it in the end. That’s the one that counts. It’s a really good feeling at the end. That’s some good fishermen we’re going against. You know that,” he said.
Sinitiere, 60, a business development manager for Coca-Cola United, agreed and said, proudly, “It’s a great feat to win against the quality of fishermen they have in the Classic because they’ve got a lot of great sticks.”
The best sticks that day were in one aluminum boat. It wasn’t fast and furious, though.
It helped that O’Brien found a good starting place when he prefished Charenton Lake. He enjoyed a productive scouting trip Sept. 10, two days before the Classic, in and around Charenton Lake.
After a safe daylight start the day of the Classic, Charenton Lake gave up a total of one bass, a 3-pounder to O’Brien, around 8 a.m. No other takers the first few hours.
“Charenton is Charenton. Charenton’s a hard place to fish. You catch one day, the next day or two days later, you go back and you scratch, especially when the water’s coming in. So there’s no guarantees. But we had a few other places outside Charenton,” Sinitiere said.
O’Brien had been tattooing bass on a Chatterbait. But it wasn’t preferred that morning.
“I said, ‘Man, instead of both of us throwing a Chatterbait or spinnerbait, just try flippin’, see if they want something else,’ ” he said.
Sinitiere, always a threat with a Baby Brush Hog tied on, tried a june bug/red model and started catching bass.
They eeked out a “small limit” by adding four keepers to the big ice chest-turned-livewell in Charenton Lake but decided to leave for greener pastures, er, better bassin’, around 9-9:30 a.m. It paid off right away near Crew Boat Chute when Sinitiere made the first cull, albeit 2 ounces, with a 2-1.
O’Brien and Sinitiere returned around midday to Charenton Lake.
“We came back into Charenton and just started hitting spots we hadn’t hit before,” Sinitiere said.
The bite and size got better and better. More 3-pound class bass went into the livewell’s water as Sinitiere wielded his BBH and O’Brien fished Missile Baits D-Bombs and his Chatterbait.
That “Hail Mary” catch in the waning minutes made the difference.
“Mike says, ‘Now we have a good bag.’ I figured we had 15, 15 ½ pounds,” Sinitiere said.
O’Brien, who retired in August 2020 after 18 years as owner of Bayouland Marine, was the Classic’s weighmaster while Sinitiere, in his third year as the circuit’s director, recorded the weights. They saw what each of their challengers had to offer before bringing out their own weigh-in bag at the end.
“It was a nail-biter, me being weighmaster. When I saw Gordy’s fish in there (weigh-in basket atop the digital scale), I was thinking in my head, thinking we got it. Then I was looking at the fish in our bag. Bucky laughed and said, ‘You got this,’” O’Brien said.
It was Sinitiere’s second Classic win. He won it in runaway fashion with Brooke Morrison after a long run from here to Bayou Black in 2018.
“They’re both sweet. They’re both the same. They’re both just as satisfying,” he said.