Ever since hearing a few days ahead of time about New Iberian Jason Moss’ guided bass fishing trip on Toledo Bend with Bassmaster Elite Series bass angler Caleb Sumrall of New Iberia on June 29, I’ve wondered how it went.
Moss, a 52-year-old veteran angler who is at home and holds his own in both freshwater and saltwater environments, was eager to talk about it Thursday afternoon during the weigh-in on the first day of the 66th annual Iberia Rod & Gun Club Saltwater Fishing Rodeo at Cypremort Point. Moss, who usually fishes the three-day holiday weekend event but was there to see how his sons, Brandon and Lance, fared, spoke glowingly of Sumrall.
Moss said the young man and the two productive bass fishing trips, plus conversations with him around the breakfast table at Toledo Town & Tackle on Louisiana 6 and supper at the camp on Toledo Bend, impressed him. That’s why he put his money on the line and became one of Sumrall’s growing number of sponsors.
“I was so amazed just to be with him. That was a great experience, really awesome,” Moss said.
“He’s the most humble person, extremely humble, a nice guy. I wrote him a check. I’ll help out any way I can. He’s a class act. That’s why I’m sponsoring him.”
Actually, Sumrall took Moss out on the lake the Friday evening before the scheduled trip June 29, then got back out the next morning after waiting out a thunderstorm that rocked Sabine Parish. Moss saw first-hand why the 32-year-old bass pro has emerged as a top contender on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
They fished just four days after Sumrall finished fourth in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite tournament at Alabama’s Lake Guntersville that ended June 24. Sumrall drove home with his family — wife Jacie and children Clélié and Axel — after seven long, grueling, pressure-packed days on the water but $15,000 richer following his first finish in the Top 10.
Moss saw the real deal in person.
“I thought he was good. I’ve watched him on Bassmaster LIVE,” he said.
After fishing with the local bass pro and watching every move, fishing tackle selection, boat position, attention to details, etc., Moss developed an even higher opinion of Sumrall.
“He’s 10 times better than I thought he was. Ten times better. The dude is good, real, real good. If he doesn’t win an Elite series tournament in the next few years, I’ll be extremely surprised. He’s got the tools,” he said.
In other words, Sumrall has that coveted “it” factor, right?
“It!?!? Yeah. This guy’s got it, I’m telling ya. He’s phenomenal,” he said.
Sumrall and Moss, who owns Computerized Machining Concepts, left the boat landing about 5:30 p.m. Friday. Before 8:30, they had hooked and boated approximately 20 bass up to 5 pounds, which Moss was proud to catch under the tutelage of Sumrall.
What was the pattern?
“We fished in 24-foot of water. He has 10, 12 spots on his graph. He said, ‘This is the most boring part of fishing. I don’t fish unless I see fish on the graph.’ We pull up at the first spot, he runs the first spot, and said, ‘OK, they’ve got a few fish here but they aren’t the quality we want to stop and fish,’ ” Moss said.
“No problem. We went to another one and, two spots later, it was basically in the boat channel where it met a point. I started dragging a Carolina rig. He was fishing at first either a crank bait or a swim jig. Then fish started blowing up on top all around us. Caleb grabbed a topwater (lure). He starts throwing. He probably caught five,” he said, noting those fish were 2 ¾ to 3 pounds each.
Moss will never forget that scene or his 5-pounder.
They got up early Saturday but were thwarted by the violent thunderstorm.
“We stayed in,” he said, noting Sumrall took advantage of the break and went back to bed while he stayed up and drank coffee.
A few hours later, they went to Toledo Town & Tackle for breakfast, returned and got out on the water at mid-morning in an intermittent rain. Sumrall furnished bibs and rain jacket, which he would put on and take off three times before the end of a glorious day of bassin’ on the water.
Sumrall rode to two spots to check on the graph, Moss said, then said, “Hold on.”
“I mean, that boat does 75. We went straight up to Pendleton Bridge, then we go back under the bridge, went west and went to the Texas side, then north a mile or two. We hadn’t made a cast until then,” Moss said.
Their fishing destination was a small island surrounded by peppergrass and ringed with lily pads. They started fishing with a 2.5-inch Spro Dean Rojas Bronzeye Frog 65 (Killer gil) (the same soft plastic that helped Sumrall rise to the top at Lake Guntersville) and sizeable bass started smacking the bogus frog like there was no tomorrow.
“We threw frogs the rest of the day until 5:30. I’d say we caught up to 25. Oh my God, it was great,” he said about the catch that included two 4-pounders, four 3-pounders and nothing under 2 pounds.
“There was a 3 3/4-pound fish that comes out of the water to grab the frog. He was in the air! I’m not kidding,” Moss said, still amazed at the memory. He missed a “monster” bass that Sumrall saw.
“Caleb was yelling, ‘Get it out of the pads! Get it out of the pads!’ ” he said.
Moss learned and appreciated one of the best bass anglers in the business.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.