PINELAND, Texas — While the water temperature dropped drastically at midweek while he was prefishing, Mike Sinitiere kept a hot hand when the two-day Louisiana Bass Cats tournament started March 20 at Lake Sam Rayburn.

Sinitiere and his guest partner, Kirt Romero, staked themselves to a nearly 2-pound lead that day after culling to a five-bass limit weighing 16.25 pounds. The bites were at a premium the next day, though, and they made the best of six bites to weigh five bass weighing 8.91 pounds for a total of 25.16 pounds.

“All in all it was a great tournament and we had a good time,” Sinitiere said.

New Iberians Kevin Suit and his son, Zach Suit, the bass club’s defending Angler of the Year, stayed close to the leaders both days and finished with 23.15 pounds for second place. The father-son team had 14.48 pounds the first day and 8.67 pounds Sunday.

Sinitiere and Romero fished right around the corner from Jackson Hill Park and Marina near Broaddus, Texas, on the first day, Saturday. So did many, many other bass anglers participating in other tournaments, such as the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour Toro Stage One presented by Power-Pole.

“It was very crowded,” Sinitiere said.

Nevertheless, they had their limit before 9 o’clock, including a 5-pounder that anchored their first-day catch after it was caught on a Rat-L-Trap by Romero. They fished with Rat-L-Traps, mostly, in 4- to 6-foot depths in areas with scattered hydrilla, according to Sinitiere.

It was tougher the second day in water that cooled from 68 degrees in the days after they started scouting Tuesday.

“We were thinking the bite would be better Sunday and it was not,” Sinitiere said.

The New Iberians were nearby and watched as Dustin Connell of Clanton, Alabama, catch a 9-pound, 5-ounce bass on Sunday. Sinitiere said the Redcrest 2021 champion Feb. 26 at Lake Eufala got the trophy-sized bass to bite a jerkbait.

The Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United product development manager chuckled and said he began throwing a jerkbait right after that show put on by Connell.

The first day was a highlight for two bassers in another bass club boat.

Jordy Russo of Youngsville, formerly of New Iberia, slammed the steel home on “hawg” early in the day. He was fishing alongside Hagen Riche.

“That was our fourth fish of the morning,” Russo said about the 7.23-pound bass that wound up being the biggest of the two-day tournament.

Russo, 24-year-old industrial engineer for CCA Piping in Breaux Bridge, said they were fishing a grassy flat with red Rat-L-Traps and red crank baits when the big bass bit, well sort of, the Rat-L-Trap he was throwing.

“We really weren’t getting bit. We came across a hole in the grass, a bare sport. I cast in there. As soon as I started reeling in the bait, it felt like something snug on the bait, like grass. I set the hook,” he said.

It wasn’t grass.

“It came up and all I saw was the mouth. All I said was, ‘Oh, s---!’” he recalled.

The rest of the fight with his new personal best bass was a blur he cannot remember.

“I couldn’t even explain it to you. I was so much in shock. It was unlike any fish fight I’ve ever had,” he said.

Riche netted it, he said, as soon as the pig hit the deck, the hooks came out. But it was ripe for the livewell and they celebrated.

Afterward, he was shaking so much after he couldn’t cast for a while, he said.

Their five-bass limit weighed 13.14 pounds with that bruiser in the bag. However, the fish were less cooperative the second day and they finished third with a total of 18.04 pounds.

“Our bites were kind of slow that day (Saturday). Thank God we had that fish,” said Russo, a Delcambre High School graduate who graduated with a degree in industrial technology in 2018 from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He’s studying for his master’s degree in business.

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