BROOKELAND, Texas — When the outboard motor failed to start after he turned the key, Braxton Resweber’s heart sank.
It was time to crank up and head to Umphrey Pavilion here for the weigh-in of the Outlaw Outdoors College National Championship Qualifer presented by Premier Boating Center on Nov. 16 at Lake Sam Rayburn. The St. Martinville bass angler and his UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns Bass Fishing Team partner, T.J. Norris of New Iberia, had a solid five-bass limit in the livewell and it was looking bleak.
Quickly, Resweber tried a jumpstarter he carries on board and that failed to turn the big motor, too.
At that point, he said this past week, “I was shaking. I didn’t know what to do. I’m glad T.J. kept his head on his shoulders because I was freaking out.”
Norris suggested pulling out the cranking battery and inserting a trolling motor battery to start the outboard motor. Luckily, Resweber said, it still had enough juice after a long, hard day of fishing to fire it up.
Resweber got the boat on step and raced to the tranquil cover. Suddenly, before getting there, he stopped. There was a disabled boat on the water three miles from the weigh-in site.
“There was a boat broke down, a college team,” he said. “We took their fish and one of the guys and made it back to the landing just in time.
“I mean, I wasn’t going to leave them out there. T.J. said (after loading the other team’s five bass and a team member), ‘We’ve got five minutes!’ We made it with a minute to spare,” he said. “It’s a good thing we did. It all worked out.”
Resweber, 22, and Norris shocked the 66-team field, most of them fishing on their home lake, with a five-bass limit weighing 20.69 pounds to win $2,400 and a berth in the 2020 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship.
And the students in the disabled boat, Taylor Strange and Dylon Jones, representing the Schreiner University Bass Fishing Team from Kerrville, Texas, finished fifth with 16.15 pounds, including the tournament’s biggest bass, a 7.65-pounder caught by Strange, to win a total of $800.
“Me and T.J., when we got to the landing, we figured we had 17 pounds. We underestimated the quality we had,” Resweber said. For example, he added, they thought the 6.07-pounder he hooked and boated in the last hour was a 5.
“I thought we’d be in the Top Five until I heard the weights. I think we had 20,” the ULL senior said.
They did. And it was a full pound ahead of the runner-up team of Derek Pietsch and Trey Dawson, whose limit weighed 19.40 pounds for $1,200. The Texas A&M-Galveston team has been fishing together since their high school days at Montgomery (Texas) High School and won the 2017 Texas High School Bass Association State Championship.
ULL’s Andre Adams and Hayden Pinho were third with 18.79 pounds for $900.
On a day when the start of the tournament was delayed an hour because of fog, and the weigh-in pushed back an hour, none could be the anglers from St. Martinville and New Iberia.
“My No. 1 goal of that tournament was to win to qualify for the (Carhartt) Bassmaster College National Championship,” Resweber said.
While prefishing a day before the tournament, Resweber went to where he and Ben Suit of New Iberia caught beaucoup big bass on Rat-L-Traps while scouting a week earlier near San Augustine Park. Those bass were no-shows.
So Saturday morning he started in an area that gave up a winning weight in a two-day Louisiana Bass Cats tournament while fishing with Ry Savoy of St. Martinville. There was scattered hydrilla on a flat along a creek channel, he said.
“We went there first thing that morning. Within five minutes I caught a 4-pounder. I told T.J., ‘They’re still here!’ We’ve just got to fish hard for them,” Resweber said.
They caught an estimated 10-15 keepers, most of them on a 3/8-ounce white Zman Jackhammer/Evergreen Chatterbait Jack Hammer, the Cadillac of bladed jigs. One of the keepers that hit the scale was nailed on a Rat-L-Trap.
“It has a lot more vibration than other baits. I guess that’s why they (bass) liked it. I know they liked it,” Resweber said.
The biggest challenge was protecting the hotspot from other competitors. The key was to locate stumps and mark them for future casts.
“We had a lot of people in the area who weren’t fishing the same way as us. They were going through the grass, trolling. It was kind of frustrating. They were just randomly going around in circles making random casts,” he said.
Reweber and his partner figured out the pattern and made it work to punch a ticket to nationals in 2020.
“Ah, it’s hard to describe the feeling. I always want to win but once I start fishing I forget about winning and worry about how I’m going to get my next bite and how I’m going to catch my next fish. I don’t think about nothing else,” he said.
The euphoria still hasn’t fully settled in but it feels pretty darned good.
“It’s exciting. It’s just real exciting. I’ve been doing this a few years now competing at the next level. I realize I’m one step farther to live my dream. I’ve always wanted to fish Bassmaster. This is one step closer, the college level,” he said.
His next big tournament will be the 2020 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series event scheduled Jan. 23-25 at Toledo Bend.
No date or site has been set for the 2020 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship.