Don Shoopman



HENDERSON — Brothers Ben Suit and Zach Suit, both of New Iberia, know what it takes to emerge as Angler(s) of the Year in the Wednesday Night Hawg Fights Bass Tournament Series.

They claimed the New Iberia-based evening bass tournament circuit’s AOY title in 2018. It took a little more to repeat this year but repeat they did in the regular-season finale Wednesday at Henderson Lake out of Basin Landing.

“That’s pretty dang awesome. Has it ever happened before (in the history of local evening bass tournaments … no)? I know how hard it is to do. There are a lot of good fishermen out there,” Ben said.

“It’s pretty exciting to win it once. It was something special. But to win it twice in a row shows consistency. That’s what we strive for all year, to always catch three fish,” Zach said. “We thought from the get-go we had a chance. There’s always a chance as long as you’re fishing.”

The Suits put an exclamation point on the championship by finishing second at Henderson Lake with a three-bass limit weighing 6.48 pounds. As Ben said, they finished well and slammed the door shut on any hopes harbored by their nearest challengers to finish with 944 points, comfortably ahead of third-place finisher Mike O’Brien of New Iberia, who racked up 888 points with a strong surge in the second half of the season, and fourth-place finishers Don Shoopman and his son, Jacob Shoopman, both of New Iberia, who cashed in in two of the last three tournaments and finished with 885 points.

Zach, a 24-year-old senior at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who works part-time as a sales associate at Academy Sports + Outdoors, said the top team on the circuit didn’t feel pressure going into the 11th and final regular-season tournament at Henderson Lake. 

“No. It was more excitement. Ben has been catching fish in Henderson. We were pretty excited to get out there and try to catch them,” he said.

Ben continued to catch bass here and caught the six keepers put in the boat, all on topwaters. And that effort capped their successful comeback in defense of their AOY title.

After the ninth tournament of the year held July 24 at Lake Fausse Pointe, New Iberian Brad Romero had three tournament wins and a total of 791 points, 21 points ahead of the Suits. However, due to work obligations, Romero had to sit out the 10th WN Hawg Fight BTS on Aug. 7, which also was at Lake Fausse Pointe.

The Suit brothers took over the lead that day and never looked back. 

“It would have been nice to beat every man’s best shot. It’s unfortunate he had to miss but that’s part of the game. That sucks,” Zach said, noting he and his brother were in position to take the lead for good in the next-to-last tournament of the year and took advantage of the opportunity.

“That’s kind of how I feel about it. Brad had a real good string of tournaments going. I wish he could have fished that and we’d see how it shook out. I tip my cap to him. He had one helluva year, a very good year,” Ben said.

Zach said he believes the tournament that was the turning point of the season was May 8 at, of course, Lake Fausse Pointe, where nine of the 11 tournaments were held in 2019. The Suits won that ultra-tough tournament on a windy day with 5.95 pounds while the runner-up team of Lafayette anglers Greer Billeaud and his father, Billy Billeaud, had 5.94 pounds.

That win, their lone first-place of the season, highlighted a year that challenged them.

“With the water so high this year, it was hard to get on fish we know are there (in the area they usually fish). It’s hard to catch them. (But) you can’t ever give up. We had to go join the crowd. It was tough. It was annoying but, you know, that’s where the fish were and you can’t blame anyone from going. Sometimes you’ve got to be better than the rest,” Zach said about Sandy Cove.

Ben, life and health products salesman for Erik Guillory State Farm in Broussard, agreed and said, “Sandy Cove was tough on us. With the high water, everybody just catches. It’s not Zach and I’s style. It’s hard to be really competitive week in and week out when you’ve got so many boats in that area gambling on just a few bites.”

Just the same, he said, “This year was a really good year to take advantage of the high water and get in Sandy Cove and make a push at the Angler of the Year title.”

Can the brothers make it a three-peat in 2020?

“Let’s hope. We’re just going to go out there, be consistent and try to catch three fish every time. That’s the only way you can do it,” Zach said. 

WN Hawg Fights BTS



1, Ben Suit and Zach Suit, 944. 3, Mike O’Brien, 888. 4, Don Shoopman and Jacob Shoopman, 885. 6, Brad Romero, 874. 7, Mike Sinitiere, 871. 8, Danny Bulliard, 860. 9, Colby Hebert and Marlin Hebert, 848. 11, Bucky Crowson, 847. 12, Gregory Bourque, 844. 13, Brooke Morrison, 785. 14, Brandon Sellers and Johnny Schexnayder, 784. 16, Hunter Neuville, 781. 17, Chris Vedrines and Jean Trahan, 770. 19, Alex Lassalle, 709. 20, Corey Romero and Wilfred Gary Jr., 665.

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