Franklin native Damein Clements beat the clock two straight tournament days on the Red River to fill out a five-fish limit Dec. 3-4 and land a Boater Division berth on the 10-man Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation State Team, an early Christmas present.
Meanwhile, Hunter Neuville of Loreauville, fishing the same tournament as a Non-Boater, punched his ticket to regionals for the second straight year with two three-fish limits each morning during the Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation’s second qualifying tournament of 2021.
The Teche Area bass anglers will fish May 4-6 at the B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional Championship at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Grove, Oklahoma, Clements qualifying for the first time in the Boater Division and Neuville making the State Team again in the Non-Boater Division. Clements made the State Team as a Non-Boater in 2017 and fished regionals at Lake of the Ozarks.
“Ah, it’s amazing. You’re fishing with the Top 10 of Louisiana. It’s the best feeling. It’s what you worked all year long for, to make the State Team,” Clements said after he finished 10th overall in this year’s two qualifying tournaments, the first in the spring at Doiron’s Landing in Stephensville.
“I’m very proud of myself and the support I have behind me, friends, family and bass club.”
Neuville said he told Clements, “‘Well, we’re going to the Grand together (to prefish), right?’”
The 19-year-old Highland Baptist Christian School graduate (Class of 2021) added one more feather to his cap for a storybook year of bass tournament fishing in which he fished two national tournaments and won several local bass club derbies. Despite his second-place tournament showing last weekend, he would be the first to agree the spotlight from this recent tournament should shine on Clements, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of New Iberian Caleb Sumrall.
Clements, 34, born and raised in Franklin before moving several years ago to Abbeville, was a State Team alternate in the Boater Division for regionals in 2020 at Toledo Bend. He towed his boat there and scouted, found nice-sized bass in practice, but wasn’t called on to fill a spot in the Top 10.
However, Clements did loan his boat to Blake Sylvester of Plaquemine, who won that regional tournament, then took nationals to qualify for the 2021 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Ray Roberts in Texas.
Clements, a fishing guide who opened DC Fishing Service a year ago, was determined to make the State Team in the Boater Division the first week of December at the Red River.
After two days of thorough and calculated prefishing, Clements had about as much to go on as someone sitting in the recliner back home. He had a precious few “small bites and never connected on a decent bite” the first day, also derailed by outboard motor trouble, and zero bites the second day.
“I mean, I was totally panicked. I knew I needed two good days to make the State Team. I had to go in with no less than two Top 10s. It was an all or nothing kind of deal,” he said.
Still, the Franklin Senior High graduate was thankful his Mercury ProXS was up and running thanks to quick assistance from friends Zack Gagnard of Many and Dwayne Roberie of Lafayette. Roberie, who owns Roberie Outboard Engineering, helped him diagnose — via a cell phone call — that a coil pack conked out on the Merc.
The third day of scouting was a charm compared to the first two days.
“It wasn’t until the last day of practice I finally connected on a 5.75. Then I went to some backwaters where I did shake some bites off,” Clements said about the backwaters on the lower end of Pool 4.
“Funny story. It’s the same exact place where Caleb won,” Clements said about Sumrall’s win that propelled him to regionals, then the 2017 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, which he won to qualify for the 2018 Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Elite Series.
Clements and Sumrall are good friends. They are like brothers, both have said in the past.
Sumrall’s success continues to motivate Clements.
“I’m definitely inspired by him. He started out at the same level and now he’s where I want to be,” he said.
Clements got his foot in the door at the Red River. By the hardest.
Twenty-five minutes before he had to leave to lock through to get to the weigh-in the first day, he had just three keepers. With 10 minutes to spare that Friday, he caught two keepers, giving him five for 9.38 pounds.
On Saturday, mostly running the same routine, he limited out with 15 minutes to spare to weigh 7.53 pounds.
Clements said he caught bass both days on 3/8-ounce V&M Baits Crawdad HD Flipping Jigs.
Neuville fished the first day with Boater Tre Gautreaux. He soaked a Cajun Lures Cochon, a soft plastic creature bait, and a Kajun Boss spinnerbait to notch his three-fish limit before 8:15 a.m.
The former Louisiana High School B.A.S.S. Nation state champion said he had good time fishing with Gautreaux. They fished along the main river.
“Oh, yeah, we just fished outside of little cuts and stuff, pits and wing dams,” he said.
On Day 2, Neuville and Boater Malcolm Smith of St. Amant, Fishers of Men National Tournament Trail director for Louisiana, fished around stumps and trees in backwater areas in Pool 4. The Loreauville native didn’t fill his three-fish limit until 11 a.m. and all the fish bit on the spinnerbait.
“All I did was go fishing,” he said after finishing sixth overall with 886 points in the Non-Boater Division.
“Ah, it was fun. I had a pretty good idea how to catch them,” he said, noting he prefished one day with Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation veteran Dave Cavell of Prairieville.
“He had something good figured out, too,” he said.
Neuville, who works at S&E Collision Repair, had a remarkable year. The highlight was winning the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional tournament earlier this year at Milford Lake in Kansas
“It’s just everything went the way it was supposed for the most part, except for a few tournaments,” he said.
Changes are ahead next year. He will fish as a Boater in Louisiana B.A.S.S. nation events and as a Non-Boater in the Bassmaster Central Opens.
“I’m ready to see what I could do, see how I compete,” he said.
Clements warned the field to watch out for the young bass angler.
“I’m definitely proud of him the last two years. I’ve been seeing him coming. As a Boater, he’ll be one to reckon with,” he said.