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Hemphill angler wins the 19th Annual McDonalds Big Bass Splash with 10.18 lbs
By Ray & Patty Lenderman

April 27, 2003
Twin Dikes Marina, Lake Sam Rayburn

The McDonald's Big Bass Splash celebrated it's 19th year at lake Sam Rayburn, Twin Dikes Marina and Bob Sealy dedicated the event to the men and women of our Armed Forces for their dedication to protecting our freedom and the freedom of others. Anglers representing 32 states participated in the event totaling well over 3,000 fishermen. With $350,000 guaranteed in cash and prizes to be won in this extravaganza, the participants hit the lake on a mission. At the end of day one the leading weight was set at 9.44 lbs. On day two the leader board shifted and 10.18 lbs led the pack coming into day three of competition. The weight held through day three and a very excited Roger Griffin of Hemphill, TX was declared the winner.

It's not just for the big guys. The Little Angler's Division is designed for children 12 and under and they can weigh in bass, crappie, perch and catfish. This division is specifically designed in an effort to promote a family fun weekend with fathers, mothers and children spending time together. Beginning his year, three places were awarded each day in each division. There are a lot of seasoned "McKids" fishing in this division, having participated since they were "really little".

Ronald McDonald himself showed up to entertain the kids , and promote the Ronald McDonald House, which is a place for parents of sick children to stay free of charge while the children are getting hospital treatment. This home away from home promotes the healing process, and comfort the children by keeping family members by their side. There are now 250 Ronald McDonald houses all over the world that love built, the last in Amsterdam. For the last 19 years Sealy Outdoors and the Big Bass Splash have made contributions to the Ronald McDonald House and charities exceeding $4.5 million. This is the heart and soul of this tournament. The Ronald McDonald House is solely supported by donations, and is totally separate from the food chain of "McDonalds", although the food chain does make large contributions to the house. "GOD Bless people like Bob Sealy and Sealy Outdoors, and most especially the fisherman, for without them none of this could be possible"-Ronald McDonald. This tournament alone ,a check for over $15,000.00 was presented to Ronald McDonald at the end of the tournament for the Ronald McDonald House and select McDonald's charities.

Recap Day 1:
The morning broke with a heavy haze blanketing the lake. The tournament officially kicked off at 6:00 am, Friday April 25th.
Day 1 standings:
1st - 9.44 lbs - Ken Migas of Missouri City, TX was a very happy man as he weighed his fish in the 10-11:00 hour. Throwing a carolina rigged watermelon-red brush hog with a chartreuse tail, when he set the hook, he didn't know right off it was a bass. "I thought it was a log" Ken reported. His son Paul netted the fish for him and they cranked up the boat and brought it right in, leading the pack on day one.
2nd - 9.38 lbs - Dwayne Pavlock of College Station, TX stated that this is the biggest bass he's ever caught. He has fished the McDonald's Big Bass Splash events for the past 7 years and knew how this game is played. He had caught this fish first thing in the morning, but held it for the Bonus Hour, 11:00-12:00. It's all strategy how you play your bass for the biggest checks. Because Dwayne had purchased an official $10 tournament shirt, and weighed his bass during the bonus hour, he recieved an additional $1,000 bonus check. Dwayne caught her on a camouflage wacky worm
3rd - 9.03 lbs - Robert Baggett
4th - 9.00 lbs - Kyle Ward
5th - 8.75 lbs - Jim Collins

Exact Weight Bass Day 1 -
3.00 lbs - Unclaimed - Won by draw - Michael Sontas of Needville, TX
4.00 lbs - Charles Lester of Many, LA
5.00 lbs - Glen Brister of Pollok, TX

Day 2 Recap:
Coming into Day 2, the morning started out brisk but quickly warming with blue bird skies to fish under. It didn't take long to get the 3.00 lb exact weight bass. There were indeed two 3.00 exact weights brough in the first hour. The prize boat for the 3.00 weight went to the first angler to get it to the scales, which was Justin Derrick of Willis, TX. In the last minutes of the 8:00-9:00 hour, Harley Lovings of Brookland tipped the scales with his bass weighing in at 9.56 lbs, a new leader for this Big Bass Splash. It wasn't until the 1:00-2:00 hour that this record was broken. A very shook up Roger Griffin brought in the double digit sow, weighing in at 10.18 lbs that took over the lead.

Day 2 standings:
1st - 10.18 lbs - Roger Griffin, Hemphill TX - Understandably shaken, Roger weighed in this monster bass, very thankful for the fellow angler who helped to make it possible. His second day fishing this event, Roger's partner could only fish until noon and then had to leave to go to work. It was after this that everything started happening. The boat batteries went dead, so there was no trolling motor. Roger was working with the wind, motoring upwind and drifting back down. It was on one such drift that while dragging his carolina rigged fluke this double digit bass jumped on the end of his line. "She came out of the water and I got down on one knee and put my rod down into the water and prayed God don't let her jump". Knowing he had a really big bass on the end of his line shook him up already, but when she went under the boat and he couldn't get her out, Roger was facing a major dilemma. A fellow angler in another boat nearby saw the fight that Roger was having with no help. He trolled over and netted the fish, helping Roger to land the big sow.
2nd - 9.56 lbs - Harley Lovings, Brookland TX - Harley is 71 years young and not a stranger to tournament winners circles. "I thought I was caught on a log" Harley explained. Carolina rigging a red bug colored worm, Harley fished main lake grassy points in 10' depths. "Oh, she faught. Took me about 5 minutes to get her in" Harley continued. Jeff Johnson netted this monster. Both anglers stated that they had been catching a lot of small fish, but that today is a good day with their big bass catch.
3rd - 8.84 lbs - Wolly Kilman, Hemphill TX - Wolly and his partner went in search of main lake points with sparse grass to find their bass. The bass they caught were off of lay downs in those areas in about 5' depths. Carolina rigged flukes were the key to their catches, using 30 lb test line which they needed to wrangle their catch out of the submerged logs. The team reported a better bite yesterday, but it is still a great day to fish today.
4th - 8.56 lbs - Brent McAdams, Jasper TX
5th - 8.55 lbs - Kevin Westbrook, Lufkin TX

Exact Weight Bass Day 2 -
3.00 lbs - Justin Derrick of Willis, TX
4.00 lbs - Unclaimed - Won by draw - Richard Strong of Humble, TX
5.00 lbs - Daniel Chance of Carthage, TX

The third and final day of the 19th Annual McDonalds Big Bass Splash started off with another cool breezy day for the anglers. The spectators were already at Twin Dikes Marina waiting on the first fish to come in, and it didn't take long. There were fishermen waiting for the scales to open to kick this final day of tournament fishing off. The 7 to 8 o'clock hour started off with two fish over seven pounds being brought to the scales. This was topped in the 8 to 9 o'clock hour with a 9.57 lb'r brought in by David Thibodaux of Orange Field, Texas. David used a carolina rigged Reaction Salty Dog in green pumpkin/red flake with a rattling weight. He fished 7' windy main lake points and lost two big bass in the same area. Tommy Lovell, his fishing partner since they were 15 years old, netted the big bass. His fish tipped the scales just enough to take second place overall.

The bite was reported to be better on Friday, with overcast skies, and low pressure, but the fish were still coming across the scales at a steady pace through out each day of the tournament. This is proven by the totals of the overall weights of the fish that was caught during the last three days. There were 956 bass brought across the scales for a net total of 4,022.83 lbs. an average weight of 4.2 lbs. per fish. You could see the anticipation on the fishermen's faces that were in the ten top of the hour chairs, as the anglers behind them were weighing in their fish. In some cases the difference in a check for the hour was just hundredths of an ounce. These fishermen were competing for cash and prizes that any outdoors person would envy.


As the 3:00 hour came to a close, the last bass to come to the scales made official, the ceremonies commenced. The Little Anglers were presented their checks and plaques. These little anglers are the future generations for the preservation and enjoyment of fish & wildlife. Then came what everybody was waiting for, the presentation of first place big bass, and Roger Griffin's big bass of 10.18 stood to win this years tournament. "This was the first tournament that I have ever won, and the biggest bass I have ever caught, and what a really good time to catch it"-Roger Griffin

Exact weight bass Day 3:
3.00 - Thomas Berry of Pencil Bluff, ARK
4.00 - Kim Little of Sulphur, LA
5.00 - Ben Gardner of Groveton, TX

Overall Standings:
1st place - 10.18 lbs - Roger Griffin of Hemphill, TX won the Sportsman's package, valued at $58,000 that included a Dodge Truck, Triton Bass Boat powered by a Mercury Motor, a Layton Travel Trailer and a Polaris ATV.
2nd place - 9.57 lbs - David Thibodaux of Orange Field, TX won a Layton Travel Trailer valued at $14,200
3rd place - 9.56 lbs - Harley Lovings of Brookland Texas brought home a Polaris ATV valued at $6,000
4th place - 9.44 lbs - Ken Migas of Missouri City Tx won the Polaris ATV valued at $4,000
5th place - 9.39 lbs - Michael Ramos of Sugarland, TX brought home an extra $2,000 cash

Hints of what's in store for the 20th Annual McDonald's Big Bass Splash were given to the crowd. First, the hourly payback is going to be doubled. Right now, the current purse is $130,000 in hourly paybacks. Doubled it is over a quarter of a million dollars. Next, the first place grand prize winner will receive $100,000. The whole tournament payback in cash and prizes will be a whopping guaranteed $500,000! That's not all. Next year's event will be televised and have a special guest - Country Western singer Neal McCoy will be on stage at 2:30 Sunday, the last day of the tournament to put on a concert. You don't want to miss out on next year's Big Bass Splash event happening April 16-17-18, 2004 on Lake Sam Rayburn.

Bob Sealy also added a new release boat to his tools in his tournaments, to insure that the fish are put back into the water in the very best condition possible. With the help of Richard Burton and Bass Medics, the fish are rejuvenated with Rejuvenade. This is a product on the market that really helps the fish recover from stress that is put on them after being caught. No fish was lost that reached the release boat alive. This is a testament for the product, and for the people who were responsible for their care. Oxygen from Oxygen Edge was also supplied to the tournament in the live release barge and the holding tanks by David Kinser.

Sealy Outdoors is considered by most, one of the leading promotional companies in the fishing and hunting industries of America today. For almost two decades, Bob & Donna Sealy and the staff of Sealy Outdoors have delivered to the average weekend angler, hunter and their families the reality of dreams that pay off. Over 34 million dollars have ben awarded in cash and prizes to the anglers and an excess of 3-1/2 million dollars to various charity organizations like the Ronald McDonald Houses and Select McDonald's Charities, Make A Wish Foundation, March of Dimes and the list goes on and on. Participating in Sealy Outdoors will keep you on the edge with fun, excitement and entertainment for the entire family. The credibility, honesty and inegrity of Sealy Oputdoors has paved the way for the success of many sponsoring orgainizations and the events that Sealy Outdoors created.

The next McDonald's Big Bass Splash event will be at Cypress Bend Park on Toledo Bend Lake June 20-21-22. For more information contact Sealy Outdoors at 409-698-2591, Toll free 888-698-2591 or visit their website at www.sealyoutdoors.com.

Sponsors include: Triton Boats - Mercury Motors - Polaris - Layton RV - East Texas RV, Kirbyville, TX - Berkley - Weaver Motors, Kirbyville, TX - Dodge Trucks - AC Delco Batteries - Shimano Reels - Vexilar Depth Finders, Pure Fishing, Minn Kota trolling motors - Dawson Marine, Beaumont & Jasper, TX - Port A Cool - Texas Fish & Game - Spool It, Ray West Products, Inc. - Academy Sports & Outdoors - Polar Eyes - Wave Worms - Fishing World.com - Latch Oil, Inc. - Neals Taxidermy - Louisiana Sportsman


Roger Griffin takes the win at the 19th Annual Big Bass Splash

David Thibodaux wins 2nd place overall with his 9.57 lb catch
< photos by Patty Lenderman >

The McKids won 1st thru 3rd places each day for each division of bass, crappie, bream and catfish

Bob Sealy presented Ronald McDonald with a check for the Ronald McDonald house for over $15,000

Roger Griffin brought in the winning 10.18 lb bass

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