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Johnny Stewart named Champion of the 17th Annual Big Bass Splash with 9.09 lbs
By Patty Lenderman

After three grueling days of competition, 1,898 anglers representing 16 states put their poles down waiting for the final tally in the 17th Annual Toledo Bend McDonald's Big Bass Splash at Cypress Bend Park June 20-22, 2003. Two hundred forty hourly checks were won plus three exact weight boats given away. The grand total given away in cash and prizes was $250,000. 552 fish came across the scales for a total tournament weight of 1983.61 pounds. In the end it was Johnny Stewart who went home as the grand prize winner and champion of the 17th annual McDonalds Big Bass Splash on Toledo Bend with his 9.09 lb day one catch. Bob Sealy presented the Ronald McDonald House & Select McDonald's Charities with a check for $9,500.00 at the conclusion of the weigh in and donated money to the restocking program for Toledo Bend.

Day one recap:
The first big bass was weighed in on the first hour, tipping the scales at 8.29 lbs. Shane Lurry of Alexandria, LA brought her in and he used a Texas rigged worm in about 15' depths. He was fishing the point of a ridge and she was his second keeper of the day. "I have fished this spot a lot, but it's never produced big fish for me. I knew I could get some solid keepers out of it in the three pound range. This was a nice surprise."

It wasn't until the 11:00-12:00 hour that Johnny Stewart of Goldonna, LA came in to raise the bar on big bass of the tournament with his 9.09 lb bass. He caught it on a Texas rigged worm on staged ridges that started at 8', dropping to 12' then down to 26' depths. This bass came out of the 12' range and he caught her early. "This is the biggest bass I've ever caught by far" commented Johnny. When asked why he waited so long to weigh her in, he said "It's all in the strategy. This is the T-shirt hour and I wanted to get the $500 bonus."

Later, during the 1:00-2:00 hour Micah Griffith came in with his 8.38 lb bass. Pitching a camo jig with a Reaction Dog Paddle trailer, he caught his bass around stumps in 12' depths. "The bite was very slow. I caught her around 1:00 and that was my only fish so far" Micah stated.

Warren Pourcian of Livonia, LA brought in the winning 3.00 exact weight bass on day one and won a fully rigged Triton powered by a Mercury motor valued at $14,000. Warren wasn't even going to weigh his catch, but his "partner" had a fish to weigh in so he decided to go ahead and bring it to the scales. Not giving away too many details, he did disclose that he caught it on a Texas rigged worm in about 14' of water in a creek pretty early.

Day two recap:
Starting into day 2, twelve anglers weighed in the first hour, 7:00-8:00. Because those that were bumped into 11th and 12th places had purchased a "Bonus Card" from the Sabine Chamber of Commerce that pays those places on the odd numbered hours, every angler who weighed in on that first hour got a check.

Dale Henderson of Orange, TX brought in a 7.34 lb bass that won the 11:00-12:00 hour, which is the T-shirt bonus hour. He caught her around 8:15 in the morning, but waited until this hour to weigh her in for the bonus. Any first place of the hour is worth $1,000. Add the bonus and it is then worth $1,500 which is what Dale won for having an official Big Bass Splash T-shirt. "It was my only fish that I've caught today" Dale commented. He caught her in deep water, about 32'. Fishing main lake areas in the south end of the lake with a Carolina rigged watermelon red centipede, he found her at the edge of the moss. This also put Dale in 4th place overall in the tournament coming into day three.

Bill Burns of Bastrop, LA brought in the second big bass for day two during the 1:00-2:00 hour. He caught her in the north lake area on a DD-22 in a grassy creek channel. "I caught a lot of small fish all day. This one came about 1:00 and I brought her right in after the game warden took a look at her". This is Bill's first time fishing a Big Bass Splash and only his second time fishing Toledo Bend.

In the last hour of day two Danny Hisaw of Valliant, OK brought in a nice 7.32 lb bass. "It was tough today" he said having only caught four fish all day. Danny used a Carolina rigged craw in 12' depths off of main lake grassy points and caught her after 1:00. It was his last try, his last cast and it sure paid off putting him in the overall 5th place position at the end of day two.

At 2:52pm, with only 8 minutes left in the last hour of day two Mason McCain, a 13 year old seasoned Big Bass Splash angler weighed in the 3.00 exact weight bass, winning a brand new fully rigged $14,000 Triton/Mercury bass rig. Mason caught his fish on a "greenish" jig in the lily pads at 6' depths. He and his dad brought her right in, knowing it would be close to three pounds. It was literally right on the money. Mason said he had missed a few nice ones earlier in the day and was a little disappointed, but this made up for it. This is Mason's first year competing in the adult division, but he has competed in the Little Anglers Division since he was six years old. He also participates in the Sealy Team tournaments with his dad, Doug McCain.

Day three:
With a blanket of fog resting on the lake until just after 9:00, the anglers had awesome bite that lasted into the late morning hours. With the temperatures into the lower to mid 70's, it didn't take long to start getting hot after the fog burned off. The anglers holding the top five slots coming into day three were holding their breath as each big bass was brought to the scales on this final day of competition. The smiles and laughter of the anglers as they came in to weigh showed that they have had a great time in this tournament. Throughout the day many close attempts to weigh in the elusive 3.00 exact weight bass were made but to no avail. The exact weight boat went into a draw in which all contestants were eligible to win. Fifteen year old Jeffery Jack, Jr of Lake Charles, LA won the boat. A few big bass over 7 lbs were brought in which was enough to take top of the hour seats, but not quite enough to secure a slot in the top five overall weights.

Top Five Overall Winners
1st - 9.09 lbs - Sportsmans Package valued @ $32,000 - Johnny Stewart
2nd - 8.39 lbs - Layton Travel Trailer valued @ $14,200 - Micah Griffith
3rd - 8.29 lbs - Polaris ATV valued @ $6,000 - Shane Lurry
4th -7.34 lbs - $2,000 cash - Dale Henderson
5th -7.32 lbs - $1,000 cash - Danny Hisaw

There are no age constraints in the McDonald's Big Bass Splash events. There is a separate Little Anglers Division for children 12 and under. The McKids can weigh in bass, crappie, catfish or perch and can bring their catches to the scales until noon each day. The top three weights for each fish type are paid each day to the McKids. The kids also have the option of fishing in the "big league" with the adults, winning just as much of the bigger prize money. With all of the different species of aquatic life in Toledo Bend, you never really know what is going to end up on the end of your line. One Little Angler brought a gasper goo to the scales. While her fish did not qualify in any of the fishing categories, she still got to weigh in her catch. The Little Anglers Division is a great way to get the kids hooked on fishing.

Day 1 McKids Winners: Day 2 McKids Winners: Day 3 McKids Winners:
Bass: 3.73 lbs - Logan Craft 4.68 lbs - Garrett Love 4.41 lbs - Allen Hicks
3.28 lbs - Kyle Daniel 2.35 lbs - Cody Ross 1.81 lbs - Michael Sanders, Jr
2.32 lbs - Hunter Aucoin 1.74 lbs - Hunter Aucoin 1.53 lbs - Alex Smith

Crappie: 1.40 lbs - Samuel Turbo 1.55 lbs - Jared Fisette 1.52 lbs - Heather Oucoin
1.31 lbs - Lincoln Pearce 1.16 lbs - Jermy Ford 1.17 lbs - Kasey Fisette
1.07 lbs - Klein Pearce 1.15 lbs - Samuel Turnbo 1.01 lbs - Christopher Jr

Catfish: 1.26 lbs - Zachery Norwood .76 lbs - Christopher Velek, Jr 1.53 lbs - Blaine Smith
.96 lbs - Christopher Velek .63 lbs - Patrick Valenzeal 1.07 lbs - Marco Valenzuela
.88 lbs - Alex Thibodeaux .62 lbs - Nicholas Howell

Perch: .42 lbs - Benjamin Dewill .42 lbs - Brittanie Armstrong .35 lbs - Logan Ferguson
.37 lbs - Megan Velek .34 lbs - Jordan Allen .30 lbs - Megan Velek
.37 lbs - William Dewill .33 lbs - Makenna Allen .28 lbs - Cobi Griffin

Toledo Town and Tackle promotes catch and release, especially for lunkers and has a lunker program for all of Toledo Bend for bass weighing at least 10.00 lbs. For the past three years the replicas of these lunkers are given to the anglers who caught them at the Toledo Bend Big Bass Splash. This is a program that is fully funded solely by Toledo Tackle to support and promote the anglers and their efforts for their accomplishments. This year 13 anglers received replicas of their bass.
KICKS 105.1 FM is the official radio station and live on site at the weigh in keeping everyone informed as to what's on top and what's on bottom for the hourly weights.

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 and in 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 integrity of Sealy Outdoors has paved the way for the success of many sponsoring organizations and the events that Sealy Outdoors created.

The next McDonald's Big Bass Splash event will be at Lake Fork Marina & Motel, Lake Fork on September 19-20-21, 2003. Each year the Big Bass Splashes get bigger and better. There are lots of surprises and lots more prize money in store for the 20th Annual Rayburn Big Bass Splash April 16-18, 2004. That tournament has a guaranteed payback of $500,000 with first place overall receiving $100,000 in cash and prizes. It will be a televised event with Neal McCoy putting on a free live concert on Sunday. For more information contact Sealy Outdoors at 409-698-2591, Toll free 888-698-2591 or visit their website at

All fish weighed in at any of the Big Bass Splash events must be weighed in alive. Thank you to the Sabine River Authority of Louisiana for providing the Shimano Live Release Barge, and putting all of the fish weighed in at the Big Bass Splash back into Toledo Bend.

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 - Latch Oil, Inc. - Neals Taxidermy - Louisiana Sportsman - Bass Medics

The 9.09 lb bass that Johnny Stewart weighed in on day 1 held as big bass overall making him Champion of the 17th Annual Big Bass Splash

Micah Griffith landed his winning 8.39 lb bass on day one and took 2nd place honors
< photos by Patty Lenderman >

Shane Lurry weighed in the first big bass of the tournament that won 3rd place overall

Dale Henderson brought in this 7.34 lb beauty on day two, winning 4th place position

5th place honors went to Danny Hisaw for his 7.32 lb catch

After a grueling three days of competition, the top five positions were secured (L-R) 5th-1s

Bob Sealy presented Johnny Stewart with the prestigios champions trophy

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