Lakecaster Online

Ausmus & Thomas dominate field both days to claim 2003 Sealy Team Splash Championship
By Patty Lenderman

What a gorgeous weekend for the two day Sealy Team Splash championship October 4-5. After a season that averaged 270 teams per event, thirty nine teams qualified to fish the championship with no entry fees and a payback of $83,000 in cash and prizes. Every team in the championship received a paycheck, but it was Harry Thomas and James Ausmus who walked away with top honors and a fully rigged Triton boat rigged and a 115 hp Mercury motor.

The challenge started out on Toledo Bend, weighing in at Pendleton Bridge Marina. With well over half the field bringing in limits, it was going to be a fight to the finish for these top notch anglers. As seen in tournaments before, anything could happen on the final day.

Top 5 day 1:
1st - 18.81 lbs Harry Thomas / James Ausmus
2nd - 16.39 lbs Scotty Reynolds / Curtis Fisette
3rd - 16.36 lbs Lance Hughes / Scooter Clark
4th - 15.59 lbs John Gunnels / Dicky Newberry
5th - 14.44 lbs Slade Deerman / Ernie Hillebrandt
Big Bass: 8.41 lbs Scooter Clark / Lance Hughes

Day two the anglers had blue bird skies and light winds to compete in on Sam Rayburn. Weighing in at Twin Dikes Marina, the anglers headed out to their best producing holes hoping to put the winning catch at the end of their line.

1st place - 39.51 lbs - Triton / Mercury ($19,000) - James Ausmus & Harry Thomas, fishing partners since 1962, brought in a 20.70 lb sack to add to their first days catch that brought them the title of 2003 Sealy Team Splash champions. They also earned the Anglers of the Year title, so all of their 2004 entry fees are paid. With this honor, they have an automatic spot in the 2004 team championship, provided that they fish in all four 2004 qualifying events.

They threw Texas rigged bloodline worms all day at the edge of a creek against the grass in 7' depths to find their fish. Early to mid morning was their best time for catching fish, but they had their first limit in the boat the first hour. They were able to cull six times throughout the day, then put their poles down early and weighed in at 2:00. When asked how and why they've been fishing partners so long, they both laughed and stated "because no one else will put up with us". Over the years they have won 4 or 5 boats together, but none of them had fit the bill for them like their 1972 Procraft boat. "You can't get anywhere real quick in her, but we have won (tournaments) a few times right by the boat ramp" Harry stated. Through the years they have had just about every fishing adventure and mishap happen to them. Among them, "one time I (Harry) set the hook and fell in. The water was about 35 degrees, and I lost the rod and got back into the boat. It was so cold. I got another rod out and dragged for my lost rod and reel. Catching the line, I brought the pole back into the boat, reeled it in and boated my fish that was still on the end of the line". Presented with their new Triton/Mercury bass rig, they are ready to give up their trusty Procraft boat for tournaments, but will still use it for saltwater fishing. Only fishing Sealy Team Splash tournaments, they said "He ruins you. Bob is too good a guy and always does what he says he'll do."

2nd place - 32.10 lbs - Triton / Mercury ($18,000) - John Gunnels & Dicky Newberry brought in consistent limits, weighing in 16.51 lbs on day 2. They reported catching their first limit by 8:00 on crank baits. By 11:00 they moved to their bigger fish areas to throw a Carolina rigged Lake Fork watermelon red Ring Fry worms in 10' depths along main lake areas and culled the rest of the day. This team is sponsored by Skeeter boats, Dawson Marine, Castaway Rods and Lake Fork Tackle.

3rd place - 30.14 lbs - $2,500 - Chris McCall & Pete Shivers reported fishing hard all day with a June bug wacky worm at 4'-8' depths. They fished the north end of the lake along grass edges and enjoyed an all day bite. Ultimately, they were able to cull three to their final weight. This team is sponsored by Terry's Marine, Ranger Boats, Evinrude Motors and Falcon Rods.

Big Bass day 2 - 7.14 lbs - $500 - Bobby Barreraz and Phil Hennigan fished shallow for their big bass catch, in about 2' depths. Throwing a Reaction chili June bug wacky worm along grass edges, Bobby had her on the end of his line first, but she came off. Using teamwork, Phil threw right back at her and was able to land her, earning them a big bass day two paycheck. This team is sponsored by Reaction Lures, Port-A-Cool and Mustad Hooks.

Top 10 Overall:
1st place 39.51 lbs ($19,000) Triton/Mercury James Ausmus / Harry Thomas
2nd place 32.10 lbs ($18,000) Triton/Mercury John Gunnels / Dicky Newberry
3rd place 30.14 lbs $2,500 Chris McCall / Pete Shivers
4th place 29.49 lbs $1,500 Yancey Long / Mark Mueck
5th place 29.04 lbs $ 900 Scooter Clark / Lance Hughes
6th place 27.76 lbs $ 800 John Hale / John Maddox
7th place 26.09 lbs $ 700 Bobby Barreraz / Phil Hennigan
8th place 25.67 lbs $ 600 Slade Deerman / Ernie Hillebrandt
9th place 24.87 lbs $ 500 Stan Burgay / Mark Herron
10th place 24.79 lbs $ 400 Bill Domingue / Greg Pugh

The Sealy Team Splash tournament circuit has enjoyed a fantastic 2003 season. Bob and Donna Sealy would like to thank all of the participating anglers for another great year. Once the erection of the Sam Rayburn Pavilion is complete, the 2004 Rayburn events will be scheduled at that location on Hwy 255 just west of the public boat ramp. Bob extended his thanks and gratitude to the Ledbetters of Twin Dikes Marina for the years of hosting events and providing a tournament weigh in area.

Looking forward to the 2004 season, it will mark the 20th anniversary for Sealy Outdoors and it will be a celebration year like no other. The year long party will be celebrated in not only the team events but the McDonald's Big Bass Splash events as well. Bob and Donna Sealy are noted to be innovators in the tournament industry and continue to grow and evolve to bigger and better levels. Please stay tuned to for all upcoming changes, schedules and events at Sealy Outdoors.

The 20th Annual McDonald's Big Bass Splash on Sam Rayburn will be a huge event for participants and spectators alike. It will be a televised event and on Sunday, the final day, entertainment will be provided by country singer Neil McCoy. The payback will be a president setting $500,000, with $10,000 being paid back each hour, every hour of this three day event April 16-17-18, 2004. The payback is doubled, but the entry fee stays the same!

If you would like further information please contact Sealy Outdoors at 888-698-2591, email or visit their website at

Sponsors for the 2003 Sealy Team Splash Championship include: Triton Boats - Mercury Outboards - Layton Recreational Vehicles - Polaris - Shimano - Dodge (Weaver Motors Kirbyville, TX) - Vexilar Inc. - Pure Fishing - Berkley - Academy Sports & Outdoors - AC Delco - Polar Eyes - Wave Worms - Minn Kota - Port A Cool - Texas Fish & Game magazine - BassMedics Rejuvenade

James Ausmus and Harry Thomas earned the title of Champions of the 2003 Sealy Team Splash Tournament season with a 1st place two day weight of 39.51 lbs. They alson take home Anglers of the Year honors, and will be able to fish the 2004 season with no entry fees

John Gunnels and Dicky Newberry (n/p) took second place overall with back to back limits for a total two day weight of 32.10 lbs
< photos by Patty Lenderman >

Partners for over 40 years, James Ausmus and Harry Thomas has found their success fishing out of a 1972 Procraft bass rig

(L-R) Bob Sealy presented new Triton/Mercury bass rigs to 2nd place Dicky Newberry & John Gunnels as well as 1st place winners James Ausmus and Harry Thomas

Chris McCall and Pete Shivers (n/p) brought in the two day weight of 30.14 lbs, securing their 3rd place overall position.

Back to Lakecaster Online contents