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Koonce Brothers Claim Top Spot in Toledo Bass-N-Bucks Tourney
By Contributing Writer Donald Gervais


Many, La. -- The brother team of Richie and Chad Koonce bested 239 teams at the Bass-N-Bucks Toledo Bend tournament with a five-fish limit weighing 22.05 pounds. Last year's champion team of Randy Millender and Kenneth Nichols continued their fish catching on the East Texas Team Circuit by claiming the big bass honors with a 10.98 Toledo Bend lunker.

Anglers who fish the Big Bend in mid-February expect twists from Mother Nature and the Bass-N-Bucks teams were not let down as they were faced with a windy take off from Cypress Bend Marina. By mid-morning the winds gave way to torrential downpours and then a thick fog settled on the lake. The fog dissipated just before the 3 p.m. weigh-in began. The only breaks the anglers received were the 60-degree weather and rising waters from the recent rains.

The Koonce brothers concentrated their efforts in the 1215 area of the lake where they slow-rolled a 3/8-ounce, white and chartreuse, Cyclone tandem spinner bait in five feet of water. The duo had a five fish limit by 9 a.m. and continued to improve their weight by culling, as they caught 12 fish total.

"The bites were both subtle and sometimes hard," said Kenneth, "we just covered a lot of water slow rolling the spinner bait at the bottom on the flats."

A six-pound fish and twin 5-pounders anchored the winners' limit, which earned them $10,000. They used American Rodsmith rods, with Shimano reels, spooled with 20-pound test Yozuri line.

Sid Havard and Joey Lester claimed second place with 21.69 pounds to earn $4,000. Third place, with 21.19 pounds went to Charlie Castle and Rich Vannett. The Nederland fishing partners found their fish in a southern Texas cove and enticed the bite with Rat-L-Traps and spinner baits in 3-4 foot depths.

Millender and Nichols, anchored by their 10.98-pound lunker, claimed fourth place with 19.45 pounds. Their fish were caught on ¾-ounce Rayburn-Red Rat-L-Traps in shallow water in the midlake area. They used Falcon rods and Shimano reels, spooled with 15-pound Trilene Big Game in the clear-color.
"The big fish never went airborne but did pull out drag several times," said Nichols. The fish earned him a Toledo Lunker Award. Toledo Tackle is sponsoring the program again this year where anglers receive a fiberglass replica of any 10-pound plus bass caught and released on Toledo Bend. It was not Nichol's largest bass from Toledo Bend; he managed a 12-pound fish last year during a practice time for a tournament. However, this fish earned him the $1,000 big bass award sponsored by the Kicker Fish Bait, Co, a manufacturer of soft plastic baits, located in Deer Park, Texas. They earned $3,000 for the 4th spot finish.

Rounding out the top ten teams were: Wayne Ebarb, fishing solo, with 19.09 pounds to take 5th place ($2,000); Mike Achley and Harley Wilson with 17.89 pounds in 6th ($2,000);

The father and son team of Elton Luce, Sr. and Jr. faced additional challenges on their way to claiming 7th place and their $2,000 check.

"About 45 minutes into the morning fishing dad told me he needed help," said Elton Jr. "I turned around to see dad had the front trebles of a bait stuck into his right hand and the rear hooks imbedded in the other hand. I cut the hooks out of him and was ready to head to shore to get him to a hospital. In no uncertain terms he said we were here to fish, and we fished." They managed to bring in a five-fish limit that tipped the scale at 17.88 pounds.

Mark Stewart and R. Hollingsworth claimed 8th place and a $2,000 check with 17.8 pounds while Joe Rials and Bobby Hebert claimed 9th with 16.97 pounds for $1,600.

Finishing in 10th place was Sammy Atchinson and Kris Wilson with 16.83 pounds to take home a $1,100 check. Atchinson earned an additional $1,000 check from the tournament boat sponsor Champion for the top finisher fishing in a Champion boat. Had they won, the check would have been for $2,000.
The Sabine River Authority Shimano Live Release boat was on hand to care for the 674 fish brought to the scales. All fish were released to the lake with no mortality in the tournament.

"Another great tournament on Toledo Bend," said Bass-N-Bucks tournament director David Concierge, who is entering his 12th year of tournaments. "This was the second of five tournaments for the East Texas Team Circuit. This year anglers must five all five events to fish the championship and have a chance to compete for the over $150,000 that will be awarded at the championship."

The circuit's next tournament is March 13th at Lake Sam Rayburn. Weigh-in will be at the Umphrey Family Pavilion. Interested anglers may contact Bass-N-Bucks at 409-727-8941 or go online at

Nichol's Marina, in Longview, Texas is the local Champion Boat representative (409-663-5008 ask for Glenn). The other major sponsors of the 2005 Bass-N-Bucks Tournaments are Mercury Outboards and the Toyota dealers of East Texas (Philpott Toyota, Silsbee Toyota, Cecil Atkins Toyota and Kinsel Toyota).

Other Bass-N-Bucks sponsors include: Lowrance, MinnKota, Shimano, Wulf Outdoors, Rat-L-Trap, Snag Proof, Xtools, Dual pro Charger, Power Tech props, Stanley,, Super8 Hemphill, ProRule, McFerrin Insurance, Bass Medics rejuvenator, The Stump restaurant, Ann's Tackle Shop, Needmore Tackle, Rayburn tackle, Piney Point Plaza, Holiday Inn Express Jasper and Toledo Town and Tackle.

Brothers Richard (on left) and Chad Koonce show part of their 22.05 pound bass catch that earned them the win at the Toledo Bend Lake Bass-N-Bucks tournament held Feb 13, 2005. The catch earned them a $10,000 paycheck. (photo by Donald Gervais)

Kenneth Nichols holds up the 10.98-pound Toledo Bend lunker that earned him the big bass honors at the Bass-N-Bucks tournament on February 13, 2005. The catch anchored a five-five limit that allowed him and team partner Randy Millender to take 4th place with 19.45 pounds. (photo by Donald Gervais)

Joey Lester (on left) and partner Sid Havard display part of their 21.69 pound catch that earned them second place in the Bass-N-Bucks East Texas Team Circuit held February 13, 2005 on Toledo Bend Lake. The southeast Texas duo claimed $4,000 for their effort.
(photo by Donald Gervais)

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