Smith’s personal best catch wins $100,000 in Lake of the Ozarks Big Bass Bash
Osage Beach, Mo.—The biggest bass he has ever caught resulted in a huge payday for Thomas Smith in the Spring Big Bass Bash April 27-28 at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Fishing for the first time in the Big Bass Bash, the 42-year-old Smith caught a 7.93-pound largemouth the first day of the event to win the big bass event and claim the grand prize of $100,000. The construction company owner from Old Monroe, Mo., also weighed in a 5.09-pound bass for 20th place during the 9-11 a.m. time slot April 27 and collected another $200.00.
While the Big Bass Bash was new to him, Smith had plenty of experience catching bass at Lake of the Ozarks. “My family has had a house down there for 30 years,” he said. Smith noted he competes in a bass club that holds four or five tournaments a year at the lake and he frequently fishes the lake on weekends throughout the year. His personal best catch before the Big Bass Bash was a 5.90-pound bass he also caught at Lake of the Ozarks.
A couple of successful outings at the lake before the Big Bass Bash prompted Smith to fish the tournament for the first time. “I was down there two weekends before and both weekends I was catching good fish on the (Crock-O-Gator Bait Company) Swamp Bug,” Smith said.
Smith and his dad, John Smith, planned on fishing the Bash in their own boats but when John Smith’s engine failed to start the first competition morning, they teamed up to fish in Thomas’ boat. Shortly after John Smith caught a 4-pounder, Thomas was pitching a green pumpkin Swamp Bug on a 1/4-ounce shaky jighead to an open chunk rock bank in Proctor Creek around 7 a.m. when a bass inhaled his offering.
The Missouri angler set the hook and immediately realized it was a big fish. “I said to my dad that I thought it was a big one and it took off up the bank,” Smith said. “I didn’t even try to reel. I just let it go and it was pulling my drag a little bit. Finally it started coming back and about halfway back to the boat it jumped and then I really started freaking out.” Fortunately for Smith, the big fish wore down quickly and his dad was able to net it.
When his scale indicated the fish weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces, Smith thought he had a good chance to win the Bash so he called his wife to let her know about his catch. Smith then mulled over when to make the run to the Ivy Bend weigh-in station. “Then it started down pouring,” he said.
Since he caught the big fish close to his dock, Smith decided to seek shelter in the dock until the rain subsided. While waiting for the rain to stop, Smith noticed his trolling motor had stopped working. When the rain ceased, Smith made the run to Ivy Bend and weighed in his fish, then ran back to his dock where they decided to fish in his dad’s boat and just use the trolling motor to move around.
However after fishing for a while in his dad’s boat, Smith wanted more mobility so he decided to go back to the dock and work on his trolling motor. He soon discovered a loose wire in the motor had burnt a connection, which he fixed and was able to get back on the water with his boat. Fishing the Swamp Bug the rest of the day, Smith caught the 5.09-pounder to finish the day with two money fish. After the final period weigh-in of the first day, Smith said “my hopes got up a lot higher” when he noticed his fish was still the overall leader of the tournament.
The second day Smith struggled to catch any bass worth weighing in as the cold front that had passed through the area shut down his fish. He spent the day fishing hard and listening to his radio for updates of the leaderboard. When the heaviest bass on the final day weighed in at 6.19 pounds, Smith beat a field of approximately 3,000 anglers to become $100,000 richer.
The Spring Big Bass Bash had a total payout of more than $265,000 and paid out about 300 places in the bi-hourly weigh-in sessions, Early Bird cash prizes and Ladies Division bonus money, according to Tournament Organizer Charlie Terrell. Winning the $1,000 Ladies Division bonus money was Pat Mosely with a 5.27-pound bass. The Bash also featured a kids division with prizes awarded to the top finishers.
A portion of the proceeds from the event are also donated to various charities each year. “We donated to the USO and the Concord Village Lions Club,” Terrell said.
The next Big Bass Bash will be held at Pickwick/Wilson Lake June 1-2, followed by the Grand Lake event, June 8-9, and the Fall Big Bass Bash at Lake of the Ozarks, Oct. 5-6.
For more information about the Big Bass Bash, visit www.midwestfishingtournaments.com/bigbassbashhome.html.