O ne of the really cool things about amateur league big bass derbies is you don’t need a degree in bassology or have VanDam-like skills on your side to win big.
All it takes is a cast, a bite, and, at times, a whole lot of luck, to put you in the hunt for a really healthy payday. Just ask Jacob Sumrall of Kirbyville.
Sumrall is admittedly no bass pro. Far from it.
Heck, he’s only 12 years old.
He says he does the majority of his bass fishing in stock ponds near his home in rural southeast Texas. He’s competed in a few big bass events over the years, but always in the junior division against other youngsters close to the same age.
Last October, Sumrall stepped up his game when he anted up the $210 entry fee to compete in the adult division of the Sealy Outdoors Fall Shootout big bass derby held on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
It turned out to pretty lucrative gamble, too.
Sumrall topped the field of nearly 800 anglers to take all the marbles with plenty of room to spare. He did it with a 9.60-pounder he caught shortly after daylight during the tournament’s opening round. The big fish earned Sumrall an equally plump payday, including a fully-rigged Triton bass boat and $5,000 cash. He also banked a $1,000 bonus for weighing in the biggest bass of the hour.
There’s a good story behind Sumrall’s surprising win. For starters, he was competing against hundreds of grown men, many of them with much more fishing experience under their belts. Winning the deal at age 12 makes him the second youngest angler to ever win a Sealy big bass event during the organization’s 30-plus-year history of holding big bass tournaments.
Brandon Adams of Florence owns the title for being the youngest. Adams won the 2005 Big Bass Splash at the age of 11 and grabbed an even bigger payday. He took home a brand new H2 Hummer and fully-rigged Triton bass boat which carried a combined value at the time of $102,000. Adams also won $1,000 for catching the big bass of the hour, capping what is likely the richest payday ever for a youth angler in the history of competitive fishing.
Sumrall may not hold any records for being the winningest youngster in bass fishing, but he can certainly consider himself among the luckiest.
The big bass Sumrall caught from roughly 12 feet of water on that memorable Saturday morning came as a total surprise. In fact, the youth angler claims he didn’t even know the fish had gobbled his smoke-colored Senko until it jumped behind the boat. He was fishing with his godfather, Chad Porto of Donaldsville, Louisiana.
“We were fishing about five minutes from the pavilion and there was a bunch of hydrilla around the boat,” Sumrall said. “It was round 7 a.m., and we hadn’t caught anything. Then I felt something tugging on my line. At first I thought I was hung up in the grass. That’s when the fish jumped behind the boat.”
Sumrall said he set the hook on the big bass at that point, marking the beginning of a lengthy battle that neither angler will soon forget. To hear the youngster tell it, it was a nail biter until the very end.
“I worked the fish up beside the boat, and my godfather missed it he went to scoop it with the net,” Sumrall said. “The fish went straight down, and we couldn’t find it or tell where it went. That’s when we heard another splash behind us.”
Turns out the big bass had darted beneath the boat and broke the surface a second time on the opposite side.
“She came up probably 10 to 15 feet from the boat and started sort of tail-walking right toward us,” Sumrall said. “As soon as she got close enough my godfather scooped her up in the net.”
That’s when something bizarre happened.
“She jumped right back out of the net and took off again,” Sumrall said.
Amazingly, Sumrall managed to work the fish near the boat a third time and finally closed the deal.
“It was nerve racking,” he said. “I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat during all of that.”
Once the bass was secured in livewell Sumrall made a quick phone call to his mother, Debra Porto, before racing to the weigh-in.
“It was 7:14 when I got that phone call,” she said. “I thought ‘oh Lord, either something really good or something really bad has happened. They were whoopin’ and hollerin’, and I couldn’t make out a word they were saying until they told me Jacob had a caught a big fish that was close to 10 pounds. I listened to the radio all day after that wondering if somebody was going to catch something bigger.”
But no one did. Sumrall’s lead stood for the duration, earning him a shiny red bass boat that sits outside his window in rural southeast Texas.
Sumrall says he hopes to eventually flip the boat for cash, but early on he spent hours doing what any angler with such a cool prize sitting their driveway would have done.
“I go out and sit in it at least three times a day,” he said.
Email Matt Williams at [email protected]