It’s been a good week for the Couches — father Willie II and son Willie III.
Especially for Willie III, who teamed with friend James Morris to win the Multiple Sclerosis benefit tournament on the last weekend in February, then shared in the $12,500 top money in Saturday’s Children’s Hospital Classic.
“And I bought him a steak Saturday,” Willie II said this week. “Go figure.”
Papa Willie laughed after that last statement, but there were very few smiles Saturday, not after the Children’s Hospital 122 teams launched in near freezing temperatures and braved steady 15-20 knot north winds in the benefit tournament that prides itself in accepting all youngsters in need of medical assistance into New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette facilities. Tournament proceeds help fund the hospitals’ medivac helicopter.
Son Willie and Morris won the MS tournament with a 15.22-pound stringer taken in the Atchafalaya Spillway, but changing conditions forced a move from that honey hole.
“I scouted the day before and caught fish, a couple of (2-pounders) and one right at 4 pounds,” Willie II said. “But with the water falling, the water in that canal changed overnight. (Willie III) caught some smaller fish in another area, and we took a gamble.”
Because the Couches know the Atchafalaya, especially the area east of the big river like the backs of their hands, it wasn’t much of a gamble.
“The water was falling fast — it fell 8-10 inches while we were fishing (Saturday) — and we knew the area would be better than what I found Friday,” Willie II said. “When we pulled into that canal, Willie caught one 33/4 pounds and we just stayed in that canal the whole day.”
Willie III confirmed that fish in that location canal off Grand Lake came on a slow-rolled, big-bladed Humdinger spinnerbait, but with water moving and crawfish riding the flow from the swamps into run-outs, bass were ready to inhale the abundant crustaceans.
“We fished a green (pumpkin-colored) tube the rest of the day,” Willie II said. “The crawfish are green right now and we just had to have something that looked like a crawfish. We liked the tubes.”
Willie II said the pattern produced eight 14-inch or longer keeper bass with the heaviest a 4.13-pounder, but added that the bass were “skinny. The biggest bass we caught were females, and they didn’t have a big belly. They had spawned, there’s no doubt about it.”
March 2? Cold water? And Spillway bass had spawned?
“Yeah,” papa Willie said. “Remember the warm spell we had in December? I think that’s when it happened. The water wasn’t that cold then and the fish had eggs then, and they don’t now.”
Other top stringers came from canals in the Lake Verret, and one team ran to Lafitte.
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