November 3, 2017 - Jacob Sumrall of Kirbyville is sitting pretty after winning the 2017 Sealy Outdoors Fall Shootout held on Sam Rayburn on Oct. 21-22.
Sumrall topped a field of 765 anglers in the second annual amateur big bass derby with a 9.60 pounder that he reeled in shortly after daybreak 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 prize catch.
For starters, he's only 12 years old. That makes him the second youngest angler behind Brandon Adams of Florence to win a Sealy Big Bass event during the organization's 30-plus-year history of holding big bass tournaments.
Adams won the 2005 Big Bass Splash at the age of 11. He won 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 pay day 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, La.
"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 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 10-15 feet from the boat and started sort of tail-walking right towards 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.
"When I got that phone call at 7:14 in the morning I thought 'oh Lord, either something really good or something really bad has happened,'" she said. "They were hoopin' 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 they didn't. Sumrall's lead stood for the duration, earning him the shiny red bass boat that now sits outside his window in rural southeast Texas.
How long it will stay there is anybody's guess. Sumrall says he will more than likely flip the boat for cash, but right now he's just enjoying looking at it.
"I go out and sit in it at least three times a day, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to sell it," Sumrall said. "The boat would probably make somebody a pretty good Christmas gift."
Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.