LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. — “I knew as soon as I was setting the hook, it was a big fish,” said Tom Smith, of Old Monroe, Mo.
Tom landed a 7.93 largemouth bass on Saturday, April 27 at the annual Anglers In Action Lake of the Ozarks Spring Big Bass Bash. It was the biggest fish of the weekend tournament, and that single catch won Tom $100,000. The Big Bass Bash comes to Lake of the Ozarks in the spring and the fall, and is an amateur-only tournament known for its big fish, and monster payouts. Over the weekend, anglers reeled in a total of $250,000 in Big Bass Bash payouts.
Tom caught the fish around the 54 Mile Marker of the Lake, using a Crock-O-Gator Swamp Bug: a lure made by Crock-O-Gator Bait Company, at Lake of the Ozarks. He had been down at the Lake for two weekends previous to the Big Bass Bash, and says the Swamp Bug was working very well, so he thought he’d start with that one for the Bass Bash.
His 7.93-pounder was the biggest one caught at the Spring Bash since Jeff Debus won in 2014 with a 7.96-pounder. In 2018, John Odom III won with a 7.59-pound bass. Bob Neuman won in 2017 with a 6.95-pounder. In 2016, Jesse Waters won with a 7.56-pound lunker. And in 2015, Justin Swast won with a 7.56-pounder.
Tom frequently fishes Lake of the Ozarks; his family has had a house here for 30 years. But this was his first time to fish the Big Bass Bash. He says he’ll be fishing the fall tournament, though.
As for his plans for the money (after the government takes its generous cut), Tom said, “I don’t know what my plans are… haven’t had it long enough to even think about.” He did, however, look at a new fishing boat on Monday.