Tommy Boutwell’s excitement was clear, and was more than enough to lend credence to his fishing story.

The Hattiesburg fishermen can catch a bass, and does so very often. So when he calls to tell a story, and he’s practically panting into the phone, it’s wise to pay attention.

“Buddy if you haven’t been to Jeff Davis Lake lately, and thrown a buzzbait, then you are missing out on something special, real special,” Boutwell said Monday, referring to the MDWFP State Lake near Prentiss. “The bass are crazy about it, and big ones, too.”

Said I: “But Tommy, it’s so hot!”

Said he: “Heck, son, get there at sunrise, and in two hours, before it gets so freaking hot, you will be so freaking happy.”

Said I: “Tommy, it can’t be that good.”

Said he: “I have done it three times in the last week and still made it back to work in Hattiesburg by 9 o’clock, after catching at least 30 pounds.”

Boutwell elaborated on how he’s found success.

“I have four rods rigged and ready,” he said. “Two have buzzbaits, one black and one white, on 15-pound braided line. Both have three-inch pearl curl-tail grub trailers.

“The other two are rigged for when a bass takes a swing at but misses the buzzbait, one with a 7-inch Texas-rigged worm and the other with a non-weighted Senko worm rigged whacky style on a No. 2 weedless Gamakatsu finesse hook. When a fish swirls at or just plain misses the buzzbait, I throw one of the two worms in the spot. Nine times out of 10, that fish will hit the soft plastic.”

The percentage of successful buzzbait strikes is about 70/30.

“But it is much higher in the first 30 minutes,” Boutwell said. “If I can get one to rise on the buzzbait before the sun is visible, it’s usually a hookup. As the daylight brightens, and I don’t know why, the strike to catch ratio falls on the buzzbait. That’s when you need the backup plastics.”

The 100-acre lake was closed in 2009 for repair to the water control structure, some renovations to the lake bottom and, eventually, for restocking with Florida bass, bream and catfish. As is the usual case for MDWFP renovated lakes, the bass highlight the catch after it reopens.

That has certainly been the case at Jeff Davis, which reopened in 2012. The MDWFP put a slot length limit on the lake from the beginning that forced fishermen to immediately release all bass between 16 and 20 inches and only one fish over 20 inches was allowed to be kept.

“It has helped, no doubt, because this lake is loaded with 3-, 4-, 5- and even 6- and 7-pound bass,” Boutwell said. “I release them all unless I get one that I know won’t survive. In two hours, I can usually average 30 pounds or more this summer. It’s crazy and it’s all about buzzbaits. I target any kind of cover or structure I can, but a lot of the strikes come just on a clear bank.

“A key to it is the buzzbait I’ve been throwing. A friend of mine up around Jackson sent me a few that were designed and made by a friend of his up there. The company is called Prototype Lures and they make the buzzbait in several colors including the black with gold or chartreuse blades that has been killer for me at Jeff Davis. I can’t wait to get my hands on all the colors they have and then start mixing and matching trailers to see what will happen. You just got to know that this fall, the buzzbait bite will get even better.”