We just left the Elite Series opener on the Sabine River, an event that provided plenty of challenges due to rising muddy water and heavy rains, including 6 inches or more on Saturday.
The fishery was high and muddy when we got there and a lot worse when we left. The muddy conditions required me to fish a slow, methodical pace, something that doesn’t fit well with my preferred style of fishing. While I’m not satisfied with not making the finals, I’m happy to escape with a 46th place finish.
As tough as fishing was, though, there were a lot of good things going on in Orange, Texas, that week.
For example, Bassmaster.com’s live coverage was remarkable given the tough conditions camera crews faced.
Bassmaster cameramen put viewers in the boat with the leaders and you could watch the drama unfold the moment it occurred.
You saw nearly every fish catch made by the final day leaders and heartbreaking experiences like the one experienced by Shaw Grigsby. On a day when every bite was critical, Shaw swung a keeper bass in the boat only to have it come unhooked, bounce across the deck and fall back into the water. Viewers saw him dive on top of his rods trying to recapture the fish and the agony on his face when he realized what happened. I know how he felt; I’ve had the same thing happen to me.
If you enjoy competitive fishing and haven’t seen the live coverage, you should. Drama aside, it’s amazing what you can learn by simply watching leaders go about their business of trying to win a tournament.
I will warn you though – it’s mesmerizing. I watched some of the action on the last day and couldn’t take my eyes off it.
Another great experience for me was to meet 12 of the top high school tournament anglers who were finalists in a fish-off during the Elite event.
The competition began weeks earlier with several hundred kids competing. The finalists were paired with an Elite angler (who didn’t make the Elite semifinals) and fished a nearby private lake on Saturday. Because the weather was so bad, the award ceremony was postponed until Sunday, when Elite pro Davy Hite and I introduced them as they came across the Bassmaster stage. Each teenager wore a tournament jersey bearing sponsors’ names. We loved their enthusiasm for the sport and how excited they were to have the opportunity to fish with Elite pros. The local chamber of commerce presented scholarships to the top three teams.
The popularity of high school bass competition is amazing. I even met some kids who had middle school fishing teams from Texas and Louisiana. Seeing so many young people get into fishing is the most exciting thing I’ve seen since I started my career.
And finally, another positive aspect of our stay in Orange was the people who live there. It’s so cool to roll into a city that has big banners welcoming the Bassmasters and hearing the local people tell us how excited they were to have us there.
We’ve been to a lot of communities across the country, but the support and enthusiasm we got from those fans was second to none. We drew massive crowds that cheered loudly for each angler who walked across the stage.
Now we head to one of my favorite bodies of water, Lake Guntersville, for our next Elite event. It will be quite a contrast to the Sabine, as we shouldn’t have to worry about saltwater intrusion or changing tides, and hopefully, no floods or nasty cold weather.
Conditions should be just right for a lot of big fish catches and huge limits. It should be a slugfest, and if you tune into Bassmaster.com on Saturday and Sunday for the live coverage, you’ll have a ringside seat.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!